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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top 10 Sports Revolutionaries

KING acknowledges 10 radical sportsmen who scored in their struggles for change. By Ben Detrick

10) Pat Tillman
Inspired to serve his country after the Twin Towers tumbled, Pat Tillman left behind a respectable football career as a safety on the Phoenix Cardinals to join the hardbody Army Rangers. Tragically, on April 22, 2004, when Tillman was gunned down on patrol in Afghanistan, he became the first professional football player to die in combat since the Buffalo Bills’ Bob Kalsu was killed in Vietnam in 1970. Although Pat was quickly deified by pro-war zealots and the flag-waving NFL as a hero who had made the ultimate sacrifice, few knew the real story of his battlefield demise; originally reported as a casualty of an ambush from hostile forces, it later emerged that the Army had covered up the fact that Tillman was killed by “friendly fire” in a case of mistaken identity. “They realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out,” said his enraged father, Patrick Tillman Sr. “They blew up their poster boy.” The drama gets deeper—according to fellow troops, Tillman despised President Bush, planned on meeting anti-war writer Noam Chomsky and described the Iraq invasion as “so fucking illegal.”

9) Curt Flood
Every contemporary athlete with a 12-car garage and diamonds worth the GNP of Honduras dangling from their neck should take a moment to profusely thank Curt Flood. A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove centerfielder as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Flood challenged baseball’s “reserve clause,” a standard contractual handcuff that bound players indefinitely to the team owning their contract, after refusing to accept a trade sending him to Philadelphia following the 1969 season. Objecting both to Philly (he considered it a racist-ass town) and to being treated like property, he went after baseball’s antitrust statutes in the Supreme Court case Flood v. Kuhn. Though Flood lost the decision, it put into motion the processes that eventually led to the creation of modern free agency. Financially strapped from legal fees and his career finished, Flood effectively martyred himself so that future generations of athletes could describe $50 million contracts as inadequate for feeding their kids. “I’m a child of the sixties, I’m a man of the sixties,” Flood explained before succumbing to throat cancer in 1997. “To think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy.”

8) Arthur Ashe
On the tennis court, Arthur Ashe possessed an eerie Vulcan-like lack of emotion that unnerved opponents and occasionally earned him accusations of being a dispassionate competitor. That steely and controlled approach not only helped Ashe win three Grand Slam titles, but also allowed him to remain a diplomatic and dignified champion of social causes long after his days on the Wimbledon grass had passed. In the late Sixties, Ashe blended sports and politics by bagging the inaugural US Open as an amateur and then assisting in the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals, an organization that insured players received proper greenbacks for swinging their cat-gut rackets. And when South Africa denied him a visa to play in the South African Open, he drew attention to the bigotry of apartheid by calling for the country’s banishment from the tennis circuit. After acquiring AIDS from a blood transfusion during one of his two heart attacks, the Tennis Hall of Famer worked to raise awareness about the epidemic until his death in 1993 from the disease’s complications. “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic,” said the man whose name is now honored by the US Open stadium in New York. “It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

7) Etan Thomas
Modern athletes have been branded as apathetic company men too fearful of jeopardizing millions in salary and endorsements to embrace activism, but Etan Thomas would rather speak his mind than peddle Raytheon batteries, Nestle Crunch or Nutrella hazelnut spread. Born in Harlem and raised in Tulsa, the current Washington Wizard took to the podium in front of thousands at an anti-war rally in September, 2005 to deliver an eloquent yet scathing speech denouncing the Republican Party and Bush administration for racism, classism and dishonesty. “Instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton,” Thomas suggested, “maybe they can work on making society more peaceful.” No stranger to public speaking, the dreadlocked big man has performed spoken word poetry alongside legends of the genre including Nikki Giovanni and The Last Poets and, in 2004, published a collection of politically-laced poetry entitled More Than an Athlete.

6) Jesse Owens
For Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany, the 1936 Berlin Olympics were intended to serve as a crowning moment for the resurgent Fatherland and a testament to Aryan athletic supremacy. Unfortunately for the Fuhrer, African-American track star Jesse Owens strolled into the hornet’s nest of hatred and schooled the so-called “master race” by earning not only four gold medals but also cheers from the sauerkraut-munching crowd. Though the son of a sharecropper had humbled the Nazis, America was far from a racial utopia; “When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus,” Owens recounted of the treatment he received in his homeland. “I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.” Incredibly, Owens even had to ride a freight elevator up to a reception in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria. Reduced to racing against horses and dogs to pay the bills, Owens eventually created a public-relations firm in the 1950s and was bestowed a Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford in 1976.

5) Dave Meggyesy
Attribute it to the routine violence, complex strategy or maybe the short haircuts, but football is infused with military references like no other American sport—just listen to John Madden drone on about those “warriors” who battle in the “trenches” for epic glory. During the height of the Vietnam War, St. Louis Cardinals linebacker Dave Meggyesy, weary of conservatives using football to boost pro-war patriotism, circulated a petition amongst his teammates asking their Congressman to bring the troops home. Ownership, incensed, became even more furious when Meggyesy, inspired by the Mexico City Olympic fist-raisers, refused to obey Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s order for players to salute the flag during the national anthem. Benched for “political reasons” midway through the 1969 season, Meggyesy quit football in the prime of his career and subsequently authored a book, Out of Their League, which aired out the NFL for exploitation, racism and drug abuse.

