Evan Strong

U.S. wins its first Sochi Paralympic gold, sweeps snowboarding event

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The first U.S. gold medal of the Sochi Paralympics was historic, and it came on an eight-medal Friday for the American team in Sochi.

Evan Strong led a U.S. sweep of the podium in the debut of men’s para snowboard cross at the Paralympics. Strong was joined by silver medalist Michael Shea and bronze medalist Keith Gabel.

“Today is a dream. I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon,” Strong said in a press release. “I don’t even feel like my feet are on the ground right now. Today this course is super fun, you can generate lots of speed but it was super challenging and very stressful.”

Strong, 27, is a rare Winter Paralympian who grew up in Hawaii.

He was on his way to a career as a professional skateboarder when, 10 days before he turned 18, he was struck by a drunk driver in a head-on collision while riding his motorcycle and had a partial amputation of his left leg.

He moved to Lake Tahoe in October 2007 and took up snowboarding. He excelled, winning gold in the Winter X Games, World Championships and adding two world overall titles. The Paralympic gold capped his collection.

Video: Evan Strong’s strong resolve

Amy Purdy added a U.S. bronze in the first women’s snowboard cross event. Purdy, a contestant on “The Amazing Race” in 2012, is set for “Dancing with the Stars” this season after the Paralympics.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to have done it,” Purdy said. “The whole journey has been amazing. Most of us have been here from the very beginning. This is a great debut to show what we’re capable of.”

The U.S. won four medals in Alpine skiing super combined events on Friday — Mark Bathum (silver, visually impaired), Heath Calhoun (silver, sitting), Danelle Umstead (bronze, visually impaired) and Stephanie Jallen (bronze, standing).

The U.S. now has 16 medals, surpassing its 2010 total of 13 with two days of competition left. Russia, with more than 50 medals, will win the total medal count.

Paralympic broadcast schedule

Kara Goucher won’t race U.S. Olympic Trials, report says

Kara Goucher
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Kara Goucher ended her bid to make a third straight U.S. Olympic team, saying she won’t contest the 10,000m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 2, according to Competitor.com.

That likely means the end of Goucher’s Olympic career, as she is 37. In 2020, she will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic runner except Meb Keflezighi.

Goucher, the 2007 World Championships 10,000m bronze medalist, finished ninth and 10th in the 2008 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m. She took 11th in the 2012 Olympic marathon, making the London team after giving birth to boy Colt on Sept. 25, 2010.

She failed to make the Rio Olympic marathon team, taking fourth at the Olympic Trials on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, where the top three secured Olympic berths.

Goucher said after racing Feb. 13 that she would contest the 10,000m at the Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 2, but her recovery hasn’t gone as well as hoped, she said, according to Competitor.com.

Goucher is instead expected to race a fall marathon.

MORE: Ethiopian legend not on Olympic marathon team

Claressa Shields sets U.S. boxing history with repeat World title

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Claressa Shields can make her case as the most decorated U.S. amateur boxer in history after repeating as World champion on Friday.

Shields beat the Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn via unanimous decision in the middleweight final in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Shields, who won gold at age 17 in women’s boxing’s debut at the London Olympics and took her first World title in 2014, became the first American to capture three combined global titles.

“I have never had these emotions before, and it was definitely overwhelming,” Shields said, according to USA Boxing. “This World Championships was different because I was coming in as the reigning World champion, not just the Olympic gold medalist. I had a standard to uphold, and that was to dominate everyone.”

Many great U.S. Olympic champion boxers, such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, fought before the World Championships debuted in 1974 (and Worlds switched from every four years to every other year starting in 1991).

Shields, of Flint, Mich., moved to 74-1 overall and has won 48 straight fights since her only loss to Great Britain’s Savannah Marshall at the May 2012 World Championships, according to USA Boxing.

Shields and Marshall were in line to face each other at the 2012 Olympics, 2014 Worlds and 2016 Worlds, but each time Marshall was eliminated one round before their potential rematch.

Shields will not fight again until the Rio Games in August, where she can become the first American boxer to earn gold at multiple Olympics.

MORE: Shields sick of hearing about Ronda Rousey

Corrections: An earlier version of this post had the wrong name of a British boxer. Her name is Savannah Marshall, not Sarah Marshall. Shields’ record was also updated from 73-1 via USA Boxing to 74-1 via USA Boxing.