AP

Edwin Moses remarkably recovers from traumatic brain injuries

Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: IAAF announces athletes of the year

With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

Getty
Leave a comment

There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Maddie Bowman, first Olympic ski halfpipe champion, ends competitive career

Leave a comment

Maddie Bowman knows she has been very fortunate. She just turned 26 years old and has already accomplished everything she wanted in her sport, halfpipe skiing.

Bowman, who won the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi in 2014, recently decided to retire from competition.

“I’ve really given the sport everything I could that was positive, and I knew the sport would be in great hands when I walked away,” she said. “So I decided it was my time to be done.

“I just felt like I couldn’t give anything else to the sport because I was a little bit afraid [of injury], but also it’s mentally exhausting. It drained my mental health for sure, but I loved doing it, and I still love skiing. Competition just isn’t for me anymore.”

The decision weighed on the South Lake Tahoe native last season. She competed at the Winter X Games for the last time, taking fifth place. She earned medals each of the previous seven years, including five golds, despite undergoing two major knee surgeries in that span.

“I was thinking [last year] that this is really hard, and I don’t know if I want to keep doing this,” she said. “It was really hard for me to get into the right mental state again. It’s painful. My knees hurt, but I was torn. I was torn between wanting to walk away and the love I had for the people I was around, people I competed against and just the lifestyle. I worked really hard on opening up other doors for myself besides skiing, which is making my transition a lot smoother.”

Those opportunities include activism, spreading awareness around climate change for Protect Our Winters. Bowman wants to finish her college degree and teach high school biology and health. She aims to continue public speaking regarding motivational talks and mental health.

Bowman struggled with depression between the Sochi and PyeongChang Olympics. She is equally proud of her second Olympic performance — finishing 11th in South Korea — as her landmark gold medal in Russia. While in PyeongChang, she believed it would likely be her last Olympics.

“I had doubts if I would even make it to PyeongChang, and making it there was one of my huge accomplishments,” Bowman said. “It was such a special event. Even though I only got 11th, I skied my freakin’ heart out. I gave it everything I had.”

Bowman, the daughter of two former professional skiers, took gold in Sochi as the youngest finalist. She landed back-to-back 900s for the first time in her career (by accident after having to improvise her opening run). She did so in front of family that included 78-year-old Lorna Perpall, who wore a T-shirt that read “badass grandma.”

Afterward, Bowman spoke about friend Sarah Burke, the Canadian ski halfpipe pioneer who died after a training accident in 2012.

“It means so much for us to be able to show the world what our sport is,” Bowman said that night in Russia. “She’s here with us.

“I sure hope I, and everyone else, made her proud because we would not be here without her.”

Bowman has her own place in history. No matter how long ski halfpipe is in the Olympics, she will always be the first woman to earn gold.

“I know as our sport gets more solidified into the Olympic Games, it can become pretty national, cutthroat and competitive,” she said. “I would love to see it stay this free-spirited work of art, something beautiful like that.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Torah Bright, Olympic champion, no longer competing in halfpipe