4) Jackie Robinson
Instead of dealing with an occasional airborne Miller Lite or insensitive remark from a sports radio moron, Jackie Robinson fended off death threats, countless racial epithets and plenty of rednecks with sharpened cleats during his monumental toppling of baseball’s color barrier. But even before a gangbusters career with the Brooklyn Dodgers that included the first Rookie of the Year award ever given, National League MVP recognition and selection to six All-Star teams, Robinson was scrapping for equality. Drafted to the military after lettering in four sports at UCLA, he was charged (and later acquitted) with insubordination after refusing to follow an order to move to the back of a bus. Understanding the attention he would attract as the first black player in the big leagues, Robinson agreed to Dodger general manager Branch Rickey’s edict that he remain silent for two years—after which, Jackie became a vocal opponent of Jim Crow laws, an activist in the NAACP and a columnist for The New York Post. An independent thinker, Robinson wasn’t beyond making questionable choices; he spoke in front of the House Un-American Activities Commission to discredit actor-activist Paul Robeson during the Communist witch-hunts of McCarthyism and supported Richard Nixon against Kennedy in the 1960 election. “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me,” Robinson once said, “All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

3) Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s bruising impact went far beyond his eye-popping 5.2 yards-per-carry average, eight rushing titles in nine seasons and remarkable durability (he never missed a game as a member of the Cleveland Browns). Described as possessing “mercurial speed, airy nimbleness and explosive violence in one package of undistilled evil” by sports columnist Red Smith, the Georgia-born, Long Island-bred Hall of Famer walked away from professional football without a limp at the relatively tender age of 30 to pursue an acting career that eventually included 32 mostly-mediocre films. Determined to live life on his own terms, Brown frequently helps others to do the same; in 1960 he founded the Negro Industrial Economic Union to boost Black-owned businesses, and in 1988 he created Amer-I-Can, an organization that works to stop the effects of gangs amongst America’s youth. An outspoken and tireless foe of racism, Brown was prominent in the unsuccessful bid to earn clemency for the since-executed O.G. Crip Tookie Williams. “He’s someone who’s never stopped organizing or fighting,” says Zirin of Brown. “He’s ready to rumble for the sake of justice, redemption and the children who will be hurt because Williams was not there to propose an alternative to gang life.”

2) John Carlos and Tommie Smith
Olympic medal ceremonies are usually a predictable mix of teary eyes and stirring national anthems, but when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists while on the podium during the 1968 Mexico City Games, the result was a one-two combination punch to conventional patriotism. After their respective bronze (Carlos) and gold (Smith) finishes in the 200-meter dash, the two Americans—joined in solidarity by the silver medalist, a white Australian who wore a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights—struck their unique poses to draw attention to civil rights issues. Symbolism was everywhere: raised fists emblematized Black power and Black unity, black beads represented victims of racial violence and bare feet were a metaphor for American poverty. Unsurprisingly, the display didn’t exactly lead the Olympic community to do the Bankhead Bounce in glee; the US Olympic Committee was forced to remove the athletes from the relay team and ban them from the Olympic Village. The reaction at home wasn’t much better: Brent Musburger, then a Chicago columnist, called them “black-skinned storm troopers” and the medal-winning track stars received death threats, had rocks heaved through their windows and found work scarce. “People looked at us like we were subversive,” Carlos told the Los Angeles Daily News on the 35th anniversary of the protest. “We were like birds busting out of a cage.”

1) Muhammed Ali
Ravaged by Parkinson’s disease and deemed harmless enough to light the Olympic torch and meet with President Bush, the current incarnation of Muhammad Ali bears little resemblance to the brash Louisville prizefighter who was known for his trash-talking couplets (he once recommended that foe Joe Frazier “donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife”) and radical ideology. Despite a Olympic gold medal, three world heavyweight titles and 56-5 record, Ali earned as much attention for his exploits outside of the ring as he did for his ass-kicking within it; over a period spanning from 1964 to 1970, he joined the Nation of Islam, befriended Malcolm X, abandoned his given names Cassius Clay and was then stripped of his title, banned from boxing and sentenced to five years in the bing for refusing to send slugs at the Vietnamese (the Supreme Court later overturned the verdict). “Ali’s words had amplification and echo among masses of people in the United States who were fed up,” says renowned progressive sports columnist Dave Zirin of Ali’s resonance among members of the civil rights and anti-war movements. “That being said, in the mid-1960s, I think you’re talking about the most publicly vilified athletic figure in the history of the United States, bar none.”

Original here

Girls' Most Dangerous Sport: Cheerleading

For high school girls and college women, cheerleading is far more dangerous than any other sport, according to a new report that adds several previously unreported cases of serious injuries to a growing list.

High school cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school females over the past 25 years, according to an annual report released Monday by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

The new estimate is up from 55 percent in last year's study. The researches say the true number of cheerleading injuries appears to be higher than they had previously thought. And these are not ankle sprains. The report counts fatal, disabling and serious injuries.

The statistics are equally grim in college, where cheerleading accounted for 66.7 percent of all female sports catastrophic injuries, compared to the past estimate of 59.4 percent.

The revised picture results from a new partnership between the sports injury center and the National Cheer Safety Foundation, a California-based not-for-profit body created to promote safety in cheerleading and collect data on injuries. The foundation provided the center with previously unreported data. The new data added 30 injury records from high schoolers and college students to the 112 in last year's report.

Catastrophic injuries to female athletes have increased over the years, since the first report was published in 1982.

"A major factor in this increase has been the change in cheerleading activity, which now involves gymnastic-type stunts," said Dr. Frederick O. Mueller, lead researcher on the new report and a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading."

Less than catastrophic injuries are vastly more common and they occur at much younger ages, too. Children ages 5 to 18 admitted to hospitals for cheerleading injuries in the United States jumped from 10,900 in 1990 to 22,900 in 2002, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics in 2006. The breakdown:

  • Strains/sprains: 52.4 percent
  • Soft tissue injuries: 18.4 percent
  • Fractures/dislocations: 16.4 percent
  • Lacerations/avulsions: 3.8 percent
  • Concussions/closed head injuries: 3.5 percent
  • Other: 5.5 percent

The new report released Monday found that between 1982 and 2007, there were 103 fatal, disabling or serious injuries recorded among female high school athletes, with the vast majority (67) occurring in cheerleading. The next most dangerous sports: gymnastics (nine such injuries) and track (seven).

Among college athletes, there have been 39 of these severe injuries: 26 in cheerleading, followed by three in field hockey and two each in lacrosse and gymnastics. The report also notes that according to the NCAA Insurance program, 25 percent of money spent on student athlete injuries in 2005 resulted from cheerleading.

