Posts Tagged ‘United States’


Dubai (Photo credit: Frank Kehren)


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — The wife and friends of an experienced Algerian diver who went missing 32 kilometers (20 miles) off Dubai say coastguard is searching for him after he disappeared in the waters almost 24 hours ago.


Rana Ghaleb says she was on the boat on Wednesday afternoon when her husband, Adel Ait-Ghezala, went free diving with two other friends, wearing only a wetsuit, flippers, goggles and a specialized watch. The group was spearfishing.


Ghaleb says her 35 year-old husband never emerged from the water.


Ait-Ghezala is a Ph.D. student at the American University in Washington D.C. The couple was visiting Dubai from their home in the United States.


A family friend says several boats, divers and a helicopter are involved in the search operation Thursday.


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Ioan Doyle is a shepherd and extreme rock climber

Ioan Doyle is a shepherd and extreme rock climber

Welsh shepherds are used to  climbing mountains – but not  quite in the same way that  Ioan Doyle does.

He’s one of the top extreme  rock climbers to emerge from  Wales in recent years.

Now a film showing him in  action is being repeated on  S4C after it won a clutch of  international accolades.

The Defaid a Dringo (Sheep  and Climbing) documentary  recently collected its fourth  major award at the France  Mountain Film Festival.

It follows a year in the life  of Ioan, a sheep shearer who  is also regarded as one of  Wales’ brightest stone walling  talents.

The film shows Ioan, aged  23 at the time, attempting to  scale the Ogwen Crack, a  climb that was has only  once been successfully  tackled, in 1986.

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The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are a little more than a month away, and athletes around the world are gearing up to participate in their events.

No doubt legends will be made at this year’s games, but the quadrennial event has already had its share of historic moments in its 90-year history.

Top 25 Iconic Olympic Moments

July 23, 2012 — The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London is just over a week away. Athletes, organizers, officials and audiences are already converging on London, waiting for the start of a new chapter in Olympics history. Over 100 years of Olympics has produced memorable moments that have seared themselves into the global consciousness. Some include moments of triumph against incredible odds. Others are demonstrations of the Olympic spirit, showing how athletes can reach beyond sport and grasp onto something more. There are also darker episodes that haunt the Olympic memory. In this slideshow, explore the visual history of the top 25 most iconic moments of the Summer Olympic Games.

HOWSTUFFWORKS: How the First Olympics Worked


Although China can rightly claim the title of having the most spectacular opening ceremony in Olympic history, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona featured what might be one of the most memorable moments of any games. With the spotlight on him and an international audience of hundreds of millions holding their collective breath, Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo fired a flaming arrow through the night sky, and over the Olympic cauldron, lighting it to mark the start of the games. Rebollo intentionally over-shot the cauldron, however, to prevent an accident. Olympic organizers used clever camera work to make it seem like Rebello lit the giant torch, but in fact it had been rigged to ignite remotely.

PHOTOS: Top Man Vs. Machine Moments


Prior to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Boris Onischenko was a respected athlete in his chosen event, the pentathlon. But in front of officials, an international audience and his competitors, Onischenko proved himself to be nothing more than a cheat. The pentathlon consists of five separate athletic events, one of which is fencing. During his match against Briton Jim Fox, Fox complained repeatedly to officials that Onischenko had been scoring without making contact. An investigation into Onischenko’s equipment showed that he had rigged it with wiring and a special grip to allow him to score on demand. The Russian ended up being disqualified and left the Olympics in disgrace.

ANALYSIS: What It Takes To Be Banned From the Olympics


Even before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed professional basketball players to compete in the Olympics for the 1992 Summer Games, the United States dominated the sport, taking home gold every year since 1936 when basketball was first introduced to the games. In 1972, however, the U.S. men’s basketball team suffered a narrow defeat that still has players licking their wounds. The final few seconds of the game had a series of bad calls by officials giving the Russian team three attempts at overcoming their one-point deficit in the game. The Russian team claimed gold but the U.S. team, feeling cheated by referee incompetence, never even bothered to collect their silver medals.

PHOTOS: The Olympic Torch: Everything You Need to Know

It’s not the shoes that make the runner, as Ethiopian athlete Abibe Bakila proved at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Unable to find a suitable pair of shoes prior to the marathon, Bakila ran barefoot, leading his competitors to write him off. But barefoot running is how Bakila trained so he was right at home running on Rome’s ancient roads. Bakila took home gold, not only becoming the first black African to win the event but also setting a world record.

PHOTOS: Odd Olympic Mascots


At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, American athlete Carl Lewis, who had won four gold medals in the previous games, seemed to have met his match in the 100-meter race. Canadian runner Ben Johnson seemed to have the edge. In the final heat, Johnson blew the competition away, setting a new world record at 9.79 seconds and taking home the gold.

