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Countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - athletes to watch, each with a story of their own

Dara Torres, United States - Swimming

Among those featured in Time special issue "100 Olympic Athletes To Watch":


Dara Torres (United States) - 41, nine-time Olympic medallist in swimming and mother of a two-year old who has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, something no other swimmer has ever done. The time in the 100m freestyle that got her a ticket to Beijing was 2.47 seconds faster than her Olympic effort in 1988, at age 21 - a lifetime in such a short race.

Liu Xiang, China - Hurdles

Liu Xiang (China) – 25. When Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, delivering China its first ever sprint gold, you could almost sense the alarm in the announcers' voices. Few had heard of this mystery athlete, much less knew how to pronounce his given name. What a difference four years make. In Beijing, Liu, 25, along with basketball star Yao Ming, will be the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. His name (pronounced Sheeahng) means "to soar" in Chinese.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica - Sprints  read more »

Mayor of Nice welcomes new Brangelina arrivals - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s twin joy: Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline

glowing Angelina Jolie expectant with twins at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival


NICE, France (AP) - Brad Pitt was emotional but calm, Angelina Jolie laughed and chatted. The world's most famous celebrity couple were joined in emotion during the birth of their twins - a boy and a girl - and all "are doing marvelously well," the doctor who delivered the babies in a seaside hospital on the French Riviera said Sunday.

The Mayor of Nice, France, has personally welcomed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline, signing off on their birth certificates and offering his congratulations to the superstar couple. Jolie's obstetrician, Dr. Michel Sussmann, said he believed the baby girl's middle name was chosen in honor of Jolie's mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, who died in January 2007 after a 7 1/2-year battle with cancer.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt ecstatic as new twins join the family

Mayor Christian Estrosi showed the waiting media the birth certificate of baby Knox, born on Saturday July 12 at 6:27pm, bearing Pitt’s full initials WBP - William Bradley Pitt. “On behalf of the inhabitants of Nice,” Estrosi declared, “I congratulate the happy parents, the most famous couple of the world, who have chosen our city for this happy event.”

"The father is having one of the happiest moments of his life, like any father, especially when they have the joy of having two children from such a wonderful wife as Angelina Jolie. The mother is doing fine. She is smiling a lot. She is as happy as the father," Estrosi said.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi holds copies of Brangelina's new son Knox Leon Jolie-Pitt's birth certificate as Angelina's doctor Michel Sussman and hospital director Bernard Lecat look on

Nice Matin, the hometown daily in the Riviera city in the south of France, put the worth of the twins' photos at more than $11 million. It first broke news of the birth and reported Sunday that the couple have sold the rights for the first photo of their newly expanded family to a U.S. publication, which it did not name, and that the proceeds would go to charity.


Photos courtesy of Reuters, MTV Newsroom, and Mail Online

Original Source: AP and The Celebrity Truth

Golden Globes award goes to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and they are expecting twins!

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's love for children is by no means limited to their own: The couple has donated $1 million to help kids affected by the war in Iraq, the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict announced.

The organization will distribute the donation, made through the couple's Jolie-Pitt Foundation, to four organizations working on behalf of children who have lost parents, homes and schools in Iraq. Children in the U.S. who have lost parents in the conflict will also benefit.

Voice actor Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt arrive for the screening of the animated film 'Kung Fu Panda'

"These educational support programs for children of conflict are the best way to help them heal," said Jolie in a written statement from Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs.

"We hope to encourage others to give to these great organizations," Pitt added in the statement.

The Pitt-Jolie family: with children Maddox, Zahara, and Shiloh

The Jolie-Pitt Foundation has given $500,000 to three groups in the war-torn country which will provide aid for some 5,700 children, said the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict.  read more »

History in less than 2 minutes in Olympic sport - Natalie Coughlin snatches back the world record of 100-meter backstroke

Natalie Coughlin swims the 100-meter backstroke en route to setting a new world record of 59.03 during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska


OMAHA - Call it the one-heat world record. For about two minutes, Hayley McGregory was on the top of the world. Swimming in the second-to-last heat of the preliminaries for the 100-meter backstroke at the United States Olympic Trials, the 22-year-old from Texas clocked a 59.15, breaking the world record by .06 seconds.

When McGregory made the turn at 50 meters on world-record pace, the Qwest Center crowd got firmly behind her, cheering loudly. Natalie Coughlin, whose record McGregory broke, was standing over McGregory’s lane as she finished, getting ready to race in the final heat. The plan was for Coughlin, who this year has recorded three of the five all-time fastest times in the event, to conserve her energy and deliver a nice, easy performance, maybe a second or so faster than her personal best.

