Oksana Chusovitina targets 9th Olympics in 2024 in Paris

Oksana Chusovitina

Oksana Chusovitina, a 46-year-old gymnast, said she plans to bid for a ninth Olympics in 2024 in Paris, according to the Uzbekistan Olympic Committee.

Chusovitina said before the Tokyo Olympics that those would be her final Games. After her last routine, a vault in qualifying, she waved and blew kisses, made a heart shape with her hands and got back on top of the competition podium to acknowledge the small arena crowd.

Two months later, she said she would return for the 2022 Asian Games. Last Friday, those Asian Games, scheduled for Hangzhou, China, this September, were postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Then over the weekend, Chusovitina won the vault title at the Uzbekistan national championships. When asked how the Asian Games postponement affected her plans, potentially continuing into 2023, she said she will go all the way through the 2024 Paris Games, according to the report.

Her best shot at qualifying for Paris will come on vault in the 2024 World Cup series, where the top two eligible, not already qualified women per apparatus will earn spots at the Games.

Last year, Chusovitina became the oldest female gymnast in Olympic history, breaking her own record for Olympic gymnastics appearances with eight. She is one shy of the Olympic appearances record for a woman in any sport, held by Georgian shooter Nino Salukvadze, who competed in Tokyo at age 52, according to Olympedia.org.

Chusovitina began her career competing for the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. After the breakup, she later represented the Unified Team, her native Uzbekistan and Germany (where her son, Alisher, received leukemia treatment) before going back to Uzbekistan.

She owns two Olympic medals — team gold from Barcelona 1992 and vault silver from Beijing 2008.

Chusovitina also has nine world championships medals on vault, the most recent in 2011, and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

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

Kyle Smaine

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.”