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Memorable Paralympic moments from 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 13 Paralympic moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Lauren Woolstencroft sweeps standing Alpine golds
The Alberta native delighted the home crowd by winning all five standing races (by at least four seconds). Woolstencroft, later featured in a Super Bowl commercial, actually helped prepare the Vancouver Winter Games venues as an electrical engineer. She retired shortly after those Paralympics, her third.

London 2012: Jessica Long wins 5 swimming golds, 8 medals
Long, aiming for her fifth Paralympics next year, owns 23 Paralympic medals. Only retired swimmer Trischa Zorn has more among U.S. Paralympians with 55, most by any Paralympian ever. Long debuted at the Paralympics at age 12 in 2004 (winning three events), but her greatest success came at London 2012. She matched Michael Phelps‘ feat of eight medals at a single Games, including individual titles in freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley.

London 2012: Brad Snyder’s gold on anniversary of battlefield injury
Snyder earned five swimming gold medals this decade, but we’ll focus on his second one, in the 400m freestyle on Sept. 7, 2012. It came one year to the day after the U.S. Navy officer stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, resulting in complete blindness. “It’s not a poor anniversary,” Snyder said at the London Games, according to TeamUSA.org. “I’m really looking forward to celebrating how far myself and my family have been able to come over the past year.”

London 2012: Esther Vergeer wins 4th gold, 470th straight match
The Dutch wheelchair tennis legend made the Paralympics her last competition, bowing out at the London Games. She finished her career with 470 straight match wins dating to 2003 and 21 Grand Slam singles titles. Vergeer would say that her career highlight also came at the Paralympics, when she rallied from match point down in the Beijing 2008 final.

London 2012: Alex Zanardi, former CART champ, sweeps cycling events
Those who saw will never forget Zanardi’s open-wheel racing accident in 2001, when the Italian lost both of his legs and was read his last rites. Zanardi said he went 50 minutes with less than one liter of blood, and his heart stopped beating seven times. He lived. He turned to paracyling. He became a champion again, sweeping the road race and time trial in his Paralympic debut.

Sochi 2014: U.S. sweeps snowboarding’s Paralympic debut
Americans grew to dominate snowboarding at the Olympics. In the Paralympics, the U.S. began gobbling medals from the very start. Evan Strong, Michael Shea and Keith Gabel swept the medals in the sport’s debut, marking the first time the U.S. owned the podium in any Paralympic men’s event.

Sochi 2014: Ukraine participates amid Crimea situation
The night before the Opening Ceremony, the Ukrainian Paralympic team met for two hours to determine whether it would boycott the Games. Russian troops had moved into Crimea. “If we went back home, all we could do was lie on the sofa and watch the news about what was going on in the Crimea,” Ukraine Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Sushkevych said, according to the International Paralympic Committee. “Yet in Sochi, by taking part we could fight for peace for Ukraine on Russian territory.” Ukraine, which in a symbolic protest sent one athlete to the Opening Ceremony, finished second in total medals.

Rio 2016: U.S. sweeps triathlon’s Paralympic debut
Americans won the first two Paralympic women’s triathlon titles, including a medals sweep in one division with Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell. For Stockwell, the event taking place on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks brought added meaning. Stockwell lost her leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, becoming the first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in active combat. She then became the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA. “When it got really tough out there I thought of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it back,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “They pushed me to the finish — just wanting to give my thanks to them.”

Rio 2016: Tatyana McFadden sweeps 400m through 5000m
McFadden, perhaps the most well known U.S. Paralympian of the decade, hit her peak in the Rio Paralympic cycle. She won all six races between 100m and 5000m at the 2013 World Championships. She won a silver medal in cross-country skiing at the Sochi Winter Games. She swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon wheelchair races in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Then in Rio, McFadden nearly swept the board again: gold in the 400m through 5000m, adding silvers in the 100m and marathon.

Rio 2016: Marieke Vervoort competes after signing euthanasia papers
Vervoort earned four Paralympic track medals between 2012 and 2016, all after signing euthanasia papers so she could decide when to end her life. The Belgian competed in wheelchair racing with an incurable, degenerative spinal disease that limited her to 10 minutes of sleep on some nights. “You can go in peace when the time comes,” she told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson in Rio. “I don’t want to live like a plant that I need day-in, day-out [help].” Vervoort ended her life on Oct. 22.

