Sam Willoughby details crash, spine injury, long road to recovery (video)

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A determined Sam Willoughby detailed his Sept. 10 BMX training crash that left him with no feeling below his chest and provided an update on his rehab in a recent TV interview.

Willoughby, a 2012 Australian Olympic silver medalist, landed on his head while riding, fracturing his C6 and C7 vertebrae at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

“Unfortunately, I remember everything,” Willoughby said from his Denver hospital in an Australia “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday. “I remember kind of losing my balance and being upside down, and then I remember just laying on the floor. I could see my leg to one side, but I couldn’t feel it. I was in no pain. I just couldn’t feel. I laid there for a bit, and then my arms went away.

“I didn’t hear anything. So I know that some people said they hear their neck break, they here a crack. I didn’t hear anything. And then people came over. And obviously everyone that was over there was trying to be really positive and calm me down. I’m not stupid. I felt like I knew what had happened.”

Willoughby said he has regained full movement in his arms, has weak movement in his hands and has spasms and sensations in his toes and legs when they’re touched.

Willoughby has said in the last month that it’s his goal to walk his fiancée, U.S. Olympic BMX silver medalist Alise Post, down the aisle at their wedding next year.

“I’ve got the world riding on my back, and it’s my job to stand up,” he said.

A doctor who leads spinal-cord rehabilitation teams at Willoughby’s hospital said it’s unknown if he’ll be able to walk again.

“I’m optimistic that hopefully he’ll get some of those movement signals coming through here in the next few months, but, really, there’s no way we can tell how much he’s going to recover,” Dr. Morgan Brubaker said.

Updates on Willoughby and an opportunity to donate are available here.

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USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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