Rio 2016 Paralympics storylines with 2 years to go

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In two years, the 2016 Paralympics will open in Rio de Janeiro, including some 4,350 athletes from 160 nations in 22 sports.

The Rio Paralympics will run from Sept. 7-18, beginning 17 days after the Olympics finish.

In 2012, the U.S. finished fourth with 98 total medals. China won nearly twice as many medals as any other nation with 231, leading the medal table for a third straight Games. The U.S. last won the most medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games, so perhaps a return to the Western Hemisphere will provide a boost.

NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Rio 2016 Paralympics. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.

Here are five athletes to watch going forward:

Jessica Long, Swimming: Not only does the most decorated Olympian of all time hail from Baltimore, so does the most decorated active U.S. Paralympian. Long is a 17-time Paralympic medalist. She won her first three Paralympic golds at the 2004 Athens Games, when she was 12. She holds 10 world records, the latest coming in June.

Tatyana McFadden, Track and Field: McFadden, 25, has won 10 medals over the last three Paralympics. She added her first Winter Paralympic medal in Sochi. In 2013, McFadden became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single International Paralympic Committee Track and Field World Championships. She also became the first person, able-bodied or Paralympic-eligible, to sweep the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathons in the same year.

Alan Oliveira, Track and Field: He is best known for beating Oscar Pistorius at the London Paralympics, but Oliveira’s fame will reach another level as one the host nation’s biggest stars in two years. Oliveira, 22, won 100m, 200m and 400m gold at the 2013 World Championships and broke his record for the fastest 100m ever run by a double amputee two months ago (10.57 seconds).

Melissa Stockwell, Triathlon: Stockwell swam at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics as the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA. The first lieutenant and first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in active combat, Stockwell then switched to paratriathlon. She is a three-time World champion and will become a mom in the fall. Paratriathlon makes its debut on the Paralympic program in 2016.

Alex Zanardi, Cycling: The Italian former open-wheel racing champion who lost his legs in a September 2001 crash won three hand cycling medals in his Paralympic debut in 2012 at age 45. He wrapped up another three-medal haul at the World Championships in Greenville, S.C., last week.

Will Rio de Janeiro be ready for the 2016 Olympics?

2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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