Rio 2016: Iran wins men’s volleyball title with 8-foot player
Few athletes stood out at the Games like Morteza Mehrzad, an 8-foot, 1-inch player on Iran’s sitting volleyball team that struck gold. “I am not the whole team, I am only taller than the others,” Mehrzad said, according to the IPC, disliking the attention.The tallest person in his country, noticed by an Iran sitting volleyball coach while appearing on TV, led the team in scoring in the gold-medal match.

PyeongChang 2018: Oksana Masters powers through pain
A rower and a cyclist in the Summer Games, Masters made her mark most of all in cross-country skiing. In PyeongChang, she overcame a dislocated right elbow a week before the Games — and reinjuring it in a fall during the Paralympics — to win her first two gold medals at her fourth Games overall.

PyeongChang 2018: Declan Farmer’s golden goal
The decade started with an Olympic golden goal and ended with a Paralympic golden goal. Farmer, then a 20-year-old Princeton student, tied the Paralympic final with Canada with 37.8 seconds left, then potted the winner 3:30 into overtime. He led the U.S. to a third straight Paralympic hockey title, one year after 2014 Paralympic coach Jeff Sauer died of pancreatic cancer.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
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Lance Armstrong timeline: cancer, Tour de France, doping admission

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A look at the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong, who beat testicular cancer to win a record seven Tour de France titles, then was found guilty of and admitted to doping for the majority of his career …

Aug. 2, 1992: Armstrong, then a 20-year-old amateur cyclist who had left triathlon because it wasn’t an Olympic sport, makes his Olympic debut at the Barcelona Games. He finishes 14th in the road race as the top American, missing a late breakaway. “I don’t think it was one of my better days, unfortunately,” Armstrong said on NBC. “Last couple weeks, everything has been perfect, but today, I just didn’t have what it took.” A week later, Armstrong finished last of 111 riders in his pro debut.

Aug. 29, 1993: Wins the world championships road race, becoming the second U.S. man to win a senior road cycling world title after three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Armstrong prevails by 19 seconds over Spain’s Miguel Indurain, who won five straight Tours de France from 1991-95. “I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a Tour racer,” Armstrong said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I love the Tour de France; it’s my favorite bike race, but I’m not fool enough to sit here and say I’m going to win it. For the time being, I’m a one-day rider.”

Aug. 3, 1996: After failing to finish three of his first four Tour de France appearances (and placing 36th in the other), is sixth in the Atlanta Olympic time trial. “This was a big goal and something that I wanted to do well in and wanted the American people to see success,” Armstrong said on NBC. “The legs just weren’t there to win or to medal. I have to move forward and look to the next thing.”

Oct. 2, 1996: Diagnosed with testicular cancer. A day later, he undergoes surgery to have the malignant right testicle removed. Five days later, he begins chemotherapy. Six days later, Armstrong holds a press conference to announce it publicly, saying the cancer spread to his abdomen (and, later, his brain). He described it as “between moderate and advanced” and that his oncologist told him the cure rate was between 65 and 85 percent. “I will win,” Armstrong says. “I intend to beat this disease, and further, I intend to ride again as a professional cyclist.”

Oct. 27, 1996: Betsy Andreu later testifies that, on this date, Armstrong told a doctor at Indiana University Hospital that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs; EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids. Andreu said she and others were in a room to hear this. Her husband, Frankie Andreu, an Armstrong cycling teammate, confirmed her recollection to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Armstrong, in admitting to doping in 2013, declined to address what became known as “the hospital room confession,” which he previously refuted.

January 1997: Establishes the Lance Armstrong Foundation, later called Livestrong, to support cancer awareness and research. Is later declared cancer-free.