In 2007, however, two catastrophic injuries to female high school cheerleaders were reported, down from 10 in the previous season and the lowest number since 2001. Yet there were three catastrophic injuries to college-level participants, up from one in 2006.

According to the report, almost 95,200 female students take part in high school cheerleading annually, along with about 2,150 males. College participation numbers are hard to find since cheerleading is not an NCAA sport.

Original here

Athlete says sports steroids changed him from woman to man

Andreas Krieger says his body changed soon after he began taking what coaches said were vitamins.
Heidi Krieger proved herself one of the world's top athletes in the 1980s, winning medal after medal in the shot put for East Germany.

Now, the former sports star looks disdainfully at the awards, dismissing them as "doping medals" and honors that turned a woman into a man.

Heidi Krieger, the 1986 European women's shot-put champion, became Andreas Krieger after a sex-change operation in 1997. He says he had been fed so many steroids by his coaches without his knowledge that physical and emotional problems began.

The young woman's physique changed drastically, as did her feelings. "I felt much more attracted to women and just felt like a man. But I knew I was not lesbian," Krieger told CNN.

Her coaches said they were giving her vitamin pills, but they were actually feeding her Oral-Turinabol anabolic steroids.

Krieger is among an estimated 10,000 East German athletes thought to have been given performance-enhancing drugs to help build their country into a sports powerhouse.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the German Democratic Republic was one of the most successful Olympic Games nations. But after the fall of Soviet Communism, it was revealed just how much steroids were fueling the medal machine. Sports leaders, including Manfred Ewald, the head of East Germany's National Olympic Committee from 1973 until 1990, were convicted in the doping programs.

Krieger, who is now married and runs an army surplus store, says he has taken his life into his own hands and does not want to be seen as a victim.

But he and other former East German athletes tricked by their coaches are worried that too little has been learned from their plight.

Doping remains a major issue in sports, and many drug tests will be conducted in Beijing, China, as officials try to catch any cheats hoping to go undetected and get Olympic glory.

Experts say the next step for sportsmen and women looking for an illegal boost to physical performance could be gene therapy -- so-called "gene doping."

Sports physician Willi Heepe said gene therapy means the body will basically dope itself.

If that happens, "the human monster will be a reality," he told CNN.

Krieger is worried that the pressure to win could create new victims.

"If today's athletes say they want to take the risk, they really don't know what risk they are taking," he said.
Original here

Phelps wins 3rd gold in 200 free

Michael Phelps has one mission for Beijing: Bringing home a record-setting eight golds.
Michael Phelps climbed out of the pool, unzipped his skin-tight suit and ambled over to chat with his coach.

"Well, you're tied," Bob Bowman reminded him.

"That's pretty cool," Phelps replied.

Yawn. This guy is making monumental feats look ridiculously easy.

Phelps etched his name with Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis among the winningest Olympians ever with his third gold medal and third world record in as many days.

In winning the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday, Phelps ran his career Olympic total to nine golds and avenged his only individual loss in Athens four years ago, when a 19-year-old Phelps took on the 200 free just so he could compete with Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband.

He finished third that night in what was called the "Race of the Century." This time, it was hardly a race at all.

Phelps all the way.

"I hate to lose," he said. "When you lose a race like that, it motivates me even more to try to swim faster."

Competing out in lane six, Phelps quickly surged to the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four laps. He was nearly two seconds ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds, breaking the mark of 1:43.86 he set at last year's world championships.

"I just wanted to be out at the 50-meter point, and that's where I was," said Phelps, much more reserved in his reaction after a wild performance on deck the previous day. "I was in open water, and it was difficult for the other guys to see me."

South Korea's Park Tae-hwan took the silver in 1:44.85, touching while Phelps was already looking at the scoreboard. Peter Vanderkaay, one of Phelps' training partners, gave the U.S. another medal by claiming the bronze in 1:45.14.

"I knew Park is strong in the last 50 meters," Phelps said of the 400 free gold medalist, "so I knew I had to be fast and concentrated."

Everyone else figured they were racing for second.

"Phelps swam so fast," Park said. "It is my honor to compete with him."

Added Vanderkaay, "I just tried to swim my own race. He's going to go out, but I can't let that affect my race strategy."

Phelps is now 3-for-3 in Beijing, on course to beat Spitz's 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Olympics. He opened with a world record in the 400 individual medley, then led off an epic victory in the 400 free relay.

While chasing Spitz, he'll take care of another historical landmark, one he wasn't even aware of until earlier this year.

Phelps's ninth career gold tied him with Spitz, Lewis, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi for the most in Olympic history.

"To be tied for the most Olympic golds of all time, with those names, in Olympic history ...," Phelps said, before pausing and letting out a slight chuckle.

"The Olympics have been around for so many years, that's a pretty amazing accomplishment."

The mark isn't likely to be shared for long. Phelps will go for his fourth and fifth golds of these games, which would push him to 11 overall, when he competes Wednesday in the finals of the 200 butterfly and 800 free relay, two more events in which he already holds world records.

Just for kicks, Phelps set an Olympic record during Tuesday's 200 fly semifinals, competing less than an hour after winning the 200 free.

"I set up an opportunity to have a perfect swim tomorrow," Phelps said.

Perfection. That sums up the gangly 23-year-old from Baltimore who loves rap music, pimped-out cars and doing things in the pool that no one else even dared to think of.

"It might be once in a century you see something like this," teammate Aaron Peirsol said. "He's not just winning, he's absolutely destroying everything. It's awesome to watch."

Phelps is a creature of habit. He struggles to wake up in the morning, and loves to take naps in the middle of the afternoon. He gets two massages a day and takes ice baths to help his body recover from the grueling schedule. He whoofs down gargantuan amounts of pasta and pizza between races.

"Lots of carbs," he said.

When it's time to race, there's no one better.