The day after Johnson was presented with his medal, his urine tested positive for steroid stanozolol, a banned performance-enhancing drug. And he wasn’t the only one: Six other runners in that final also tested positive for banned substances. The race seemed to mark a turning point in the history of the Olympic games, ushering in the era of steroids.

ANALYSIS: Vibrating Suit Aids Olympic Hopefuls


At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed after Palestinian gunmen affiliated with the terrorist organization Black September raided the Olympic Village and took hostages. The murders marked the darkest day in Olympic history and sparked an international outcry. After police subdued the gunmen, killing five of the eight and capturing the other three, the games were called to a halt so a memorial service could be held.

VIDEO: Space: Top 5 Moon Moments


Bob Beamon might have been the favorite to win gold in the long jump at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. But no one expected him to set a whole new standard for the sport. An especially surprising feat given that he barely qualified for the U.S. team.

When Beamon showed up to the games, he put on a show that no one expected. (And based on Beamon’s look in this photo, maybe he didn’t see it coming either.) His first jump in the finals set a new world record with an 8.9-meter jump, breaking the previous record by 55 centimeters, or almost 2 feet. Officials even had to measure the jump manually because the equipment they had on hand wasn’t calibrated to measure distances as far as Beamon jumped. The American’s performance led to a new term used in the Olympics, “Beamonesque,” to describe an athlete who’s performance is so superior to the rest of the competition that it overwhelms the field.

ANALYSIS: Olympic Torch to Zipline Across River


Olympic athletes are intense competitors by nature. But sometimes, they can take that spirit a little too far. At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, American runner Mary Decker, the favorite to win the 3,000-meter, collided with British Zola Budd on the final lap of the race. Decker twisted her hip, fell and had to be taken away from the race in a stretcher. As Budd pulled further ahead, a wave of boos rose from the crowd. Budd slowed down in the last few hundred meters, finally finishing in seventh. The incident led to finger-pointing, with both Decker and Budd claiming they didn’t do anything wrong.

ANALYSIS: Injured Racing Yacht Crewmembers Rescued


The 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, saw one of the biggest upsets in the history of the games. In his journey to win a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, American athlete Rulon Gardner was pitted against Russian Aleksandr Karelin, one of the most dominant athletes of any sport in history and possibly the greatest wrestler of all time. Karelin hadn’t suffered a defeat in his 13 previous years of international competition and already had three Olympic gold medal under his belt. In fact, he had not given up a point in a match in some six years. The outcome of the contest was practically a foregone conclusion — to everyone except Gardner anyway. Gardner’s strategy was to wear Karelin down and stay away from his lifts, which Karelin is known for employing even in his heavier weight class. Although Karelin was aggressive in the first three minutes of the match, having wrestled already twice that day, he grew tired, and Gardner seized the advantage to claim the win.

As Sports Illustrated’s Adam Levine notes, when the two men were on the platform to receive their medals, the event marked the first time in international competition that Karelin heard another country’s national anthem played instead of his.

BIG PIC: Cloud Tower Will Grace Olympic Skies


Although the two Koreas have been divided since the end of World War II, the two countries used the Olympics as rare showing of unity. At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, North and South Korean athletes marched together under the Korean Unification Flag, which featured a blue Korea undivided against a white background. Both nations competed separately in the games. But the countries repeated the gesture for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

PHOTOS: Top 5 Dangerous Winter Olympic Sports


For nearly 50 years, no athlete could match Jesse Owens’ remarkable performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin of winning four track-and-field gold medals in a single game. When Carl Lewis arrived at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, he aimed to match Owens’ feat. Lewis competed in the same events as Owens, the 100-meter, the 200-meter, the 4×100-meter relay and the long jump. Unlike Owens, however, Lewis sailed to victory over his competitors, leading to a showboating streak that would turn off potential sponsors.

NEWS: Secret to Cheetahs’ Speedy Stride Found


American Greg Louganis entered the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul as the diver to beat. The games, however, didn’t go off to a great start for the defending gold medalist.

During the preliminary rounds of the games, Louganis attempted a reverse two-and-a-half pike off and hit his head against the springboard, suffering a concussion. After receiving medical attention and temporary stitches, Louganis completed his routine and took home gold. Years after Louganis claimed Olympic victory and retired from the sport, he admitted that six months before Seoul, he tested positive for HIV. This led to some criticism due to the perception that Louganis had put other divers at risk and the physician who attended him following his bloody injury.

BIG VID: London Penguins Get Olympic Diving Board


In a sport typically dominated by eastern Europeans, Mary Lou Retton ushered in a whole new era of American competitiveness in gymnastics in international competition. Then only 16 years old, Retton entered the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles with limited experience in international competition. Nonetheless, Retton shined in the finals of the individual events. Retton achieved perfect 10s on the floor exercise and the vault, edging out her competition to win the gold medal in the all-around by a mere 0.05 points. Retton’s performance made her a national celebrity. She was Sport Illustrated’s “Sportswoman of the Year,” and was even the first female athlete to appear on a Wheaties box.