Feb. 15, 1998: Returns to racing. Later in September, finishes fourth in his Grand Tour return at the Vuelta a Espana, one of the three Grand Tours after the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

1999 Tour de France: Achieves global fame by winning cycling’s most prestigious event in his first Tour de France start since his cancer diagnosis. Armstrong was not a pre-event favorite, but he won the opening 4.2-mile prologue to set the tone. He won all three time trials and, by the end, distanced second-place Alex Zulle by 7 minutes, 37 seconds in a Tour that lacked the previous two winners — Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani. Armstrong faced doping questions during the three-week Tour. An Armstrong urine sample revealed a small amount of a corticosteroid, after which Armstrong produced a prescription for a cream to treat saddle sores to justify it. “There’s no secrets here,” Armstrong said after Stage 14. “We have the oldest secret in the book: hard work.”

2000 Tour de France: With Ullrich and Pantani in the field, Armstrong crushed them on Stage 10, taking the yellow jersey by four minutes. He ends up winning the Tour by 6:02 over Ullrich, who over the years became the closest thing Armstrong had to a rival. In a Nike commercial that debuted in January that year, Armstrong again attacked his critics, saying, “Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?”

Sept. 30, 2000: Takes bronze in the Sydney Olympic time trial, behind Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov (a teammate on Armstrong’s Tour de France teams) and Ullrich. Armstrong would be stripped of the bronze medal 12 years later for doping. “I came to win the gold medal,” he said on NBC. “When you prepare for an event and you come and you do your best, and you don’t win, you have to say, I didn’t deserve to win.”

2001 Tour de France: Third straight Tour title. In Stage 10 on the iconic Alpe d’Huez, Armstrong gave what came to be known as “The Look,” turning back to stare in sunglasses at Ullrich, then accelerating away to win the stage by 1:59 over the German. “I decided to give a look, see how he was, then give a little surge and see what happened,” Armstrong said after the stage. Also that year, LeMond gives a famous quote to journalist David Walsh on Armstrong: “If it is true, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If it is not, it is the greatest fraud.”

2002 Tour de France: Fourth title in a row — by 7:17 over Joseba Beloki sans Ullirch and Pantani — with few notable highlights. Maybe the most memorable, French fans yelling “Dope!” as he chased Richard Virenque (another disgraced doper) up the esteemed Mont Ventoux. Armstrong would be named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.

2003 Tour de France: By far the closest of the Tour wins — by 1:01 over Ullrich — with two very close calls. In Stage 9, Armstrong detoured through a field to avoid a crashing Beloki, who broke his right femur and never contended at a Grand Tour again. In Stage 15, Armstrong’s handlebars caught a spectator’s yellow bag. He crashed to the pavement, remounted and won the stage, upping his lead from 15 seconds to 1:07 over Ullrich.

2004 Tour de France: Record-breaking sixth Tour de France title. Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Indurain shared the record of five, and now share the record again after Armstrong’s titles were stripped. Earlier in 2004, the Livestrong yellow bracelet/wristband is introduced. Tens of millions would be sold. He skips the 2004 Athens Olympics, which began three weeks after the Tour ended.

April 18, 2005: Announces he will retire after the 2005 Tour de France. “My children are my biggest supporters, but at the same time, they are the ones who told me it’s time to come home,” Armstrong says. On the same day, former teammate and 2004 Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton is banned two years for blood doping.

2005 Tour de France: Finishes career with seventh Tour de France title. Armstrong remains defiant until the end. In his victory speech atop a podium on the Champs-Elysees, he says with girlfriend Sheryl Crow looking on, “The last thing I’ll say, for the people that don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics, I”m sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big. And I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.” A month later, French sports daily newspaper L’Equipe publishes a front-page article headlined, “Le Mensonge Armstrong” or “The Armstrong Lie.” It reports that six Armstrong doping samples at the 1999 Tour de France showed the presence of the banned EPO.

Sept. 9, 2008: Announces comeback, the reason being “to launch an international cancer strategy,” in a video on his foundation’s website. In his 2013 doping confession, Armstrong says he regrets the comeback. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t come back,” he tells Oprah Winfrey on primetime TV.

2009 Tour de France: Finishes third, 5:24 behind rival Astana teammate and Spanish winner Alberto Contador. “I can’t complain,” Armstrong said on Versus after the penultimate stage finishing atop Mont Ventoux. “For an old fart, coming in here, getting on the podium with these young guys, not so bad.” USADA later reported that scientific data showed Armstrong used EPO or blood transfusions during that Tour, which Armstrong denied in 2013 when admitting to doping earlier in his career.

