12 Amazing Recent Sports Stories You Should Know About
Four Paralympians ran the 1,500-meter final faster than the Olympic gold medalist. A teenager with two prosthetic legs plays high school football in Ohio and dreams of an NFL career.
Not every inspirational sports story gets a mountain of coverage, and luckily that might be because there are just so many.
You have heard about Travis Rudolph, the Florida State wide receiver who ate lunch with a boy with autism during a middle school visit, right? Or Pitt running back James Conner, who scored two touchdowns against Villanova just months after being declared cancer-free? (If not, check out those two stories immediately.)
The following are 12 more inspiring and/or important sports tales you might not have heard about—perhaps because they are rooted in local high school sports, the Paralympic Games or simply just a bit more obscure in nature—but are certainly worth your time.
Good stuff goes on in sports all the time, and it's good to be reminded of that once in a while.
Olympian Sells Medal to Pay for Child's Cancer Treatment
Polish discus thrower Piotr Malachowski won a silver medal in Rio. Almost immediately, however, he put that medal up for auction to help fund a cancer treatment for a three-year-old boy.
According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, Malachowski's goal was to raise enough money to ensure Olek Szymanski "could get surgery for his retinoblastoma in New York to try to save the child's eyesight."
Rovell reported that Polish foundation Siepomaga had raised about a third of the $126,000 needed for the surgery, and Malachowski hoped to raise the rest with the action.
Shortly after the auction began, Malachowski announced on Facebook, per Rovell, that a wealthy Polish couple had committed to covering the remaining amount required.
Shaun Barker Comes Back After Devastating Injury
Shaun Barker's is a comeback story for the ages. In 2012, the English footballer—then with Derby County FC—collided with an opposing goalkeeper, causing every ligament and tendon in his knee to rupture.
Gregor Robertson of Mail Online wrote: "To outsiders, the idea that he would ever return to play professional football again seemed ludicrous. And as time passed, that sentiment only grew."
After four-plus years and five surgeries, however, Barker finally made his return to competitive football in August. Playing for a new club, Burton Albion FC, Barker entered as a substitute in the 93rd minute of a match against Derby.
Of his appearance, Barker said, per Robertson: "It's about proving myself again now. This has made me content but it's not made me happy."
4 Paralympians Run Faster Than Olympic Champion
The Paralympic Games don't usually generate the same level of hype as the Olympics, but they certainly weren't lacking in the incredible story department in 2016.
For instance, one might assume a Paralympian would automatically clock a slower time than his Olympic counterpart in say, a 1,500-meter race. One would be wrong.
Four visually impaired athletes—Abdellatif and Fouad Baka of Algeria, Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia and Henry Kirwa of Kenya—all ran a faster time in the 1,500-meter T13 final than the Olympic champion, American Matthew Centrowitz Jr.
Abdellatif Baka's gold medal-winning time of 3:48.29 is a new world record for his classification. Centrowitz's Olympic time was 3:50.00.
Entire High School Team Kneels During National Anthem
Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest has made waves throughout the sports world, inspiring some to join and others to criticize. And no matter their opinion on the matter, folks should know about the effects of Kaepernick's actions beyond mainstream professional sports.
While the Seattle Seahawks opted to link arms during the national anthem, a local high school football team chose to kneel.
The football players and coaches from Garfield High School in Seattle knelt together as the song played ahead of a matchup against West Seattle High School.
Head coach Joey Thomas said, per Heather Graf of KING 5: "This came from them. This came from the kids. Now don't get me wrong, I support it 110 percent and that's where my mind and heart was, but this is what they wanted. And I think that's what makes this so special. This is student-driven."
HS Football Manager with Down Syndrome Scores Touchdown
Robby Heil, a high school senior with Down syndrome, is a manager of his school's football team in Novi, Michigan. In September, that team paid tribute to Heil by setting up an opportunity for him to shine on the field.
According to Justin Rose of WXYZ Detroit, play was suspended during a matchup against South Lyon East. Rose entered the game, took a handoff and ran the ball into the end zone.
Robby's mother Debbie, who is terminally ill, witnessed the moment. She said, per Rose: "I dropped to the ground because I was so emotional when I saw him make that touchdown. I've always been proud of him being the water boy, or as people call him the hydration manager, but this was incredible, he's Rudy tonight, he's Rudy."
