Texas tough: Injured Lawson Craddock soldiers on at Tour de France

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CHARTRES, France (AP) — Lawson Craddock is giving new meaning to the term “Texas Tough.”

After breaking his shoulder and bloodying his face in an unfortunate crash during the first stage of the Tour de France, the American rider has soldiered on through six more grueling days of the world’s biggest bike race.

“My parents raised me as a fighter,” Craddock said. “I grew up in Texas and that’s just what I have grown up to be. I keep pushing my body as far as I can. At this point I am doing it for the others, doing it for the kids in Houston so they can have a good, safe environment to ride a bike in.”

Craddock has taken advantage of the attention his crash received to start a fundraising effort for the Alkek velodrome in Houston, which is where he started cycling.

He is donating $100 to the venue — which was damaged in Hurricane Harvey — for every Tour stage he finishes. He’s asking others to contribute, too.

As of Friday, the relief effort had raised $64,000.

“It gives me goose bumps just to think if I can make it to Paris what will be possible,” Craddock said of the race’s conclusion on July 29.

He grew up 10 minutes away from the velodrome. “There are not that many in the U.S,” he said. “Kids … don’t have to worry about traffic, cars. They are watched the entire time.”

Craddock’s crash occurred when he hit a dropped water bottle in the feeding zone and collided with a spectator. Blood from a cut to his left eyebrow covered his face.

He was diagnosed with a fracture of 1-2 centimeters in his scapula. “It’s stable. It’s not dangerous in any way,” said EF Education First-Drapac team physician Kevin Sprouse. “It’s safe for him to be racing. The biggest concern is not necessarily the fracture. … It’s how he can handle the bike.”

Craddock is receiving treatment day and night to ensure he can apply enough pressure on the handlebars to control his bike. Sessions with the team’s chiropractor have made him “close to tears.”

He has to ask teammates to pass him energy bars since he can’t maneuver his body to grab them from the pockets on the back of his jersey.

But after missing last year’s Tour, Craddock has no plans to give up — even with the bone-jarring cobblestoned route of Stage 9 to Roubaix approaching. He was last of 170 riders (more than 1 hour behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet) following Friday’s stage of 143.5-miles — the longest of this year’s Tour.

“I had such a rough year last year I wanted to be at this race so bad,” he said. “My focus this entire season, while trying to get the most out of the other races, was also to be at the Tour de France. To crash on Stage 1 and have this happen to me is a big blow but you know if I can still ride, why not try?”

Craddock’s perseverance has attracted plenty of attention, especially from Lance Armstrong, a fellow Texan and sometimes training partner.

“It is great he has given me so much encouragement. Hearing from him, hearing from everyone, is just incredible,” Craddock said. “It’s hard to keep up with all the messages, but I am doing my best and reading them all and I love the support I am getting.”

His ordeal has made Craddock wonder about the significance of the No. 13 he was assigned to put on his jersey. He attaches the number upside down.

“When I got No. 13 I tried to tell myself it was lucky, but when I hit that bottle in the feed zone it was one of the first things that came into my mind,” he said. “But at this point, something really great has come out of it.”

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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

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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.”