Leanne Wong wins U.S. Classic ahead of gymnastics nationals

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Leanne Wong earned her biggest all-around gymnastics title in three years, becoming the first woman in history to follow an NCAA season by winning the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for the national championships.

Wong, who won the world all-around silver medal last October after serving as an Olympic alternate, won the U.S. Classic with 54.4 points. She prevailed by .35 of a point over Shilese Jones, the other established elite in the field just outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

Wong, an 18-year-old rising University of Florida sophomore, had the top score on balance beam and tied with Jones for the best single vault score.

Jones led after posting the top score on the uneven bars, her second event, then was passed by Wong after falling twice off the beam. Wong rallied after a bars fall on her second event.

Wong earned her first elite-level all-around title since the 2019 American Cup, her senior debut. She also won three NCAA regular season all-arounds last winter.

Wong and Jones were eighth and 10th in the all-around, respectively, at last year’s Olympic Trials.

Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are expected to return to elite competition at nationals in Tampa in three weeks, bidding to make the five-woman team for this fall’s world championships in Liverpool, Great Britain. Like Wong, Carey and Chiles began their NCAA careers last winter.

The last U.S. woman to compete at worlds coming off an NCAA season was Brenna Dowell in 2015.

Konnor McClain and Kayla DiCello, favorites to make the world team, are also expected for nationals after scratching out of Classic earlier this week.

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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

Kyle Smaine
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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.”