Andy Soule, a U.S. Army veteran, lost both his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2005. Four years ago, he won America's first medal — Olympic or Paralympic — in the biathlon event.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
Dan Cnossen led a Navy SEAL team before losing his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2009. After his injury, he began running on prosthetic blades, then tried skiing — and he's now in Sochi.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
Performance under stress is something Cnossen learned as a Navy SEAL. Now he's trying to use that skill as a biathlete, to ski his fastest right up to the target range and then quickly calm down enough to shoot with precision.
Biathlon may be the toughest endurance sport in the Olympics. After grueling circuits of Nordic skiing, athletes have to calm their breathing, steady their tired legs and shoot tiny targets with a rifle.
Andy Soule does it all with only his arms.
"It's a steep learning curve, learning to sit-ski," says Soule, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team. He's strapped into a seat attached to two fixed cross-country skis. He speeds along the course by hauling himself with ski poles.
Retired baseball pitcher Tommy John, left, and Dr. Frank Jobe at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2013. <a href="http://baseballhall.org/news/press-releases/baseball-hall-fame-recognize-feature-film-%2742%27-alongside-dr-frank-jobe-during">Jobe was honored</a> for the pioneering surgery he first performed on John's elbow in 1974.
His name is attached to a surgery that has saved many major league pitchers' careers.
But Tommy John knows that's an honor he came by thanks in large part to good luck.
"Fortunately for me, I was at the right place at the right time," he told All Things Considered host Melissa Block on Friday. "I happened to have one of the greatest surgeons of all time being the surgeon for the Los Angeles Dodgers."
While Russia's military moves in Ukraine are the focus of intense diplomacy this week, Russia's also hosting a big international gathering. The Paralympic Games, for disabled athletes, officially open on Friday in Sochi. And the next morning, Alan Nichols will take to the slopes in women's downhill, the sitting category. When Nichols was 17, she broke her back in a snowboarding accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri gives instructions to a young Anna Kournikova of Russia during a training session at his tennis academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 1990. Kournikova went on to become a highly ranked international player, but she ended her career at age 21 because of injuries.
Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri's deserved acceptance into the International Tennis Hall of Fame came late in life, at age 82. What makes him so important is not his long career but how he changed the way we bring up our athletic children.
The ultimate young athlete used to be the boy (girls didn't have the chance then) who starred in several sports. The all-around athlete. But Bollettieri changed that.
The crisis in Ukraine has prompted the U.S. and Britain to cancel their official delegations to the Paralympic Games for disabled athletes that are set to get underway later this week in Sochi, Russia. The athletes will still participate in sports from wheelchair curling to sled hockey, where the athletes are strapped onto sleds that balance on two skate blades. They use two sticks to propel themselves across the ice and handle the puck. It's really fast and really physical.
College athletes astound us with their power and speed, but they can pay a price years later. Division I players are more likely to be disabled, depressed and in pain in middle age, a study finds. And they may end up worse off because they fail to make the switch from high-level competition to the low-level activity of the rest of us.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We're headed to South Africa now where many people are focused on the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the famed Olympic athlete and double amputee known as Blade Runner for the striking prosthetics he uses to race.
Online competitive gaming is increasingly mirroring the world of professional sports. E-sports are attracting hard-working teams that compete for millions of dollars in prize money.
Generally, gamers wage battles with one another using rapid clicks of a computer mouse. "A lot of it comes down to reflexes, but a lot of [it] is strategy," says David Gorman, a sportscaster for the popular e-sport, Dota 2. "It's very much like chess, except it's in real time. Almost like speed chess."
This week, one-fifth of the biggest boy band in the world made up one-eleventh of an English professional soccer team. In a charity game, the One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson turned out to play for his hometown club, the reserve team of Doncaster Rovers.
South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius goes on trial next week for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Guardian reporter David Smith about the upcoming court case.
The first American athlete to win an Olympic medal in singles luge returned home last night. Erin Hamlin's thrilling runs on the ice track in Sochi earned her the bronze. She also earned a police escort past miles of cheering crowds to her tiny hometown of Remsen. It's in the foothills of New York's Adirondack Mountains. North Country Public Radio's David Sommerstein was there for her homecoming.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 1:59 pm
Broken noses are part of the game for NBA players. Elbows fly. Bodies collide. Balls ricochet.
Beaks get bonked.
Many nights, you'll see at least one player from across the 30-team league protecting his still-sensitive schnoz with a clear plastic mask.
But not the current best player in the game.
A week ago, LeBron James of the Miami Heat broke his nose. Thursday night against the New York Knicks, King James chose a rather menacing look for his return from the injury: an all-black, carbon-fiber mask.
Olympic snowboarder Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic got a flurry of attention when she suffered a nasty crash on the slopes in Sochi that split her helmet. She's OK, the helmet absorbed some of the blow. More than two-thirds of Americans who ski or snowboard now wear helmets.
But as Fred Bever, of member station WBUR reports, there are still the question about how much protection they really provide.
It's time to make home plate smaller. I know: That's heresy; that's sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn't in play, it's boring.
The size of home plate was not decreed by God. Back when it was an iron plate — where the name came from — it was, in fact, round. It became rubber and a square, 12 inches to a side, but its present distinctive shape was established in 1900 — a full 17inches across.
Norwegians love winter sports. Their haul of 26 medals in Sochi placed them third behind Russia and the U.S., a disproportionate haul. So you might think people in Oslo would be thrilled that their city is a likely contender to host the 2022 Winter Games.
But Sidsel Overgaard found that's not always the case.
SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: It's a brisk night in Oslo, a new dusting of snow on the ground. In the city center, mittened children scrape and twirl on an outdoor rink, torn up by a day's hard use.
The Winter Olympics are over and the final medal count is in. Russia came out on top with 33 medals. And the United States was not far behind with a total of 28 medals. Contributing to that tally was Noelle Pikus-Pace. She took silver in women's skeleton. That's the sport in which athletes barrel down an icy track on a sled, head-first at 90-miles per hour.
Last night, the NBA's Jason Collins became the first openly gay man to play in any of this country's four major professional sports. Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets yesterday. And a few hours later, he made his debut as a backup center in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
NPR's Nate Rott was at the game in L.A. and he has this report.
Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 5:44 pm
Runners trying to reach home plate — and the catchers who often try to block them — will have to follow new rules that are meant to cut the risk of injuries from collisions, after Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed on changing the rules Monday.
The change would take effect in the upcoming 2014 season. In announcing the new rule today, MLB called it "experimental." Here's the summary it provided:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. The Winter Olympics games closed yesterday with a spectacular display of fireworks, dance and music, including a thousand children singing the Russian national anthem.
The closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi featured a particularly captivating image: an aerial view of the coastal Olympic village, with the stadiums set like jewels among sparkling avenues, set off by the flash of fireworks in the night sky.
It seemed as if Russia, and especially President Vladimir Putin, had achieved everything that could be hoped for from a world-class sporting event.
Russia put on a spectacular closing show for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi last night, with fireworks, Russian music and dance, and a thousand children singing Russia's national anthem. As always, the games were full of the sort of drama and surprises that make them one of the world's great spectacles.
Sonari Glinton is about to turn out the lights in NPR's Sochi bureau, but before he does, let's get the low-down from him about the two-plus weeks of competition.