Blind man runs New York Marathon, guided by technology (video)

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Simon Wheatcroft previously ran several marathons. Even attempted a 150-mile ultra marathon in the Sahara Desert.

But this one was different. Last Sunday, Wheatcroft set out to complete his third New York City Marathon, but his first without the aid of a guide runner.

Wheatcroft, a 35-year-old Brit who has been legally blind since age 17, took off on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island wearing two pieces of technology.

Bands around his chest and his upper left arm would guide him among a sea of runners — around 50,000 start this race annually, making it the world’s largest marathon. Over five bridges and around more than a dozen turns of 90 degrees or more.

“Seven years ago [when I started running], I never thought I’d get to the point where I could run solo the biggest marathon in the world,” said Wheatcroft, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as he entered teenage years.

Wheatcroft wore a band around his chest with ultrasonic sensors triggering different vibrations when detecting people around him based on the distance. He wore an armband to help navigate the course, such as notifying him when to turn.

“Traditionally to compete usually there’s a guide runner, someone who runs alongside,” Wheatcroft said. “Whereas now, if I choose solo, I can just start entering races and trying to win them all alone.”

Light rain during Sunday’s race caused his technology to malfunction. Wheatcroft finished in 5 hours, 17 minutes, 40 seconds, completing the final several miles in Manhattan with the traditional aid of guide runners.

In May 2016, Wheatcroft reportedly covered about 100 miles of the 150-mile Sahara Race in Africa using a smartphone app as a guide.

In 2014, he reportedly ran 240 miles in nine days from Boston to New York City — and then ran the New York City Marathon in 5:13:18.

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MORE: Shalane Flanagan on her future after winning NYC Marathon

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”