ANALYSIS: Why Am I A Football Fan?


When the IOC decided to allow professional athletes to compete in men’s basketball at the 1992 Olympic Games, the U.S. responded by putting together what is widely acknowledged as the most dominant team of any contest in any sport in history. The team included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner. Winning every game by an average of 43 points, the U.S. team easily took home gold. Despite their dominance, their opponents didn’t seem to mind the mismatch, with players and coaches from other national teams frequently seeking photos and autographs with the American players.

NEWS: March Madness Bracketology: The Science


Some athletes are just born to greatness. But not Wilma Rudolph. She had to work for it.

Born prematurely, Rudolph weighed a mere four and a half pounds. At age four, Rudolph contracted polio, forcing her to wear leg braces for five years and orthopedic shoes for two years after that. Five years after she started running at all, Rudolph made her first performance at the Olympics. Then in 1960, Rudolph showed the world what she could do. At the Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph claimed three gold medals in the 100-meter, the 200-meter and the 4×100-meter relay race. She also managed to set two world records.

NEWS: The Fastest Sprinter Could Run Faster


Considered one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, Jim Thorpe’s performance in the 1912 Olympics marked one of the most remarkable achievements in sports history. Thorpe arrived in Stockholm set to compete in four events: the decathlon, the pentathlon, the long jump and the high jump. The decathlon and the pentathlon had just been introduced to the Olympics, and Thorpe made his mark on the event by winning them both, transforming him into an international celebrity. The following year, however, Thorpe was stripped of his medals for violating the strict Olympic rules only allowing amateur athletes to compete. Thorpe had played two summers of semi-professional baseball prior to the games, and therefore violated the rules. It would take 70 years before those medals were returned to Thorpe. The IOC bestowed three replica medal on Thorpe’s family, since Thorpe had died in 1953.

PHOTOS: Olympic Tech Faster Than Skin


At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Michael Johnson proved that he was among the greatest sprinters in sports history, earning the gold sneakers that had become his trademark. Johnson was the first male athlete in Olympics history to take home gold in the 200-meter and 400-meter events, setting world records in both events that would last for a generation. His time in the 200-meter wouldn’t be beaten until 2008 when Usain Bolt competed in the Olympics in Beijing.

PHOTOS: Sports Kicked Out of Olympics Past


Nadia Comăneci is an athlete whose name has almost become synonymous with gymnastics. And it was her performance in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal that brought her to the spotlight. Comăneci’s performance on the uneven bars was flawless, and the judges at the games knew it. They awarded the Romanian athlete the first-ever perfect 10 in gymnastics in Olympic history. For her outstanding performance, Comăneci would win gold in the uneven bars as well as two additional gold medals in the balance beam and invidious, all-around.

ANALYSIS: Are the Olympics Profitable?


Although there are a select number athletes who have more medal than British rower Steve Redgrave, who holds five gold medals won in as many Olympics, few have had a career as enduring. Four years before his final Olympics in Sydney in 2000, Redgrave announced that he was retiring from the sport with the announcement, “Anybody who sees me in a boat has my permission to shoot me.” Despite his age, 38 years old, and struggle with health problems including colitis, diabetes, back pains and more, Redgrave still helped power his team to victory. His final performance in Sydney and career achievements made him one of the most celebrated Britons in Olympic history.

ANALYSIS: A Row to the Pole on Melted Ice


Given how difficult it is for any athlete to even qualify for the Olympic Games, winning a gold medal by itself is a remarkable achievement. But by winning eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps achieved the impossible. Phelps had the endurance and stamina to win multiple heats in every event, often by a slim margin. Including the six gold medals he won in Athens in 2004, Phelps has more medals than any athlete in Olympic history. That number will likely grow with the seven events he’s competing in at this year’s games in London.

PHOTOS: Artifacts Unearthed at Olympic Park


Part of the legendary U.S. women’s gymnastics team frequently referred to as the “Magnificent Seven,” Kerri Strug might not have had the chance to compete for gold in the individual gymnastics events in the 1996 Olympic Games. But she guaranteed the U.S. team would take the gold as a team. Both the U.S. and Russian gymnastics teams were neck and neck with each group one rotation of completing their Olympic turn. The Russians were on the floor exercise and the U.S. team had to face the vault.

Prior to Strug’s turn, teammate Dominique Moceanu couldn’t stick her landing twice, leading to a poor score from the judges. Strug fell on her first attempt at the vault, badly damaging her ankle. Although the U.S. was ahead, Strug needed to get a better score to ensure U.S. received gold. On her second attempt, Strug stuck her landing, collapsing to the ground after bowing to the judges and the audience while hopping on one foot. At the presentation of the gold medal, U.S. gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi carried Strug so she could be on the podium with her teammates.