2010 Tour de France: Finishes 23rd in his last Tour de France. Armstrong races after former teammate Floyd Landis admits to doping and accuses Armstrong and other former teammates of doping during the Tour de France wins. “At some point, people have to tell their kids that Santa Claus isn’t real,” Landis says in a “Nightline” interview that aired the final weekend of the Tour.

Feb. 16, 2011: Announces retirement, citing tiredness (in multiple respects) at age 39. “I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s been an excellent ride. I really thought I was going to win another Tour,” Armstrong said, according to The Associated Press. “Then I lined up like everybody else and wound up third.”

Aug. 24, 2012: USADA announces Armstrong is banned for life, and all of his results dating to Aug. 1, 1998, annulled, including all seven Tour de France titles. Armstrong chose not to contest the charges, which were first sent to him in a June letter, though he did not publicly admit to cheating. USADA releases details of the investigation in October. The International Cycling Union chooses not to contest USADA’s ruling, formally stripping him of the Tour de France titles. “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” UCI President Pat McQuaid says. In November, a defiant Armstrong tweets an image of him lying on a couch in a room with seven framed Tour de France yellow jerseys on the walls.

Jan. 17, 2013: Admits to doping during all of his Tour de France victories in the Oprah confession that airs on primetime TV. “I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” Armstrong says in a pre-recorded interview. “It’s just this mythic, perfect story, and it wasn’t true.” Armstrong said he did not view it as cheating while he was taking PEDs because others did, too. On the same day, the International Olympic Committee strips Armstrong of his 2000 Olympic bronze medal.

MORE: Giro, Vuelta overlap in new cycling schedule

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Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

Anna Veith
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Anna Veith has retired from Alpine skiing, leaving Austria without an active woman who has won a World Cup overall title for the first time in 27 years.

Veith announced her retirement on a German-language live stream interview Saturday after a montage of career highlights set to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” She was in tears after watching a series of video messages from the likes of fellow champion ski racers Marcel HirscherTina Maze and Lara Gut.

“I‘m ready for the next chapter,” was posted on Veith’s Instagram minutes later. “My heart and head are telling me it‘s time to do something new. And so, I have decided to retire from ski racing.
Skiing is my whole life. It has made me who I am today and will always be something I’m passionate about. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, to learn and achieve in the past fifteen years. I’ve been able to fulfil my childhood dreams and more.”

Veith, 30, won the overall, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, in 2014 and 2015. Lindsey Vonn was in between major leg injuries. Mikaela Shiffrin was still on the rise.

Veith, then Anna Fenninger, blossomed into the world’s best skier in her early 20s. After winning the 2014 Olympic super-G, she finished first or second in five of her last six starts of that World Cup season to overtake a retiring German Maria Hoefl-Riesch for the crown.

The following year, Veith again came from behind, this time edging Slovenian Tina Maze in the last race of the season.

Everything changed on Oct. 21, 2015. Veith crashed in training, tearing ligaments and the patellar tendon in her right knee, three days before the start of the season. She missed 14 months of races.

Veith, after a 2016-17 season-ending left knee surgery, returned to the top of a World Cup podium in December 2017. At her last Olympics in PyeongChang, Veith skied into first place from the 15th bib in the super-G, looking to cap an improbable ride to a repeat gold medal.

Then something more surprising happened: World champion snowboarder Ester Ledecka beat Veith’s time by .01 from the 26th starting position, relegating Veith to silver. Pre-race medal contenders are usually done by bib 20. Ledecka’s best prior World Cup race finish was a seventh.

Veith tore another right knee ligament in January 2019, then returned this past season with a best finish of seventh.

With Veith’s retirement, Austria has zero active Olympic or World Cup overall champions in women’s Alpine skiing. Austria, the most successful Olympic Alpine nation in history, had at least one active World Cup overall champion every day since Anita Wachter‘s crown in 1993.

In the most recent abbreviated World Cup season, Austria had zero women win a discipline or overall title, though Nicole Schmidhofer won the 2017 World super-G title and the 2019 World Cup downhill season crown.

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