Kristian Blummenfelt wins Ironman title after Olympic gold; Daniela Ryf’s 5th world title

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Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt became the first triathlete to earn an Olympic gold medal and an Ironman world championship in the same year span, rallying to win the latter in St. George, Utah, on Saturday.

The 28-year-old covered a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in an unofficial 7 hours, 49 minutes, 16 seconds. He is the first man to win an Ironman world title in his world championships debut since Belgian Luc Van Lierde in 1996.

“That was a tough day, brutal course,” Blummenfelt said in a finish-line interview.

Blummenfelt, eighth after the bike leg, easily made up a 4-minute, 23-second deficit on the closing marathon run to win the most prestigious distance triathlon in its first edition outside of Hawaii. Canadian Lionel Sanders was second, 4:46 behind, followed by New Zealand’s Braden Currie.

IRONMAN WORLDS: Results

Blummenfelt took the lead around the 18th mile of the marathon with temperatures in the mid-80s. He ran the marathon in 2:38:01.

In Tokyo, Blummenfelt was in fifth place going into the closing 10km run, making up a 15-second deficit to win the 32-mile race. Four months later, he debuted at the Ironman distance by clocking the fastest time ever for 140.6 miles — 7:21:12 — boosted from a significant swim current in Cozumel, Mexico.

German Jan Frodeno is the only other triathlete to win the Olympics and the Ironman world championships. His Ironman crown came seven years after his Olympic gold medal.

Frodeno, a three-time Ironman world champion, missed St. George due to an Achilles injury. The field lacked other stars: two-time world champion Patrick Lange of Germany (shoulder), Norwegian Gustav Iden, the half Ironman world champion (illness), and Brit Alistair Brownlee, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist (illness).

In the women’s race Saturday, Daniela Ryf earned her fifth world title, prevailing by 8:50 over Brit Kat Matthews in 8:34:59.

“I guess I’m still good,” she said.

Ryf, 34, moves into third place on the women’s career victories list, trailing Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser (eight) and fellow Swiss Natascha Badmann (six). Before moving up to Ironman, Ryf placed seventh and 40th in the 32-mile Olympic triathlons in 2008 and 2012.

At her last victory on Hawaii’s Big Island in 2018, she broke the course record by 20 minutes despite getting stung by a jellyfish in both armpits on the opening 2.4-mile swim.

The Ironman World Championships were held outside of Hawaii for the first time since their 1978 inception. The coronavirus pandemic forced the event to be postponed in 2020 and 2021, the latter rescheduled from October and moved to St. George, which held the half Ironman world championships last year.

The world championships return to Kailua-Kona for a new, two-day race format — Oct. 6 for the women and Oct. 8 for the men.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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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.”