HOWSTUFFWORKS: 5 Amazing Olympic Athletes


At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won the gold medal in boxing in the light heavyweight division. The 18-year old Clay overcame a much more experienced opponent from Poland, Zbigniew ‘Ziggy’ Pietrzykowski.

The fight would later help launch Clay’s professional fighting career. Despite the surprising success of the young Clay, who won over a hostile crowd in the process of his victory, this Olympic performance isn’t the one he’s most remembered for. In the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Ali surprised an international audience by appearing at the end of the torch relay to light the Olympic cauldron. Although his arms were shaking as a result of Parkinson’s disease, Ali remained focused as the world watched one of the greatest athletes in history shine one more time.

HOWSTUFFWORKS: How Olympic Torches Work


The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were designed to deliver a propaganda coup for the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. The games would highlight the alleged superiority of the Aryan race in physical competition. Apparently, the Nazis didn’t count an African-American athlete spoiling their ambitions. Jesse Owens took home an astounding four gold medals in track and field events including the long jump, the 100-meter, the 200-meter and the 4×100-meter relay race. Although Hitler apparently bristled at the idea of a black man, Owens himself was more put off by the lack of acknowledgment for his victories in the United States. Hitler had sent Owens a commemorative photo of his victories, but Owens didn’t receive so much as a telegram from the White House under President Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulating him on his victories.

ANALYSIS: The Origin of the Swastika


Not every gold medal athlete is remembered. But rarely is a D.N.F. — a “did not finish” — elevated to the status of Olympic icon. British athlete Derek Redmond already had a history of injuries that plagued his career prior to his entry in the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona, undergoing some eight operations prior to the games. Redmond had tasted gold in international competition, but never at the Olympics. His previous two attempts at the Olympics were both marred by injury. Redmond excelled in his first two heats and had a shot at winning it all in the 400-meter. In the semi-final, however, Redmond’s hamstring gave with 175 meters left in the heat, initially slowing Redmond down before he collapsed entirely. Despite the pain, Redmond attempted to finish the race, waving off stretchers hurrying to attend to him. As Redmond was hobbling around the track, his father, who ran down from the stands and managed to get past security and onto the field, joined his son and helped him across the finish line.

ANALYSIS: Olympic Medals Made from E-Waste


The Olympics might be about athletic competition first and foremost, but it’s also no stranger to politics. After the conclusion of the finals for the 200-meter race at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, American gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos took the podium to receive their awards. When the U.S. national anthem began to play, both men raised a fist in a manner similar to the salute employed by the Black Panthers. Smith and Carlos stated they were taking a stand for black civil rights in the United States. Both men appeared on the podium without shoes to symbolize black poverty. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman even wore a badge in support of their gesture. The move was immediately and broadly criticized. The crowd in attendance booed, and the entire U.S. track team was threatened with a ban after refusing to expel the two athletes. Even Norman faced consequences by Australian officials for his part. Today, the gesture is remembered as a powerful symbol of protest in the annals of civil rights and Olympic history.

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Zhao Jungang combines his passions for rock climbing and photography in October 2009 at Baihe Valley, Miyun county. Photo: Courtesy of Zhao Jungang

As the popularity of ice climbing, bungee jumping, sky diving and other extreme sports grows in China, so too has interest among amateur photographers in high-adrenaline hobbies. Photographers who captured thrill-seekers’ daring escapades were in the past exclusively professionals equipped with the best equipment. But in today’s digital age, a growing number of amateur photographers passionate about extreme sports are getting behind the lens to snap their favorite activities and upload their photos online. In addition to developing a following with fans on social media, many extreme sports enthusiasts-cum-photographers are also finding their services in demand from magazines and online groups.

Famed Chinese rock climber Liu Yongbang scales Baishan Mountain in Yangshuo, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Photo: Courtesy of Wang Zhen

Risky business

In 2007, Zhao Jungang decided to combine his hobbies of extreme sports and photography to give him more impetus to tackle new challenges. The athletic 34-year-old native of Shaanxi Province has an outgoing attitude toward life that resonates with many of the people he photographs.

“The length of all our lives is roughly the same, but what I plan to do is to increase the ‘width’ of my life,” said Zhao, who works in marketing. “Life should be full of adventure, precious memories and fun. I choose to record these moments with my camera.”

In winter of 2008, Zhao led a group of friends on a climb up Mount Bogda, a 5,445-meter mountain in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The climb proceeded smoothly until an avalanche struck, partially burying the group.

“Fortunately, we weren’t buried too deep and were able to pull ourselves free,” Zhao said.

Rather than turning him off outdoor activities, the accident only inspired Zhao to embark on more trips in risky terrain and confirm his belief that life is “full of unpredictable accidents.”