"It's his physical ability, it's his ability to race, it's his ability to keep focused, to get excited when he needs to and to come down when he needs to come down," said Mark Schubert, head coach of the U.S. team.

With Phelps leading the way, it turned out to be a red, white and blue morning for the American swimmers.

Peirsol defended his Olympic title in the 100 backstroke with a world record of 52.54, and teammate Matt Grevers made it a 1-2 U.S. finish. Peirsol beat his own mark, 52.89, set at last month's national trials in Omaha, Neb., while Grevers added to the gold he won for swimming the preliminaries of the 400 free relay.

"It never gets old," said Peirsol, who swept the backstroke golds in Athens and will try to do the same in Beijing. "It really does feel like the first time."

The bronze was shared by Russia's Arkady Vyatchanin and Australia's Hayden Stoeckle.

Natalie Coughlin became the first woman to repeat as champion of the 100 backstroke, winning with an American record of 58.96. She held off Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, who set a world record of 58.77 in the semifinals but couldn't repeat that performance.

"I'm so glad to have this race behind me because there's so much pressure," said Coughlin, who claimed her seventh Olympic medal overall. "I tried to keep myself as mentally strong as possible."

Another American, Margaret Hoelzer, took bronze in 58.34.

"The ball's starting to roll," Phelps said. "Last year in Melbourne (at the world championships) one swim started it, and then swims just started happening one after another after another. We had a great morning this morning and hopefully we can set up some more good swims tonight and keep the ball rolling."

The U.S. dominance was broken only by Australia's Leisel Jones, who made up for a disappointing bronze four years ago by winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.17, just eight-hundredths off her own world record. Rebecca Soni, who got in the event after fellow American Jessica Hardy tested positive for drugs last month, took advantage of her opportunity by winning the silver in 1:06.73.

"It almost felt like less pressure because it wasn't initially my event," Soni said. "I don't think it's necessarily fair what happened, but rules are rules and I'm just doing what I'm told."

Mirna Jukic of Austria got the bronze (1:07.34).

The day before, Phelps led a raucous celebration on deck after Jason Lezak improbably caught France's Alain Bernard on the final stroke to give the Americans a thrilling relay win. He thrust both fists in the air and let out a long scream before burying himself with Lezak, Cullen Jones and Garrett Weber-Gale in a group hug.

There was no such drama this time. He has no equal in China.

Phelps touched the wall two full body lengths ahead of everyone else, put his right index finger in the air and matter-of-factly climbed from the pool.

After the medal ceremony, Phelps changed into a different suit -- ditching the one that covers his stomach and chest for one that merely goes from waist to ankles -- to swim in the semifinals of the 200 fly. He won the heat and tied his own Olympic record from the win at Athens four years ago, 1:53.70.

"I just wanted to win my heat and set everything up for tomorrow," Phelps said. "Just get through that and prepare myself for tomorrow, that's the most important thing. An afternoon off and it's time to just sort of get as rested as I can, recover, and I probably have to re-shave. Get all of that stuff down."

In the semifinals of the women's 200 free, Katie Hoff advanced with the second-fastest time of 1:57.01. The 19-year-old American, who's like a little sister to Phelps, is still trying to win her first gold medal after settling for bronze and silver in her first two events. She still has three more individual races, plus a relay, to fill that void.

Slovenia's Sara Isakovic was the top qualifier at 1:56.50.

Hoff returned to post the third-fastest time in the semifinals of the 200 individual medley, trailing Coventry (2:09.53) and Australia's Stephanie Rice (2:10.58) in 2:10.90.

It also was a busy morning for Coughlin, who won the other heat in the 200 IM with the fourth-best time overall, 2:11.84.

Original here

Sportscaster Bob Costas Shows Up Political Colleagues In Bush Interview

It's not for nothing that Matt Yglesias seems to be nominating NBC Sports eminence grise Bob Costas for the Meet The Press chair. Last night's interview with President George W. Bush demonstrated that there's a world of difference between a reporter with chops, knowledge, and genuine curiosity and those who work for the empty calories of a "gotcha" moment. The ten-minute sit down included sufficient Olympics content to suit the occasion, but centered mainly on probing foreign policy questions from a superbly prepared Costas. The result was an interview that was neither softball nor pointlessly antagonistic.

I don't want to harp too much on Bush's responses, because he's fared a lot worse in interviews. Certainly, many a blogger has concentrated on Bush's "I don't see America having problems" remark. On the one hand, it's another instance of the President's trademark myopic optimism, but on the other hand, consider the setting: national optimism at the Olympics is akin to telling the students of Wellesley that their education has prepared them to compete in a male-dominated world. However, it was hard to miss Bush protesting that he could not "read [Hu Jintao's] mind" on a day where his inability to properly divine Vladimir Putin's soul was negatively impacting America's security abroad.

Also, there's this:

Q China is a nation that warmly received Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who has since been indicted by the International Court on charges of genocide.


Q Then this past week they revoked the visa of Joey Cheek, an exemplary Olympian who had planned to come here not to directly protest China's government, but to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.


Q What's your reaction?

THE PRESIDENT: My reaction is I'm sorry Joey Cheek didn't come, he's a good man. Joey Cheek has just got to know that I took the Sudanese message for him. My attitude is, is if you got relations with Mr. Bashir, think about helping to solve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. That was my message to the Chinese government.

I'm not sure how effective Bush was at carrying Cheek's "message" when he's under the impression that Cheek "didn't come" of his own accord.


[Full transcript available via the White House.]
Original here

“Top Secret” Technology To Help U.S. Swimmers Trim Times at Beijing Olympics

Rensselaer researcher is using fluid mechanics to help athletes sharpen strokes

Milliseconds can mean the difference between triumph and defeat in the world of Olympic sports, leading more trainers and athletes to look toward technology as a tool to get an edge on the competition.

A fluids mechanics professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., is using experimental flow measurement techniques to help American swimmers sharpen their strokes, shave seconds from their lap times, and race toward a gold medal in Beijing this summer.

