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Edwin Moses remarkably recovers from traumatic brain injuries

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Edwin Moses turned the corner, saw the blue police lights in the distance and, immediately, started spinning.

His senses overwhelmed by the strength of the strobing lights, Moses fell to the ground and crawled to the sidewalk, then used every ounce of energy to stand up and stagger back to his car.

Somehow, he made it home safely that night. Within a week, he was lying in a hospital bed, losing feeling in his legs, wondering if he would ever walk again.

The incident on the streets of Atlanta came shortly after Moses suffered his second traumatic brain injury in the span of two months – one from a tumble down the stairs, the second when he banged his head hard on the doorjamb of his car.

After the second accident, Moses suffered bleeding beneath his skull, and stayed in the hospital for about a week. Moses rejected “traditional” physical therapy for concussions that would have involved relearning how to walk and instead chose a more aggressive approach offered by his friend, physical therapist and former track star Rene Felton Bessozi.

Three months after that scary night on the street, Moses is nearing 100 percent – a credit to the talent and tenacity of one of the world’s best athletes, combined with a therapy he says put him on the fast track to recovery.

“The first thing I said was, `Nobody’s going to believe this story,”‘ Moses said. “It was the worst possible scenario and I was able to walk again. It really didn’t look like it would go that way when they were lifting my legs into the bed and I couldn’t control my upper body.”

The 62-year-old Moses began making the impossible seem possible starting in the 1970s, when he broke the world record in the 400m hurdles at the Montreal Olympics.

He took another Olympic gold in 1984, and to this day, holds four of the 10 top times in the event, including a mark of 47.02 that remains the second-best of all time. His streak of 122 straight races without a loss still stands as one of the most remarkable feats in sports.

He fought for athletes’ rights during his career, helping develop an out-of-competition drug-testing program, and has doubled down on his fight for clean sports since retirement.

He currently serves as chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a job that puts him on the front lines of a fight that currently is centered on allegations that Russia’s government ran a program to help its Olympic athletes evade positive tests. Moses has been a featured speaker for years at meetings to discuss the Russia case and others.

But this summer, it was more mundane pursuits – carrying a full load of household items down the stairs on July 2 – that sent him tumbling and triggered a spiral that landed him in the hospital, unable to walk and wondering if he might be paralyzed for life.

“I needed someone to take me upstairs at night, bring me back down, bring in food and all that,” Moses said. “Some days, it might take me 20 minutes to get up off the couch or out of the bed.”

After a few weeks, he was feeling better, and when he hit his head on the car door, he thought nothing of it, mainly because there was no bruise or outward sign of swelling. Turns out, that accident started a slow leak of blood underneath the surface, and not until a visit to the hospital shortly after that night on the street did Moses realize the severity of the impact.

“They did a CT scan and said, `Some of this blood is brand new,”‘ Moses said. “The doctor said something had to happen for something like this to be there.”

He turned down the option of a slow rehab process and instead turned to Felton Bessozi, an old friend who now lives in Italy, where she coaches track and does therapy.

Moses’ son, Julian, is a volleyball player. He worked with Felton Bessozi to overcome a knee injury, and with her help, he returned quickly back to the court.

When Moses himself was given the option of using a walker to relearn how to move, he chose to check out of the hospital and called his friend, who has traveled with him and put him through two-a-day workouts that involve, among other things, pool work, stimulation using electromagnetic currents, weights and more weights.

“I started working with him on Sept. 26, and on Oct. 26, he was able to fly over to Switzerland by himself” for an anti-doping conference, Felton Bessozi said. “I know how fast the body can recover. The human body is the most phenominal machine on the planet.”

And Moses’ is one of the best machines ever made.

Not many are aware that he ran the latter part of his career, from 1986 through 1988, with a ruptured disc. He won an Olympic bronze and world gold medal during that span. Because MRIs were few and far between at the time, he wasn’t diagnosed until 1993.

“It was the equivalent of what would happen if you were in an automobile and got rear-ended while you were twisted around,” Moses said.

But the real accident in the car – when he banged his head against the door jamb – occurred decades later, and when it happened, Moses didn’t recognize it for what it was.

Now that he’s on the mend, Moses views Felton Bessozi’s therapy as a potential answer for the thousands of concussions diagnoses that have made so many headlines other sports.

“When I first saw him, I teared up because of the condition he was in,” Felton Bessozi said, “and I told him I’d stay here with him until he could run again.”

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Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

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Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

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He controversially beat Roy Jones Jr. for Olympic gold. He wishes he had silver.

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The last South Korean boxer to win an Olympic gold medal has spent the past 32 years wishing it was a silver.

Entering the men’s light-middleweight final against an American teenager named Roy Jones Jr. on the last day of the 1988 Games in Seoul, Park Si-Hun fantasized about etching his name in the pantheon of South Korean sports legends in front of a delirious home crowd.

He did get his gold three rounds later, but not the way he envisioned.

Park’s win by a 3-2 decision remains as one of the most controversial moments in boxing history, as Jones had seemed to dominate the fight from start to finish.