Every time Zhao sets out on a rock-climbing expedition, he lugs around 10 kilograms more equipment than other climbers. Aside from safety gear including helmets and harnesses, he carries his pride and joy: a Canon EOS-1D Mark II and its accessories.

Zhao was coy when asked about his finances, saying he would rather travel around the world than settle down and buy a home in Beijing. “Firstly, it isn’t worth buying a house and being shackled to a mortgage. Secondly, my wife is also a fan of extreme sports. We have the same outlook on life, so she doesn’t give me flak for spending money on travel and photography,” said Zhao.

Asked whether he worries about the dangers associated with his hobbies, Zhao insisted “danger can be found everywhere,” and not just on a towering cliff face or snowy mountain summit.

Currently learning sky diving and bungee jumping, Zhao said he plans to photograph both sports in the future.

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Nathan Bilow-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of the Winter OlympicsShaun White might not be the first name that comes to mind, but after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he’ll have two more gold medals and be a household name.

White made his Winter Olympics debut in 2006 in the snowboarding half-pipe event where he set a scores record of 46.8 (out of 50) and won his first gold medal. He followed that up with another record setting performance in the 2010 Winter Olympics with a score of 48.3 points in the snowboarding half-pipe event.

This year White will be competing not only in the snowboarding half-pipe event, but also the snowboarding slopestyle event.

It’s typical to see White dominate any event he enters, whether its on a snowboard or a skateboard, but a couple nagging ankle injuries have kept him from doing so during recent qualifying events. White finished third in the U.S. Grand Prix slopestyle contest, but it earned him enough to officially qualify for the Olympics and put him No. 1 on the United States roster.

While it’s unusual to see White lose, as long as he’s 100 percent healthy by the time the Olympics begin then he should have no problem winning gold in the new slopestyle event. The same can be said for half-pipe, an event that is probably White’s best whether it’s snowboarding or skateboarding. For Sochi, White has added a new move to his arsenal, Double Cork 1440, and even released video of himself pulling off the trick at a training session in Australia.

White is the best in the business and he will continue to prove it in Sochi. Coming home with anything but two gold medals will appear as a failure, but White will make sure to bring home his gold and become a household name.



Olympic triathlete Sarah Groff tried her hand at cyclocross this fall, and said she’ll be back for more. Photo courtesy Paradise Sports.

She only raced twice, and she didn’t finish near the front of the field. Still, that’s all it took forOlympic triathlete Sarah Groff to catch the cyclocross bug this fall.

fourth-place finisher at the 2012 London Games — and the first American woman to medal at the ITU world triathlon championship — Groff tried her hand in cyclocross this fall following a typically relaxed triathlon season that follows a high-pressure Olympic year.

Groff, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, raced twice in New England in November, and was somewhat elusive about her results in a pair of Cat. 1-2-3 races.

“I was, maybe, in the top half,” she said. (She finished eighth out of 16 at the November 9 Paradise Cross Frenzy in Windsor, Vermont, and 11th out of 30 at the November 17 Boston Road Club Shedd Park race.)

“I’ve had this idea in mind that I wanted to try cyclocross over the past two years,” Groff said. “I’m pretty good friends with [Cal Giant rider] Elle Anderson, who is just killing it this year. I always loved watching cyclocross races, and I was always paying attention to it, especially with the world championships [in February] in Louisville. I have been watching Elle do well, and thinking to myself, ‘This is just an awesome sport, I would love to do it.’

“But every year I would come up with excuses in October, when my triathlon season was over. I would be mentally and physically tired, and I wasn’t ready to go out there and embarrass myself. I’m terrible technically, but this year, because I had a more relaxed triathlon season, I had no excuses to not do it. I finally told myself, ‘It doesn’t matter, check your ego at the door, just try it out.’ I was not very good at it right away, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Groff said she picked up a few tips from, of all things, watching YouTube clips.

“I studied up on how to do mounts, and dismounts, because when push came to shove, it’s very different than triathlon. But you’ve gotta learn from somewhere. I was getting stressed before the races. I really didn’t want to get lapped, I didn’t want to be last, I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but I finally realized that I’m not horrible at it.”

At one point earlier this fall, Groff joked in an email about racing under a pseudonym. Asked if she was recognized by anyone at the cyclocross races, Groff, who is sponsored by Scott and Shimano in triathlon, just laughed.

“A few people recognized me,” she said. “There was a woman at a start line, who said, ‘I was cheering for you in London.’ I was trying to be anonymous. I figured as long as I’m not pissing people off, I was okay. I am not really well versed in the technical side. I only had one girl curse at me, at the first race.”

Describing herself as “über competitive,” Groff admitted that it was frustrating to struggle in an endurance sport, but added that it was also exhilarating.

“I couldn’t help but think … if I was really fit, and my technical skills matched my peak fitness, I know I could be pretty nasty at this sport,” Groff said. “But I have very below-average technical abilities, and I was not very fit. And I had to be at peace with that.