Professor Timothy Wei, head of Rensselaer’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and acting dean of the university’s School of Engineering, helped develop top-secret, state-of-the-art equipment and mathematical techniques that USA Swimming coaches have been using to help train Olympians.

“This is the real thing,” Wei said. “We have the physical system, we’re taking flow measurements of actual swimmers, and we’re getting more information than anyone has ever had before about swimming and how the swimmer interacts with the water. And so far, these techniques have contributed to some very significant improvements in the lap times of Olympic swimmers.”

In years past, swimming coaches have used computer modeling and simulation to hone the techniques of athletes. But Wei developed state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technologies, modifying and combining force measurement tools developed for aerospace research with a video-based flow measurement technique known as Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV), in order to create a robust training tool that reports the performance of a swimmer in real-time.

“This project moved the swimming world beyond the observational into scientific fact,” said USA Swimming Coach Sean Hutchison. “The knowledge gained gave me the foundation for which every technical stroke change in preparation for the Beijing Olympics was based.”

You can see one of the videos, of 2008 Olympian Megan Jendrick, here:

The secret, Wei said, is in understanding how the water moves. The new system incorporates highly sophisticated mathematics with stop-motion video technology to identify key vortices, pinpoint the movement of the water, and compute how much energy the swimmer exerts.

“You have to know the flow,” Wei said. “To see how a swimmer’s motion affects the flow, you need to know how much force the swimmer is producing, and how that force impacts the water.”

“Swimming research has strived to understand water flow around a swimmer for decades because how a swimmer’s body moves the surrounding water is everything,” said USA Swimming’s Biomechanics Manager Russell Mark. “The ability to measure flow and forces in a natural and unimpeded environment hasn’t been available until recently, and Dr. Wei’s technology and methods presented USA Swimming with a unique opportunity that United States swimmers and coaches could learn a lot from.”

Wei has been working with USA Swimming for several years, but the idea and design of the new flow measurement tool really took shape in 2007. Most of the preliminary tests were conducted in October 2007, and the coaches and swimmers have spent the past several months incorporating what they have learned into their training regimes. For any swimmer, it takes time to make adjustments to their strokes and practice new techniques, Wei said.

One highlight of working on the project was when Mark arranged for Wei to attend the 2007 and 2008 U.S. Summer Nationals and be on deck with the swimmers.

“How often does a researcher get to do something like this?” said Wei, whose young son and daughter also swim competitively. “It’s been a journey into a world that someone like me would have never before gotten the privilege to see first-hand.”

Wei began his research career as an aeronautical and mechanical engineer, including hydrodynamics research for the U.S. Navy. But lately he has expanded into bio-related research, such as working with a vascular surgeon to study effects of flow over endothelial cells, and partnering with a neurosurgeon to understand the mechanisms behind hydrocephalus, or excess fluid in the brain.

As a young researcher, Wei dreamed of measuring flow around swimming whales, but the idea never progressed to fruition. Recently, however, in the midst of his work with USA Swimming, Wei worked with marine biologists Frank Fish and Terrie Williams to measure the flow around swimming bottlenose dolphins at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Wei said he’s confident that the United States will have a strong showing in swimming at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and that he’s already thinking of ways to improve his technology to be even more effective when training swimmers to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

“It’s been a wonderful, unique experience,” he said. “It’s everyone’s dream to make a difference, and I’m excited to keep helping the team for as long as they need me.”

Wei is also currently working with the U.S. Olympic skeleton team and looking at new flow measurement techniques to help shave precious milliseconds off downhill times.

Oriignal here

India wins first ever individual gold medal at the Olympics

The final shot from Abhinav Bindra's rifle may not have been heard outside the packed hall in the Beijing Shooting Range Complex on Monday morning. But its bang was loud enough to lift the spirit of a billion-plus Indians back home. ( Watch )

No individual gold has mattered so much to so many people in the history of Olympics. It was a medal for Abhinav; it was redemption for India. Never again will anyone be able to point a smug, sardonic finger and say: "No Indian is good enough to win an individual Olympic gold."
Hockey's eight gold medals notwithstanding, the last coming 28 years ago, this is the first time that an Indian has won an individual gold since modern Olympics started in 1896. There is no greater joy than listening to the sound of the national anthem on the world's biggest stage.

The global media looked bemused as grown-up Indians danced like little children, shedding tears of joy. How can they understand?

The joy was also spurred by the improbable nature of the triumph. The script of the men's 10m air rifle final might have been penned by Alfred Hitchcock himself. Bindra, who qualified for the final in the morning with the fourth-best score of 596, looked calm and assured when the call for the first shot came.

The first shot - 10.7. He started with a bang and that set the tone for the 10-shot final. He followed it up with a 10.3. After the third shot, a 10.4, he had moved from No. 3 to No. 2. Then, Bindra slowly ate into the lead of Finland's Henri Hakkinen and went ahead after the seventh shot with 10.6.

Hakkinen caught up with him after the ninth shot, and with one shot to go, the Indian and the Finn were tied at 689.7 points.

There was a hushed silence inside the hall. The suspense was unbearable. It's in such situations that champions show their mettle. And Bindra showed nerves of steel. He fired first, an amazing 10.8 for a total of 700.5. Home favourite and defending champion Zhu Qinan shot a 10.5 and Hakkinen simply withered under pressure, managing only 9.7. Bindra finally smiled, but barely.

He turned back and went up to hug his Swiss coach Gaby Buehlmann, with whom he trained for months in Germany, away from the intrusive home media. After the medals' ceremony, Bindra was mobbed by journalists, several of them from Finland and China.

"How does it feel Mr Bindra?" "Hard to describe it... it's the thrill of my life," he said, still looking calm as a monk. "The final shot was perfect. I just went for it. I was aggressive. It went my way. I'm lucky," he added in a matter-of-fact tone.

Will this not change his life? "My life will go on. I hope it changes the face of Olympic sports in the country," he said.