Natalie Coughlin reclaims her world mark in the 100-metre backstroke one heat after Hayley McGregory took it down at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials

When Coughlin saw McGregory’s time, she switched gears. Swimming with a sense of urgency seldom seen from a top swimmer early in the day’s heats, the 25-year-old Coughlin one-upped McGregory with a time of 59.03. McGregory will go down as the world-record holder for less than two minutes. "Not even a whole minute, really," McGregory said with a chuckle. "It’s still awesome." Looking ahead to Monday night’s semifinal, she said, "I’m really excited to race next to her."

The top 16 finishers will race again Monday night, after which the field will be pared to eight finalists, who will compete Tuesday for the two berths to Beijing. "I was planning on going a lot easier this morning," said Coughlin, the gold medalist in the 100 backstroke at the 2004 Olympics with a time of 1:00.37. McGregory’s swim, she said, "gave me motivation to swim a little faster than I was originally planning." Coughlin, a Californian who came into the race with five of the 10 fastest swims in the event, looks at the 100 backstroke as her baby. She wasn’t going to let somebody take it from her without putting up a fight. "I didn’t really want her to have it long," Coughlin said. After all, Coughlin had held the mark uninterrupted since 2002 when she became the first woman to break the minute barrier in this event, going 59.58 six years ago.

Natalie Coughlin swims the 100 meter backstroke en route to setting a new world record of 59.03 during the U.S. at the Swimming Olympic Trials on June 30, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska

Either Coughlin or McGregory, or both, could conceivably take the record down even more in the semifinals later tonight. McGregory may have popped up on Coughlin's radar in a big way, but the 22-year-old from Longhorn Aquatics in Texas is no pretender, having shown sub-minute speed in the event, going 59.46 at a meet in Austin earlier this month. She started her career at the University of Texas, transferred to USC and found herself a bit adrift when the program changed hands from Mark Schubert to Dave Salo when Schubert joined USA Swimming.

The rest of morning preliminaries went to form. Jessica Hardy (1:06.85) of Trojan Swim was the fastest qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, edging her teammates Rebecca Soni, who went 1:06.90. In the men's 100 backstroke, Randall Bal had the fastest time in 53.28. World-record holder and Nike endorser Aaron Peirsol, who experimented with Speedo's LZR Racer, was sixth in the 100 backstroke, going 54.14. "The way everyone's swimming, it looks like it's not that big a deal anymore," Peirsol said, joking of the four world records set here in less than two days.


Photos courtesy of Al Bello, Donald Miralle/Getty Images, and KCRA

Original Source: NY Times and LA Times

With bare essentials, just crumbs to eat, young hikers lost for 6 days in 9,400-square-mile Denali National Park, Alaska, found

Abby Flantz talks to reporters about being lost for six days in Denali National Park and Preserve in Healy, Alaska


DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska (AP) — Two young backpackers rationed peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars, growing hungrier as they wandered for six days in the dense vegetation of Denali National Park. Erica Nelson and Abby Flantz were down to their last granola bar Wednesday, the day they were rescued. Trekking through the remote park, they regularly clicked on their cell phone until they finally found reception that led to their rescue. "We got a signal and I said, 'Wow, I have to call my mom,'" Nelson told reporters before heading with her family to Houston, where she plans to serve as maid of honor Saturday in her sister's wedding.

What started as an overnight hike June 12 turned into an intensive search that cost more than $118,000 and sometimes involved 100 people from volunteer groups and state and federal agencies, according to park spokeswoman Kris Fister. Rangers estimate the women logged at least 20 miles before they were picked up by a helicopter crew outside the northeastern side of the 9,400-square-mile park, Fister said.

Abby Flantz, of Gaylord, Minnesota, and Erica Nelson, of Las Vegas, Nevada, headed into the park back country on Thursday

Nelson, 23, of Las Vegas and Flantz, 25, of Gaylord, Minn., had no idea they had trigged a search of that magnitude. They were reported overdue when they failed to show up at work Saturday at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, a hotel outside the park. But after a few days of being lost, they did figure that people might be concerned. "We were gone long enough, we knew there might be searches for us, but we didn't know it would be this big," Flantz said.

The women said they each packed only bare essentials, such as two sandwiches and granola bars, thinking that would be enough for their short trek. They brought a compass and a map but still lost their bearing, mistaking one river for another. They tried to follow the river, but that proved impossible many times, Flantz said. "There were steep hills, so we had to get away from them and there was this high brush we had to push through," she said. "I cried a little bit, but not much."