“It was a good lesson for the future, because some day I won’t be super fit, when I’m not a pro athlete who sits around between workouts. I kept telling myself that with a couple of good months of hard cyclocross training, I could beat these girls, and I had to remind myself, ‘Let’s just relax a bit and be okay with being average.’”

Groff won’t take a start at the national championship race in Boulder, Colorado, in January, but said she would consider entering next September’s CrossVegas, a non-technical, fitness-oriented race held at the end of her triathlon season, with the bulk of the North American cycling industry in attendance. She added that she is committed to competing in triathlon through the 2016 Olympics in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil, suggesting that she would recalibrate any future racing plans then.

“The best part about these cyclocross races is that it is something I can be super fired up about once I’m retired from triathlon,” Groff said. “I’m sure I will want to keep racing and stay fit. At these cyclocross races, I have been lining up with high school kids alongside women in their 40s. That’s unbelievable. I’ll be one of those women in my 40s. It’s not going to be my next career, but it is definitely something I could be passionate about as a hobby.”

Anderson, who has become the biggest breakthrough story in U.S. cyclocross in years, finishing atopthe 2013 USA Cycling Pro Cyclocross Calendar standings, said she believes that Groff possesses the fundamentals to become a national-level cyclocross racer.

“From what I know of Sarah’s racing, she tends to perform the best in the worst conditions in triathlon — the rain, or the cold — which would set her up well to transition to cyclocross,” Anderson wrote in an email. “Additionally, cyclocross demands more from a cyclist in terms of core and upper body strength as well as the ability to run. As a triathlete, Sarah would definitely have advantages in these areas, in terms of her strength from swimming and running.

“If she can develop the technical skills to ride in mud, sand, steep ride-ups and sharp corners, I think she’ll be all set.”

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The Paris-Brest-Paris race is said to be one of the hardest long distance cycle races in the world.

A 770 mile (1,280km) round trip – cycling through the night – which has to be completed in under 90 hours.

Of the 5,000 Lycra clad cyclists who line-up for the challenge, nearly a thousand do not make it.

But Drew Buck, a 65-year-old from Somerset, has not only completed it six times but done it on a 100-year-old bike dressed as a traditional Breton onion seller – known as an Onion Johnny.

“I rank at the bottom,” he laughs. “But with long distance cycling you’re competing against the event rather than other people, it’s a bit like climbing Everest.”

In 2003, on a triplet – a bicycle made for three – he crossed the line with two others with less than two hours to go.

And two years ago, on a “delightful” 1900 bicycle, he competed nattily dressed as Maurice Garin – the winner of the first Tour de France in 1903.

Fake onions

But it was in 2007, on a back pedalling Hirondelle bike made in France in the 1920s, that he bagged the race’s originality award.

“You have to pedal backwards on the hills, for the lower gears,” he said.

Drew BuckOn the road Mr Buck has been flagged down by people wanting to buy onions

“It’s like a Michael Jackson moonwalk, you feel like you’re going backwards while you’re going forwards.

“But it’s just a delight because you don’t expect it to work.”

Pedalling backwards up all the hills, the 65-year-old ran the gauntlet of French villagers waving him on while he was dressed as a traditional onion seller with a string of onions hanging from his handlebars.

It was a look that proved so authentic that on a practice ride through Oxfordshire he was waived down by a passing motorist wanting to buy his wares.

“I ride exactly as they rode in the 1900s, I make no compromises – padded shorts are not allowed,” he said.

“But real onions don’t last, after 100 miles or so they fall off, so I admit I did use artificial ones.”

Catnap master

But it is as a self-confessed “stamina freak” that he has become a bit of a legend of the long distance cycling event.

On heavy antique bikes, weighing more than two and a half times the weight of a modern bike, he not only clocks up over 250 miles a day but does it on just a few hours sleep.

“I am the master of the 10 minute cat nap,” he said.

“If you’re fast you can sleep for two hours but I’m chasing the clock all the time so if I can’t keep cycling I’ll lay down on the verge, set my alarm and sleep for 10 minutes.

“It refreshes you, I can be asleep before I hit the ground – I’ve even slept standing up leaning against a gate for a few minutes.”

One of only eight British riders to have completed six PBPs, as they are known, Mr Buck is hoping to take part in the next ride in 2015.

“With long distance cycling there is a certain degree of fitness,” he said.

“It’s also in the head – many a person far fitter than me has given up because their head gives up.

“As you get older your strength fades but your stamina stays with you.

“So whether I’ll have to go back to a modern bike for 2015… I don’t know but I hope not.”

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Howell native Eric Little is home for the holidays after a kite-surfing trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

Little, known to the surfing community as Eric Pequeño, was part of an international team that tackled the wind and waves on the first-of-its-kind journey.