This is the fifth individual Olympic medal for India. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won the first, a bronze in wrestling at the Helsinki Games in 1952. After a long gap, Leander Paes won the tennis bronze in Atlanta Games in 1996. Then, Karnam Malleswari won a weightlifting bronze in 2000 in Sydney and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore raised the bar, winning a silver in Athens in 2004.

Rathore, who was practising for his event that is scheduled for Tuesday, watched it on TV in the players' lounge in the trap section. "My congratulations to Abhinav. He has raised the bar further. I always maintained that this is a world-class shooting team. There will be some hits and some misses."
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Top 10 Hottest Athletes

Unless you’ve been living under an especially large slab of rock recently, you’ll probably have noticed that this big sports day thing is coming up. The Olympics, they call it. In celebration of this wondrous event, we’ve collected together the sexiest female athletes on the planet. Enjoy!

10. Amanda Beard
Despite the unappealingly masculine name, Ms Beard is in fact an American Olympic swimmer and model. She’s not shy, either: in her time she’s appeared in Sports Illustrated, Playboy and good ol’ FHM. Which is nice.
9. Gretchen BleilerYou might not guess it to look at her, but young Gretchen is the big name in female snowboarding. When she’s not tearing up half-pipes, she likes looking pretty, playing with her hair, and mini-golf. At a guess, anyway.
8. Amy Taylor The archetypal image of a female footballer may leave you quivering under your Subbuteo-print bedsheets, but this one’s different: she’s pretty. She’s Australian. She could kick your arse at five-a-side – she’s the perfect woman.
7. Biba Golic
Table tennis is cool. That’s a fact. We know this because any sport that brings us a woman as hot as Biba has to be cool. Has to be.
6. Maria SharapovaMaria, Maria, Maria. Classier than Kournikova, prettier than Nadal, but still no match for Ivanovic in the hotness stakes. So near, and yet, so far.
5. Natalie GulbisIn such a refined and regal sport as golf, it may seem a touch vulgar to ask, but still – how does she swing the club so well with such ample breasts? It’s quite the conundrum…
4. Allison StokkeAt the age of just 17, Allison was pole-vaulted (boom boom) to stardom by being, well… hot. Swiftly becoming an internet phenomenon, she’s brought a new found respect to the stick-waggling profession. And by ‘respect’ we mean ‘lust’.
3. Nikki GudexHer name may make her sound like some kind of robotic seductress, but in reality she’s a world-class mountain biker. Her legs look long and sleek, but underneath lie pistons of steel. Our guess is she could probably beat the crap out of you too. Yes, we can tell.
2. Bia and Branca FeresThere are two of them! And they’re both stunning! And they do synchronised swimming! That means bikinis – yes it does.
1. Ana IvanovicWe’ve loved this racket-wielding siren for quite some time now. She’s just so damn beautiful – which is why we’ve made her number one, frankly.

Phelps collects 2nd gold in relay

With history about to slip away and Michael Phelps cheering him on, Jason Lezak pulled up next to the lane rope and set out after hulking Alain Bernard, like a NASCAR driver drafting down the backstretch at Daytona.

Only 25 meters to go, half the length of the pool. Every stroke brought Lezak a little closer, a little closer, a little closer, his body seemingly carried along by the Frenchman's massive wake. The two lunged for the wall together. When the result flashed on the board, Phelps was still on course for his record eight gold medals.

By a fingertip.

Lezak, the oldest man on the U.S. swimming team, pulled off one of the great comebacks in Olympic history Monday morning, hitting the wall just ahead of Bernard in the 400 freestyle relay, a race so fast it actually erased two world records.

Few sporting events live up to the hype -- this one exceeded it. The 32-year-old Lezak was nearly a body length behind Bernard as they made the final turn, but the American hugged the lane rope and stunningly overtook him on the very last stroke.


"This has been happening my whole career," Lezak said. "People have gotten on my lane line and sucked off of me, so I figured this is the one opportunity in my whole career to do that."

Watching on deck, Phelps let out a resounding "Yeaaaaaah!" and thrust both arms toward the roof of the Water Cube. His quest to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals had survived what will likely be its toughest test -- and almost certainly its most thrilling.

The Americans shattered the world record set by their "B" team the previous evening in the preliminaries, touching with a time of 3 minute, 8.24 seconds -- nearly 4 full seconds below the 15-hour-old mark of 3:12.23.

"Unbelievable," said Phelps, who swam the leadoff leg and then became the team's biggest cheerleader. "Jason finished that race better than we could even ask for. I was fired up. Going into that last 50, I was like, `Aw, this is going to be a close race.' Jason's last 10 or 15 meters were incredible."

The Americans won the relay at seven straight Olympics, but watched the Australians and South Africans take gold at the last two games.

"You could tell I was pretty excited," Phelps said. "I lost my voice and I was definitely pretty emotional out there."

Bernard was the world record holder in the 100, but he surrendered that mark as well. Australia's Eamon Sullivan broke the individual record by swimming the leadoff leg in 47.24 -- ahead of Bernard's mark of 47.50.

Oh, by the way, Phelps set an American record leading off, 47.51. But it was Lezak's anchor that everyone will remember. He got down and back in a staggering 46.06, the fastest relay leg in history though it doesn't count as an official record.

"A fingertip did the victory," said Amaury Leveaux, one of the French swimmers. "It is nothing."

Lezak looked at the scoreboard, then leaped out of the water with an emphatic fist pump.

"I knew I was going to have to swim out of my mind," Lezak said. "Still right now, I'm in disbelief."

Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones also did their parts on the middle legs of the relay, overcoming the enormous pressure of making sure they didn't mess up Phelps' attempt to take down the Holy Grail of Olympic records. Jones was the only holdover from the team that swam in the prelims.

Lezak should get a share of that $1 million bonus that Phelps has been promised if he goes on to beat Spitz's mark.

"I never lost hope," said Lezak, who trains alone but has been a longtime stalwart on the relay team. "I don't know how I was able to take it back that fast, because I've never been able to come anywhere near that for the last 50."

