Paralympics: Thomas Walsh goes from unpacking his bags to first U.S. Alpine medal

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics - Day 6
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Thomas Walsh, who last month “unpacked the bags,” pessimistic that he would be able to travel to the Paralympics, earned a giant slalom silver medal on Thursday, the first U.S. Alpine medal of these Games.

Walsh, a 26-year-old from Vail, Colorado, had the fastest first run and the fifth-fastest second run, overtaken for gold by .04 by Finland’s Santeri Kiiveri.

“My life experiences, surviving pediatric cancer to dealing with COVID days before I was supposed to be at the Paralympics, god I’m just lucky to be able to compete,” Walsh said on USA Network. “Earning a medal is only a bonus.”

The U.S. entered these Games with the most Alpine skiing gold medals in Paralympic history, and the second-most Alpine medals of any color behind Austria. But more than halfway through these Games, no American had made an Alpine podium.

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Andrew Kurka, the only U.S. Alpine gold medalist in 2014 or 2018, was fourth defending his title in the opening downhill. Just before that race, heavy winds put him into a fence, so he competed with a broken humerus and thumb.

Walsh, too, would have been a medal contender earlier in these Games under normal circumstances.

But he tested positive for COVID last month, at least clearing protocols to arrive less than 48 hours before his first race, the super-G, where he finished 15th. Then came the combined, in which Walsh took bronze at the 2019 World Championships. He placed fourth, missing a medal by 11 hundredths of a second.

“No struggle, no progress,” Walsh put in his Instagram bio.

Walsh harbored Olympic dreams, skiing by age 2 and racing at 5. His first coach was Eileen Shiffrin, who coaches her own daughter, Mikaela, a childhood friend of Walsh.

Walsh was awarded a full scholarship to Green Mountain Valley School, a ski academy in Vermont. The day before he was scheduled to leave for school in 2009, Walsh was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that developed in his pelvis and lungs.

He spent the next year undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and pelvic resection treatments. He was declared cancer-free after 14 months. While Walsh was in the hospital, Olympian Steven Nyman gave him one of his bibs from the 2006 Torino Games. Shiffrin said she visited for weeklong stints, according to The New York Times.

“Once I finished treatment, it was such a shot in the dark to try to ski race again,” Walsh said, according to TeamUSA.org. “I was so bent out of shape, and my life was in shambles. I could hardly walk, never mind put a pair of skis on.

“But coming back to skiing was a no-brainer. It was the reason why I lived.”

Walsh did enroll at Green Mountain Valley School, where he took Shiffrin to prom and graduated in 2013. Then he attended the 2014 Sochi Olympics, watching Shiffrin win slalom gold through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Walsh then researched Para Alpine skiing. He discovered he was eligible to compete in the standing classification due to a limb deficiency. He made the 2018 team and had a best finish of fifth in the slalom in PyeongChang. The slalom is the last event at these Games, on Sunday.

“I’ve ski raced my whole life. I always wanted to be an Olympian,” Walsh said Thursday. “Now I’m a Paralympian, and now I’m a Paralympic medalist.”

NBC Paralympic research contributed to this report.

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final