Surfing in shifts, team members departed from the Canary Islands on Nov. 20 and arrived Dec. 17 on the Caribbean shores of the Turks and Caicos islands.

“What so many believed to be impossible was now a reality,” Little wrote this week in a post-arrival blog post. “The local riders were all coming out on the water to ride with us in for the final stretch.”

That was just the beginning of a major celebration.

“Once we got as close to the island as possible, we loaded onto the yachts, as girlfriends jumped into the water unable to wait until land to give their welcome home kisses,” Little wrote.

An avid kite surfer, Little was selected for the trip via an Internet contest.

He was the only American on the five-man, one-woman team for the HTC Kite Challenge, sponsored by a Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer.

The trip covered an estimated 3,200 nautical miles. Team members surfed for two hours each day and two hours each night, as their teammates followed in a 50-foot catamaran.

Unlike the attached board and sail used by wind surfers, kite surfing’s set up requires participants to hold on to an object that floats as high as 75 feet above their heads.

Little, an insurance and retirement planning consultant, is a 2001 Howell High School graduate. He’s been an active kite surfer for about five years, gaining experience on lakes near his West Bloomfield home as well as in the Tawas area.

Little’s full account of the arrival, and other details, are available on the event’s website,

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Courtesy of Aaron Montgomery
Aaron Montgomery will demonstrate ice climbing at Sochi.

In late August, Aaron Montgomery received some big news via email. The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, or UIAA, had officially selected him as an athlete to demonstrate ice climbing to the world during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Although he was only one of three U.S. athletes selected for the event, 32-year-old Montgomery took it all in stride.

“I’m a pretty even-keeled person, I don’t get too excited,” he says. “I definitely feel honored to be a part of it, and to be selected as an athlete.”

Montgomery’s cool confidence has served him well in the months leading up to the event. He’s managed to juggle rigorous training with caring for newborn twin boys, managing his Broomfield-based environmental remediation company and some extensive traveling to participate in some of the nation’s and the world’s most prestigious ice competitions. And he’s helping to push ice climbing in its movement from fringe extreme to established sport.

“I’d like to see it grow in the U.S.,” he says. “The Sochi Olympics is great exposure. There are a lot of people in the climbing community as a whole that think it’s a good thing.”

Montgomery stands out in a crowd.

He seems to tower about half a foot above most at a crag. With that long reach and his lean build, he looks like he was born to climb. But he didn’t get a traditional start. Montgomery’s southern accent gives away his Oklahoma roots. He grew up on a cattle ranch, and didn’t start climbing until a college professor introduced him to the granite formations of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. He didn’t start tooling around on ice until he moved to Westminster about four years ago. Turns out, he was a natural.

“I guess I had a knack for it, so I decided to take it more seriously and [started] pushing hard,” he says.

According to UIAA representatives, 80 athletes will participate in Sochi’s ice climbing “cultural” event. Details are scant, but the athletes won’t be competing for medals. Instead, it’ll be an opportunity for those passionate about the sport, like Montgomery, to showcase ice climbing and dry tooling (climbing with ice axes on rock and plastic walls instead of ice) to the world. With any luck, spectators and Olympic committee members will be wowed enough to consider it as an official sport in coming years. And ice climbing has plenty of aspects that impress. Like traditional rock climbing, ice tooling is incredibly gymnastic. It’s physical. It’s also committing.

“It requires more intuition,” Montgomery says. “You can’t feel the holds. You have to feel them with your tools.”

Of the 80 climbers going to Sochi, half are Russian — a telling sign of the sport’s popularity there. Only three are from the United States. Because they’re separated by geography — one lives in New Mexico, one is from Minnesota but lives in Canada and Montgomery lives in Colorado — the athletes are on their own to develop training regimes. Montgomery is working with the Boulder-based Alpine Training Center, which helped him develop some highintensity endurance drills, as well as tool-specific training.

Montgomery was selected, in part, for his efforts to be an ambassador for ice climbing and to expand the sport locally. He regularly takes newbies to the park in Ouray or the ice flows near Vail, showing them the ropes.

Montgomery admits the growth of popularity in both rock and ice climbing in the U.S. can be controversial. Some worry about the dangers the uninitiated could face in an unfamiliar backcountry environment — hazards like falling rock and inexperience with safety procedures. Others dread the idea of growing crowds at their favorite crags. Still others see it as a quiet, bodily meditation in an outdoor environment, rejecting it as a “sport” ripe for commercialism and product pushes. Some fear increased exposure through high-profile competitions will only fuel those problems.

According to Montgomery, that aversion to climbing competitions and recognition of climbing as a “sport” represents a different mindset in North America versus Europe and Russia. He says that outlook is starting to shift, particularly as kids join gym and school club teams.

“It’s changing a little with a new, younger generation of competitive sport climbers and boulderers,” he says. “As they get older, maybe there will be opportunity for more widespread competitions.”