The outcome drew instant criticism and disdain, even from South Koreans, who heckled Park at the podium and bombarded local TV stations with phone calls protesting that the country’s home advantage had gone too far.

Jones went on to have a phenomenal professional career, retiring in 2018 with a 66-9 record that cemented him as one of the sport’s all-time greats. He is now a boxing commentator and is planning to fight Mike Tyson in an exhibition of retired greats later this year.

Deeply shaken and scarred, Park quietly retired at the end of the Seoul Games and spent the next 13 years as a middle- and high-school teacher in a rural seaside town before making a return to competitive boxing as a coach.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Park said his dream was to see one of his boxers pull off a convincing gold-winning performance in a future Olympics, which he said would possibly give him some sense of redemption and closure.

After three decades, it still stings that his gold is seen as a smudge on the image of the Games his country still glorifies as its coming-out party to the world.

“There’s hardened resentment built up in me that I will probably carry for the rest of my life,” said Park, 54, who now coaches the small municipal boxing team of Seogwipo City in the island province of Jeju.

“I didn’t want my hand to be raised (after the fight with Jones), but it did go up, and my life became gloomy because of that.”

Park still grimaces when talking about his match with Jones.

Desperate for Olympic glory, Park had gutted out the tournament with a broken right hand he suffered during training. He said it didn’t really matter until he met Jones, the one opponent in Seoul who was quicker than him.

With the injury taking away his right-hand, Park simply had no chance at slowing Jones, who was coming at him with “excellent speed, power and technique.”

“I was pretty quick for a middleweight, but Jones was at a different level,” Park recalled. “A boxer just knows whether he had won or lost a match. I thought I lost because I didn’t put up a fight deserving of a win.”

Park said he felt “confused” when the referee raised his hand. Wearing a stunned look on his face, Park awkwardly embraced and held up an expressionless Jones into the air.

He said he couldn’t wait to get off the podium, where he smiled weakly and slowly waved a bouquet of flowers toward the stands as fans let out hesitant cheers and scattered boos.

An even more humiliating moment came when a South Korean national broadcaster invited all of the country’s 12 gold medalists to a live TV celebration shortly after the Games. The host treated Park like he wasn’t there while interviewing each of the other 11.

There was an outpouring of media criticism and what Park described as “unspeakable” insults, which included derisive public calls for him to forfeit his medal.

The emotional distress “was like being hit with a hammer on the back of your head, again and again.”

“I keep thinking how my life would have been happier had I finished second,” Park said. “A gold medal is important, but isn’t any Olympic medal satisfying and glorious?”

Park said the sense of defeat and depression sometimes led to suicidal urges. He credits his wife for helping him navigate out of his darkest moods. The couple contemplated moving to a different country before deciding to stay after they had children.

Their youngest child, Rei, now a 20-year-old college student in Louisiana, has his own athletic ambitions, training as a javelin thrower with dreams of competing in the 2024 Olympics.

Park said he keeps his Olympic gold framed on a wall at his home in mainland South Korea, along with other awards he won in amateur competition. He doesn’t recall ever bringing it out of the house.

While Park doesn’t have many regrets about never going pro, saying he probably wouldn’t have gone far with an evasive style built for efficiency and avoiding hits but not for initiating pain, he still watched Jones’ post-Olympic triumphs with envy.

He wondered whether the public would ever forget the fiasco surrounding his gold medal, which the South Korean media brought up after almost every Jones fight or whenever there was controversy in any Olympic sport. He would try to laugh it off whenever students asked about his gold at school.

After overlooking him for years, South Korea’s boxing association reached back to Park in 2001, asking him to coach the national team following years of disappointing performances in international events, which reflected a dearth of talent in the sport.

During his on-and-off coaching stints with the national team since then, Park trained several boxers who performed decently in various events, but they never came close to an Olympic gold.

Park had the highest hopes for Lee Ok-Song, who won the men’s 51kg division in the 2005 World Championships. But Lee failed to reach the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and retired after the Games.

Park said he had occasionally kept in touch with Jones, including a brief telephone conversation with him in 2004 while visiting Atlanta for an international event.

The International Olympic Committee in 1997 concluded it had found no evidence to support bribery allegations against the judges who voted in favor of Park in the Seoul Games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had called for an investigation in 1996 after documents belonging to East Germany’s Stasi secret police revealed reports of judges being paid to vote for South Korean boxers.

While Park left South Korea’s national team after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, he hasn’t given up on his goal of winning an Olympic gold as a coach.

Among the four boxers he trains in Seogwipo, Park is most impressed with Kang Hyeon-Bin, who competes in the men’s 64kg division, and Cho Hye-Bin, a woman in the 51kg category.

“I am constantly looking for a raw stone I could polish into a jewel,” he said. “I want to sculpt a true Olympic gold medalist with my own hands and see that fighter take the highest spot on the podium. That would restore my honor and allow me to leave the boxing ring for good.”

MORE: Top U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful cleared of doping violations caused by sex

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