Vangelis, composer for ‘Chariots of Fire’ about 1924 Paris Olympics, dies at 79

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Vangelis, the Greek electronic composer who wrote the unforgettable Academy Award-winning score for the film “Chariots of Fire” about the 1924 Paris Olympics and music for dozens of other movies, documentaries and TV series, has died at 79.

The opening credits of “Chariots of Fire” roll as a bunch of young runners progress in slow motion across a glum beach in Scotland, as a lazy, beat-backed tune rises to a magisterial declamation.

The setting was West Sands Beach, next to the Old Course at St. Andrews. The Old Course hosts the 150th Open this July, two years before Paris hosts the Olympics for the first time since 1924.

It’s one of the most instantly recognizable musical themes in cinema — and its standing in popular culture has only been confirmed by the host of spoofs it has sired, including by British actor Rowan Atkinson at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“Chariots of Fire,” which won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Picture, was based on the true stories of 1924 British Olympic sprinters Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. Abrahams took 100m gold and 4x100m silver in Paris. Liddell earned 400m gold and 200m bronze.

“Simple film,” Vangelis later said of “Chariots,” according to the book, “Vangelis: The Unknown Man.” “I knew [director] Hugh Hudson. I like the Olympic Games. It was not a success-oriented film, nothing spectacular. What happened after, you know, but no one could know at the time. T’was good.”

Later, in a 2008 sitdown interview, Vangelis said he no longer wanted anything to do with the Olympics because they became too commercialized.

“We don’t have Olympic Games anymore, real Olympic Games,” he said. “We have something else that we call Olympic Games, but it’s not what I believe, what I think the Olympic Games meant to be.

“The only point of reference that’s left to humanity today, the gathering together every four years in a ‘peaceful’ way, is the Olympic Games. This may be an opportunity every four years for every company … to make fortunes and to push the Olympic Games artists, the athletes, to push them to advertise their products. That’s what it is. Nothing else. … We all need money, but there are some moments we have to function without this money need or philosophy.”

Vangelis also performed a concert at the 1896 Olympic Stadium — Panathenaic Stadium — for the opening ceremony of the 1997 Athens World Track and Field Championships.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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.”