Abby Flantz reunited with her parents Kathy and Jim Flantz Wednesday afternoon

The days wore on and they rationed their food, but ran out of water and drank river water or melted snow. They ripped up a shirt to bandage scratches and blisters. Hiking exhausted them, but they trudged on when the weather was good, hoping their destination was over the next bend. At night they slept in a tent. Along the way, they saw plenty of bear tracks, steering far from the fresh prints. The only wildlife they saw, however, was a porcupine. The last couple of days it rained, so they mostly stayed in the tent, conserving their waning energy.

Johnny Nelson of Las Vegas hugs his daughters Erica and Alecia Wednesday afternoon at the Denali Park airstrip in Alaska

By Wednesday, the cell phone's battery was weak, but Nelson finally got through to her mother, Ellane, who was listening to park officials give a morning briefing on the search. That was the day Nelson's sister, Alecia, and her future brother-in-law were to decide whether to postpone their wedding. Nelson told her mother she and Flantz were alive and well but gave the wrong location of their whereabouts, so searchers couldn't find them. She called her mother again about 3:30 p.m., and officials told her to hang up and text message instead to save the dying battery. Then they were able to locate the signal several miles north of the 100-square-mile area they had been searching.

The search area, about 180 miles north of Anchorage, is a mix of national park and state-owned lands. It includes dense alder and willow, some black spruce forest, but also miles of tundra. Flantz, who plans to return to work on Saturday, said she's not giving up on outdoor adventures — but next time she'll be better prepared.

missing young women hikers found in Denali National Park

Officials said it was unlikely the women merely decided to extend their camping trip. Nelson was scheduled to fly Sunday night to Houston so she could be maid of honor in her sister's wedding. Nelson said she thought a lot about her sister when she was lost. "The whole time I was just, we got to keep going. I got to make it to her wedding," Nelson told KTUU.

Fister said she believed the wedding was still on.


Photos courtesy of AP Photo/Matt Hage and Laurent Dick

Original Source: Associated Press and KATU

Drivers told to zip lips - NASCAR president Mike Helton says complaining is unfair to fans, who face costly gas, tough economy

Carl Edwards does backflip off of his car after winning NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.


NASCAR is tired of hearing the negative message some of the stock car sport's driving stars have been sending to fans lately. Too many complaints about the new-generation car, bumpy racetracks and numerous other things, and not enough positive reinforcement for fans.

NASCAR Sprint Cup series UAW-Dodge 400 auto race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas

NASCAR president Mike Helton held a "mandatory" meeting yesterday morning for drivers and the team owners at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Things apparently reached a critical mass last week at Pocono, where it appeared nobody was happy about the rough track or the so-called Car of Tomorrow that is still being developed or the intense heat that had many drivers near exhaustion after a Pocono 500 that most believe shouldn't be longer than 400 miles.

Kyle Busch poses with trophy after winning Kobalt Tools 500 auto race  read more »

"Catch the Baby" - Twins, One After the Other Dropped from Smoke-choked Second-floor Window

father drops baby from burning building into neighbor’s arms below


A father leans out of a smoke-choked second-floor window. Just released from his grasp, his infant son hurtles backward through the air, pudgy arms flung wide. On the sidewalk below, a throng of men stare up at the baby. One holds his arms up, fingers splayed, ready to make the catch.

The dramatic moment, captured in a black-and-white photo taken by an amateur, has been retold countless times to William Sheridan Jr. since that morning 30 years ago yesterday, when his father, William Sr., dropped him into the arms of neighbor Tom Connally. Just moments before that, his father had dropped his twin sister, Nichole, who was snagged by another neighbor, Jimmy Madden. Minutes later, firefighters used a ladder to save his father and mother, Kathy Sheridan, from the raging blaze that tore through their home on East 2d Street in South Boston on May 28, 1978.

the twins Nichole Shurbaji and William Sheridan Jr. today

"I just remember my husband saying: 'Get up! Get up! Get up!" said Kathy Sheridan, who was 24 at the time. "And as soon as I opened my eyes, the whole apartment was full of smoke." Her husband, who was 25, grabbed the twins, but thick, black smoke blocked the stairway to the street. He broke open a window, and the couple saw neighbors on the street below, screaming, "Throw the babies!" "I just couldn't do it," Kathy Sheridan said. "All I could see was concrete." Her husband took the infants, leaned out, and dropped them. "It was just one of those crazy things," he said yesterday. "And for the most part I don't think about it."

The photo was taken by David G. Mugar, who was then a new owner of Boston's Channel 7 with a hobby of amateur news photography. He was parked in Dorchester when he heard the fire call on a scanner in his car, raced over, captured the shot, and later gave the $5,000 in proceeds from his photos to the Sheridans, whose belongings were destroyed in the fire. The photo won Mugar a number of awards, including second place in a World Press Photo Awards competition in Holland.


Photos courtesy of David G. Mugar and Globe Staff / Dina Rudick

Original Source: Boston Globe

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