USA Gymnastics restructures women’s program leadership

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USA Gymnastics is overhauling its leadership structure in its women’s elite program.

Instead of having one person serve as the program’s high-performance director, USA Gymnastics is dividing the job into three “equitable” positions, each of whom will report to the program’s vice president of women’s gymnastics.

The organization had been looking for someone to replace Tom Forster, who stepped down as high-performance director in December after the U.S. women earned six medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including silver in the team competition and gold in the all-around for Sunisa Lee.

In an email to USA Gymnastics members released to the media, chief programs officer Stefanie Korepin wrote having one person seemingly in charge of the elite program “created either the perception or reality of one person having total control over the program and National Team athletes. Such control — whether real or perceived — is not healthy or balanced for athletes or for the sport. Those perceptions also put untenable pressure on a single person.”

Instead, the organization is now looking to fill three positions it describes as technical lead, strategic lead and developmental lead.

The developmental lead will oversee an athlete’s “initial introduction and progression to the elite program.” The technical lead will focus on “training, competition, and performance” and the strategic lead will determine “the overall direction” of the program.

“We believe it will provide further continuity to USA Gymnastics’ High Performance programs while establishing sustainable success based on a cohesive model,” Korepin wrote.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”