While the Americans whooped it up on deck, Bernard clung to the wall, his head down. The swimmer who had talked confidently of beating the Americans -- "smashing" them, some media reported -- was the last one to leave the pool.

"Alain is wounded. When you are the last swimmer in a relay and that you have the opportunity to bring a title of this importance to your country, you don't get out of this unhurt," said Claude Fauquet, France's team director. "But I don't think that Alain lost the race. It's Lezak who won it."

The French were second in 3:08.32 -- eight one-hundredths of a second behind. Australia took the bronze in 3:09.91. In fact, the top five all went below the record set Sunday.

"I felt I was in the lead," Bernard said. "I knew I had to accelerate, but it got harder."

The Americans also were on the losing end of a last-lap comeback.

Katie Hoff was again denied a gold medal when Rebecca Adlington of Britain rallied over the final 50 meters to overtake the 19-year-old, who had settled for a bronze the previous day in the 400 individual medley.

Adlington won in 4:03.22, while Hoff took the silver in 4:03.29. Adlington's teammate Joanne Jackson earned the bronze in 4:03.52. Defending champion Laure Manaudou finished last in the eight-woman final.

"I saw Katie and thought, 'Let's just try to catch her,"' Adlington said. "That's what I did."

Hoff still has three more individual events, plus a relay.

"I was a little disappointed I was so close," she said. "But I got a bronze yesterday and a silver this morning. If I keep climbing at this pace, I'll be happy."

President Bush was back at the Water Cube for the second day in a row, with wife Laura on one side, daughter Barbara on the other. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife were sitting in front of them, and Bill Gates was right behind.

Clearly, the swimming record book will need some heavy revisions by the time the Beijing Olympics are over.

Two more world marks fell Monday morning when Kosuke Kitajima of Japan finished off American Brendan Hansen's hopes of an individual medal, winning the 100 breaststroke in 58.91. Kitajima pounded the water defiantly and let out a scream after breaking Hansen's 2-year-old record of 59.13.

Hansen was left without a medal, fading to fourth behind silver medalist Alexander Dale Oen of Norway and Hugues Duboscq of France, who took bronze.

Kirsty Coventry didn't even bother waiting until a final to set a record in the 100 backstroke. The Zimbabwean won her semifinal heat in 58.77, taking down Natalie Coughlin's mark of 58.97 set at the U.S. trials last month.

They'll go head to head in Tuesday morning's final. Coughlin won her heat in 59.43 with a nice, comfortable swim.

Seven world records have been set through the first 21/2 days at the Water Cube.

Phelps had another race to care of, moving on to the final of the 200 free with the fourth-fastest time of the semis. Trying to save as much energy as possible for the leadoff leg of the relay, the American touched in 1:46.28 to finish behind teammate Peter Vanderkaay (1:45.76) and South Korea's Park Tae-hwan (1:45.99).

Jean Basson of South Africa also went faster in the other heat, winning in 1:46.13.

While Hansen still has a swim left in the medley relay, he'll go down as one of the major disappointments of the American team. A one-time world record holder in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, he didn't even qualify for the Olympics in the longer race.

Putting all his hopes of beating Kitajima in the 100, he wasn't close to the Japanese star, finishing 0.66 seconds behind.

"I've just had a really off year, on a really important year," Hansen said. "I just feel like that's not the last you're going to see of me. I'm going to bring it back and I won't be done until I at least have a legitimate shot at those world records again."

Hansen swam over to Kitajima's lane to congratulate the winner.

"That's a hell of a swim, and he is a true champion," he said.

Coventry put down quite a challenge to Coughlin. Then again, Coughlin has been known to rise to the challenge -- when Hayley McGregory broke her world record in the prelims at the U.S. trials, Coughlin came back in the very next heat to take it back.

Now, Coventry has it, and Coughlin can't be too happy about that.

"It's going to be a tight final," Coventry said. "Natalie's just so good at racing and planning out her races, so I just expect nothing but fast, fast swimming tomorrow morning."

Coughlin will be side-by-side with Coventry in the final.

"It went very well," she said. "It's exactly where I wanted to be going into the finals. I'm happy with that. I just need to recover and focus on my final."

Libby Trickett of Australia just missed another world record in the women's 100 butterfly, winning gold with a time of 56.73. American Christine Magnuson claimed the silver (57.10) and another Aussie, Jess Schipper, took the bronze (57.25).

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Beijing Olympics: China's army of student fans drilled like soldiers

An 800,000-strong army of students has been drilled like soldiers to provide "atmosphere" at the Games, following concerns that traditionally reserved Chinese spectators might not enter into the full spirit of the event.

A further 448 volunteers have been positioned inside the venues to orchestrate the crowd's reactions. They were in evidence at Friday's opening ceremony, showing the 91,000 spectators when to applaud and cheer.

Yesterday, some of the students made their Olympic debuts. They could be seen and heard chanting "Jiayou Zhongguo", or "Let's Go China", and "Jiayou Aoyunhui" – "Let's Go Olympics" – in unison during the cycling road race.

Up to a million Games tickets have been distributed to students across China at the super-low price of 10 yuan (75p). In return, the students have had to learn the official four-step Olympic cheer.

It starts with a double clap and a chant of "Olympics", moves on to a thumbs-up with arms pointing skywards and a chant of "Let's Go", then another double clap and a cheer of "China", and finally fists are punched in the air to a shout of "Let's Go".

The chant, devised by the spiritual civilisation development office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the ministry of education and the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee (Bocog), was taught to the students in the past two months. Bocog also brought in cheerleaders from the New England Patriots American Football team, to teach US-style razzamatazz to the 600 volunteers who will cheerlead at beach volleyball and basketball events.

Organised cheering is yet more evidence of Beijing's determination to micro-manage every aspect of the Olympics, although officials do not see it that way.

"It creates a great atmosphere in the stadium for the athletes and heightens the interaction with the audience," said Wang Hui, Bocog's publicity chief.

