Kyle Snyder wins wrestling worlds in rival’s absence; U.S. wins most medals for first time

Kyle Snyder
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Kyle Snyder won his first global title in five years — in the absence of his Russian rival — and the U.S. finished the world wrestling championships with the most medals outright for the first time in history.

Snyder, a 2016 Olympic champion, grabbed his third world championships gold — and first since 2017 — by topping Russian-turned Slovak Batyrbek Tsakulov 6-0 in Sunday’s 97kg final in Belgrade.

Also Sunday, American Yianni Diakomihalis took 65kg silver, falling to Iranian Rahman Amouzad 13-8 in the final. Seth Gross lost his bronze-medal match at 61kg.

The U.S. finished the weeklong championships with a program record-tying 15 medals — two more than second-place Japan — and a program record seven gold medals — matching Japan’s total. The U.S. finished past worlds tied for the most medals, but never in first place alone until now.

The medal standings were impacted by the absence of Russia and Belarus, whose wrestlers are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.

Snyder’s primary rival is Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev. They met in four of the previous five global championship finals, with Sadulayev, nicknamed the Russian Tank, winning the last three meetings.

Snyder spent a week with Sadulayev in his native Dagestan last year, after the Russian beat him in the Olympic and world championships finals. In June, Snyder called Sadulayev’s absence “a bummer.”

“World championships, I’m thinking Russia, USA versus Russia, that’s what it is in my mind,” he said. “So to not have him there really stinks.”

Sadulaev posted on Instagram after Snyder’s title Sunday.

“You know who was absent there,” he wrote. “My friend, I’m ready to give you another chance to become a real king in the 97 kg weight class. Our viewers deserve the continuance of story.”

Before that, Snyder’s next major challenge may be domestic.

J’den Cox, a two-time world champ in the non-Olympic 92kg class, said he plans to move up to 97kg for next year. Cox also moved up to 97kg last year, but a potential showdown with Snyder at Olympic Trials was nixed when Cox missed the weigh-in deadline to start the event.

Snyder then swept Cox in two 97kg matches on March 16 in a special event in Detroit.

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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.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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