Paralympian with No Arms Impresses in Table Tennis
Egypt's Ibrahim Hamadtou became an internet sensation with his "Nothing Is Impossible" YouTube video in 2014. In 2016, he brought his talents to the world stage as the only athlete without arms to compete in Paralympic table tennis, according to Daniel Politi of Slate.com.
Hamadtou—who lost his arms in a childhood accident—holds the paddle in his mouth during competition and serves the ball with his feet.
Hamadtou lost both matches in Rio, but his performance commanded respect just the same.
Great Britain's David Wetherill, who defeated Hamadtou, said, per Politi: "In table tennis it is skill versus skill, and I know I won today, but I think he has demonstrated far more skill than I have just now."
Football Team Gives Roses to Cheerleader with Leukemia
Ashley Adamietz, a cheerleader at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, California, was diagnosed with leukemia in August.
Prior to a September football game, all 57 members of the Foothill team gave Adamietz an orange rose—orange for leukemia awareness.
According to KRCR (via Doug Criss of CNN), player Ryan Caetano organized the tribute, saying: "She's part of the cougar family, so why not let her know that we're all here for her. We are. So I wanted to let that be known to everybody, and especially to her, for what she's going through."
Man Wins Bubble Gum Contest from 1957
Darwin Day of Texas came across some old Topps baseball cards as he was cleaning out his home earlier in 2016, according to Loyd Brumfield of the Dallas Morning News.
Printed on the cards was information about a Bazooka bubble gum contest from 1957. When he discovered no year on the contest, Day decided to enter. Day looked up scores from July 19, 1957, scrawled them into the entry form and sent it off to Tony Jacobs, global general manager of Topps Confectionery Brands.
Day explained, per Brumfield: "When I found those cards and saw those contests, I said, 'I just have to do this and see what happens.'"
Jacobs and Topps honored the contest and sent Day a Louisville Slugger glove as a prize. According to Brumfield, Jacobs and Day are now "on a first-name basis."
Paralyzed Pregnant Woman Completes Half-Marathon
In 2007, Claire Lomas was thrown from a horse and subsequently paralyzed from the chest down.
Over five days in September, she completed a half-marathon in England with the help of a "robotic exoskeleton," according to Catherine Thorbecke of ABC News, and raised money for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation in the process.
Lomas, who is also pregnant, told Thorbecke: "It is very hard work physically and mentally, especially with my injury, as I have no core strength and no feeling from the chest down. I can't even feel the ground. Each slope, bump, hill is a huge obstacle."
Lomas added, per Thorbecke: "When I take something on, I am desperate to give it my all and complete it."
Alex Zanardi Wins Gold, 15 Years After Life-Threatening Crash
In 2001, former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi was involved in an auto racing accident that resulted in the amputation of both his legs. Now, the Italian is a four-time Paralympic champion hand cyclist.
Zanardi secured his third Paralympic gold (he won two in London in 2012) by winning the H5 time trial in Rio the day before the 15th anniversary of his crash. He was also part of the H2-H5 mixed team relay gold.
Per Alex Wellman of Mirror, Zanardi said: "Normally I don't thank God for these type of things as I believe God has more important stuff to worry about. But today is too much. I had to raise my eyes and thank him. I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never-ending privilege."
Son Joins Father on Coaching Staff
Kendall Brest played football at Hickory High School in western Pennsylvania under his father, head coach Bill Brest.
During his junior year, Kendall was diagnosed with a heart disorder and told he could no longer play football. Instead, he joined the Hickory coaching staff as a student assistant.
Bill Brest said, per Chad Krispinsky of WKBN 27: "He's putting the time and effort in, he's very talented. He has the health setback, but he's attacking it and he sees the big picture in life."
Kendall was also the guest of honor at a September game against rival Sharon High School, an event at which both schools worked to raise money for kids with heart-related health issues.
Damon Hodges Plays Football on Prosthetic Legs
Damon Hodges had his legs amputated below the knees at age two, according to Greg Gulas of the Vindicator, and he has been wearing prosthetics ever since.
Hodges is also a defensive end on the Liberty High School varsity football team in Ohio. The Ohio High School Athletic Association approved Liberty's request to allow Hodges to play after the school provided detailed information on its plans for safety precautions.
Hodges told Gulas, "Many told me that I would never walk or have a normal life, but things have really worked out for me."
Gulas also reported Hodges' dreams of playing in the NFL one day.