Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Suni Lee, the first Olympic all-around medalist to compete in NCAA gymnastics, will see familiar faces at the national championships next week in the form of her Olympic teammates.
Lee, an Auburn freshman, led the Tigers to a runner-up finish at regionals on Saturday, booking their first NCAA Championships team appearance since 2016. NCAAs are April 14-16 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Lee scored her fifth perfect 10 of the season overall on the balance beam, rebounding from the uneven bars, where she kicked the low bar with her foot on her first transition to the high bar. Among stories on Lee this season, she reportedly said she has dealt with impostor syndrome and hating gymnastics during her first weeks on campus.
“It’s hard to get you guys to understand, to get anybody to understand, the pressure she’s under,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said Saturday, according to reporters on site.
Auburn is joined in the women’s team field by Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah (with Tokyo Olympian Grace McCallum).
Additionally, Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles qualified to compete individually. Carey, the Tokyo Olympic floor champion now at Oregon State, qualified in the all-around. Chiles, a UCLA Bruin, made it on bars and floor.
U.S. Olympic team members from Tokyo who are not competing collegiately are Simone Biles, who hasn’t competed since the Games and may not return, and MyKayla Skinner, who is retired from elite gymnastics.
Women from the last six Olympic teams have competed collegiately, including gold medalists Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian.
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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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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.”


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