Better gear and improved technology have also opened rock climbing to a larger crowd, and ice climbing is starting to catch up. Like rock climbing, ice climbing grew naturally out of mountaineering. But while rock climbers bolted crags and sent splitter cracks in the southwest desert, the long, grueling backcountry approaches to frozen waterfalls and insufferable climates still kept ice climbing inaccessible to most.

“In climbing ice, you have to have a gladiator-type mindset,” Montgomery says. “You’re cracking ice, cleaning ice, breaking pieces off, and you have to want to be doing that. Besides that, it’s really cold.”

In Europe, the pool of climbers hardy enough to take on ice also found a decent swath of spectators through competition events. According to the UIAA, ice competitions started in Russia as early as the 1970s, with others in France and Slovenia. In 2000, the first World Cup competitions started, which the European-based UIAA began managing a few years later.

In the U.S., ice climbing competitions were slower to catch on. The sport first debuted on a large, national scale during the first televised X Games in 1998, but it was dropped from the lineup the following year. Around the same time, however, buzz began generating about a little ice park in Ouray.

Southwest Colorado had been on ice climber radars for decades, as they flocked to classic falls like Bridal Veil near Telluride and ice flows near Silverton. In the late 1990s, some of those climbers noticed leaks in a hydropower pipe running through the sleepy town of Ouray. Those leaks drained in a canyon below, forming ice flows.

“Climbers are generally pretty lazy and like accessibility,” jokes Kevin Koprek, the Ouray Ice Park manager. “Soon, they started promoting the leaks and, fortunately, local businesses as well.”

Ouray locals recognized ice climbing as a valuable economic asset during the slow winter season. The town worked with climbers and experimented with “ice farming,” growing flows with irrigated water. By the mid-1990s, the Ouray Ice Park, just a short walk from downtown, was formed. It quickly made its mark on the ice-climbing map. In 1996, it introduced its own ice climbing competition — The Ouray Ice Festival — one of only a handful in the United States.

Meanwhile, innovations in climbing gear were making the sport more comfortable. Curving tools’ handles prevented bashed hands. Gore-Tex and other fabric innovations made clothing dryer and warmer. Equipment in general became lighter. These gear trends, combined with the ease and accessibility of new ice crag hotspots, like Ouray, Frankenstein Cliffs in New Hampshire and Sandstone Ice Park in Minnesota, have made the sport accessible to a larger base of North American climbers than ever before. And a handful of small ice competitions and festivals have sprung up in places like Colorado Springs; Bozeman, Mont.; Cody, Wyo.; and Munising, Mich. While the sport once seemed intimidating, more and more outdoor enthusiasts are now jumping on board. “It’s been a slow, steady growth for us,” says Justin Roth of Petzl America, a major manufacturer of ice climbing gear. “It’s definitely come more into the public eye with the Sochi Olympics, and the World Cup. Ouray seems to get bigger every year.”

Koprek, the Ouray Ice Park manager, has noticed that growth as well. They use a census method to measure the number of climbers visiting the park each day.

“Historically, three or four years ago, we had two or three busy weekends,” he says. “Now, pretty much every weekend, the park is packed.”

All that growth has brought around $3 million to the Ouray economy during the winter months, Koprek says. The Ouray Ice Festival, held for four days every January, has maxed out at 3,000 attendees for several years as well. Koprek says they’re seeing the largest growth among women climbers and families.

“Here in Ouray, it’s appealing because of the accessibility and variability in the terrain,” Koprek says. “People of all abilities can climb right alongside each other.”

For Montgomery, ice climbing’s development as a more accessible activity is one of the most exciting things about participating in the Olympic event this winter. He just wrapped up the Bozeman Ice Festival in Montana, taking sixth place. He’ll spend a few weeks with his wife and 4-month-old boys, mixing in some drills at the Alpine Training Center in Boulder before taking off for the World Cup in South Korea. The following month, it’s Sochi.

“I just feel like, for me, it’s a move forward, it’s a recognition of climbing,” he says. “For people who don’t want that to happen, that’s fine. I think everyone gets out of climbing what they want to get out of climbing, and it’s great in that way. … I like to share the sport.”

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Map of the Dominican Republic

Euris Vidal, a rider with Foundation Cycling New York, was fatally shot on Sunday in the Dominican Republic, according to press reports.

Vidal, 26, reportedly was killed in Santiago while trying to prevent a robbery. Police were said to have shot one of the assailants.

A message on the team’s Facebook page read: “We are saddened by the loss of Euris Vidal to a senseless act of violence in the DR. God bless you and you will truly be missed.”

The Dominican Cycling Federation likewise posted an item on its website, saying it “expresses its regret at the death of … one of the best riders on both road and track.”

Vidal, a sprinter who finished 13th in the 2013 USA Crits series, had raced in the United States for several years and was to have joined the Incycle-Predator Components team in 2014.

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