But some Chinese online commentators have wondered whether any chant devised by the CCP, which is better known for dour slogans such as "Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics", can be classified as fun.

Some foreign fans in Beijing
have also been disappointed with the lack of spontaneity in evidence.

"The opening ceremony was too cold and technical for me," said Alex Nunuef, a lawyer from Brazil.

Nick Plastow, an operations manager from Harrow, London, said: "It wasn't as good as Sydney and Athens. But the Chinese aren't outwardly gregarious so you expect it to be a bit formal."

Chinese officialdom is being blamed by some for
a subdued atmosphere. National flags larger than 1m by 2m, patriotic banners, musical instruments and babies are banned from venues. Bocog insists its rules are in line with the Olympic charter. But the lack of flexibility reflects Beijing's obsession with hosting a perfect Games, even if it squeezes the life out of them.

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UK Businessman Decapitates Self With Aston Martin DB7

Gerald MellinAn inquest into the death of Welsh gym owner Gerald Mellin has found the businessman decapitated himself in his Aston Martin DB7 after an argument with his estranged wife. According to the court, Mellin tied one end of a rope to a tree, climbed into his DB7 and wrapped the other end around his neck. Mellin then jammed the pedal down on the $173,000 car, driving into a busy main road, forcing other drivers to watch his horrific death. Police found his headless body still in the driving seat and his head on the back seat. But what caused Millen to kill himself with such heinous vehicular methodology?

Well, according to Mrs Mellin:

"We had split up and been to court. He wanted me to walk away from the farmhouse and the business and leave me with we met in a pub after a court hearing and he started having a tantrum. As we made our way back to our cars he opened the boot and said: "There's my rope, that's what I'm going to kill myself with." I told him to grow up and give me the rope. But he just laughed."
Apparently, the court also ruled the day before his death that Mrs Mellin would be awarded an extra £100 ($192.00) a week in maintenance from her husband. Umm, talk about a low bar to set for suicide, right?
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Sanford Stadium - University of Georgia

I've been to a game up at Sanford and I couldn't imagine what a player must be going through while playing "between the hedges." The fans are loud, but overall, they're a pretty nice crowd. -- Matthew Smith, Bleacher Report

Team USA routs China in opener

In one heartpounding minute in the first half, LeBron James dunked off a nifty underhande

LeBron James finished with 18 points -- most of the spectacular variety.
feed from Dwyane Wade. Then Kobe Bryant flew in and jammed. Then it was Chris Bosh's turn to rattle the rim.

As the backboard swayed, some might have recalled the fabled Dream Team. The final score -- U.S. 101, China 70 -- might also draw comparisons.

Who's worried about the 7-for-29 shooting from beyond the arc? Just toss it up and throw it down.

This was the biggest basketball game in China's history and perhaps the most-watched basketball game ever -- and the U.S. wanted to turn in a performance to match the moment as it took its first step toward Olympic hoops redemption.

"I've never felt an environment quite like this," said Bryant, a veteran of five NBA Finals. "I've played in many big games, but the energy tonight was different.

"I think they knew that history was being made tonight," Bryant said. "Obviously, it was a proud moment for their country as it is for ours. You could feel the electricity."

Two nights after China put on a spectacular opening ceremony, it shared the spotlight with the nation that invented basketball.

The sparkling Wukesong Indoor Stadium began to buzz an hour before tipoff. But it didn't feel like much of a homecourt for the Chinese. Team USA took the floor to a roar that was every bit as loud as the cheer when China came out of the dressing room. Bryant got as much applause as Chinese icon Yao Ming during pregame introductions.

"The excitement of it, the anxiousness of it, the anticipation was just crazy," said Dwyane Wade, who led the U.S. with 19 points off the bench. "I'm kind of glad it's out of the way now. This game was just over the top."

With President Bush and his father watching alongside Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, this was as much a spectacle as a basketball game. The president visited with the U.S. players in the locker room before the game.

"He basically came up to us and said, 'I'm here to support you, our country supports you, and so go out there and kick some butt,' " Bryant said.

The U.S. did that eventually. But for one half the game met, and perhaps even exceeded, the expectations of the hosts.

"Many things we learned from those guys," China coach Jonas Kazlauskas said. "So I think that it will be good for us."

The Americans may be treated like rock stars here, but they suffered from a bit of stage fright early on. The U.S. turned the ball over on its first possession, and the Chinese grabbed a quick 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Yao from the top of the key.

"He scripted it perfect," Wade said. "You just had to smile because you couldn't write it any better."

In the past, the Chinese might have been tempted to call timeout and take a picture of the scoreboard. But China has improved under Kazlauskas.

After the U.S. forged a 28-21 lead early in the second quarter, China tied it at 29-29 on a 3-pointer by Sun Yue with six minutes to play in the first half.

That's when Team USA began to flex its superiority. The Americans responded with a 16-3 run capped by a trio of thundering dunks -- by James, Bryant and Bosh -- on its way to a 49-37 halftime lead.

The Americans struggled with their long-range shooting, an ominous sign for a team that has been dogged by shooting woes in past international tournaments. The U.S. went 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half.

The Chinese, by contrast, hit eight of their first 12 shots from beyond the arc. But when their 3-pointers stopped falling, the Chinese had no answer for the U.S.' defensive pressure, not to mention its superior depth.

China has more than a billion people, but there's not an elite point guard among them. If they ever find one, the Chinese might begin to close the oceanic gap between them and the Americans.

The U.S. had beaten China in each of their first nine meetings by a combined 363 points. In their last meeting, the Americans blasted China 121-90 in the world championships two years ago in Sapporo, Japan, harrying the Chinese into 25 turnovers.

Although the U.S. won this game by 31 points, the Chinese hoped to send a message. They're relative newcomers on the international hoops stage, but they aren't going away.

Yao, who led China with 13 points, seemed to make that point as he came off for the last time with 4:43 to play and China trailing 87-54.

Yao raised his right fist to the crowd, sparking a long, loud ovation.

China had lost. But basketball won.