Pyambuu Tuul: A courageous Olympic story worth revisiting

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The moving personal stories of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics began with the cauldron lighter, Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo, who limped from polio contracted at age 8. The Games ended with another triumphant athlete.

Mongolian Pyambuu Tuul was the very last person to compete at those Olympics. Tuul was 87th of 87 finishers of the men’s marathon, jogging in thick glasses and a T-shirt. It took him 4 hours, 44 seconds, which marked the slowest Olympic marathon time since the 1908 London Games. He finished almost an hour after the 86th-place runner.

The marathon, traditionally held on the final day of the Olympics, usually ends in the Olympic Stadium with preparations under way for that night’s Closing Ceremony. Tuul, 33, had to finish on a practice track outside the stadium, as it was approaching 10:30 local time and the ceremony already happening.

Turns out, Tuul was blind for 12 years from 1978-90 after a pump exploded while he worked construction in Mongolia. Operations in Mongolia and the Soviet Union, hoping to restore his sight, were unsuccessful.

“The first two years [after the accident] was the most difficult period,” Tuul said before the Olympic marathon, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was very unhappy. Angry. Always depressed. Because I could see at one time, though, it helped me in my orientation.”

Then the Achilles Track Club, a New York-based group that supports disabled runners, found and invited him to run the 1990 New York City Marathon with a guide. The group also set him up with the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. A January 1991 cornea transplant brought back partial vision in his right eye. He was able to see his wife and 6- and 8-year-old daughters for the first time, according to El Pais.

“When the bandages were removed, the first thing I saw were blue eyes [the doctor’s],” Tuul said, according to the AJC. “I could see a nose, a face. As the days went on, my focus got better and better. I see very good now.”

On that night in Barcelona, officials applauded Tuul as he came to a stop on the practice track, hands on knees in exhaustion.

“It is most important for me to participate, not win or finish high,” Tuul reportedly said. “I want to show that a man has many possibilities.”

Attempts to find an update on Tuul this spring, through the Mongolian National Olympic Committee, Achilles’ Mongolia chapter and the New York doctor who reportedly performed his operation, John Seedor, were unsuccessful.

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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