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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Russia to finish Youth Olympics with most medals

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Russia clinched the top spot in the Youth Olympic medal standings, two days before the Closing Ceremony in Buenos Aires and eight months after it was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games for its doping problems.

The Russians have 52 medals with 25 golds so far, distancing the rest of the world.

1. Russia — 52 total, 25 gold
2. China — 36 total, 18 gold
3. Mixed NOCs — 36 total, 12 gold
4. Japan — 34 total, 14 gold
5. Italy — 31 total, 10 gold
10. U.S. — 15 total, 4 gold

China and Russia went one-two in total medals at the first two Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing, China in 2014. The U.S. has never topped a Youth Olympic total medal table, be it Summer or Winter Games.

The U.S. has, however, earned the most total medals at the last six Summer Olympics, beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Youth Olympics, for athletes ages 14 to 18, do not emphasize medal counts (plus have many medal events where athletes from different nations compete on the same team). The Games include many Olympic events and some that are not on the Olympic program, including break dancing, where a Russian who goes by Bumblebee earned gold last week.

The next Youth Olympics are the winter version in the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2020, followed by the summer version in 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, the first Olympic Games of any kind to be held in Africa.

The Youth Olympics conclude with the last full day of medal competition on Wednesday and the Closing Ceremony on Thursday.

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Aliya Mustafina returns to gymnastics worlds, year after giving birth

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Aliya Mustafina, an all-around medalist at the last two Olympics, made Russia’s team for next week’s world gymnastics championships, 16 months after giving birth to daughter Alisa.

Mustafina, 24, is joined by one Rio Olympic teammate, Angelina Melnikova, and three world championships rookies (plus Olympian Daria Spiridonova as an alternate), according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Mustafina is the last non-American woman to win an Olympic or world championships all-around, back in 2010 in her first year as a senior gymnast. A series of injuries followed, including surgeries on both knees and her left ankle.

She missed the 2015 Worlds with back pain but rebounded for a medal of every color in Rio (uneven bars gold, team silver and all-around bronze, just as she had done at London 2012).

Her seven total Olympic medals are tied for the most by a Russian woman since the fall of the Soviet Union with retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.

Viktoria Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist who has also struggled with injuries, is not on Russia’s team for worlds in Doha. She last competed at a global championship in 2015, sharing the uneven bars title with three other gymnasts.

Mustafina joins a list of distinguished moms to return to the top level of gymnastics, including Oksana Chusovitina, who began competing in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, seven Olympics later, is still competing at age 43 (for Uzbekistan).

The most decorated Olympic gymnast, Soviet Larisa Latynina, earned 12 of her 18 medals after becoming a mom.

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