Review: a Race to Raise Awareness in the Ataxian' - the ...

A couple of years back, the ice bucket challenge was a social-media sensation, raising an estimated $115 million for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.Not all such ailments receive that kind of visibility - or promotion. Friedreich's ataxia, a little-known, progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease, has no cure; most heartless of all, its onset usually occurs in young children, who are unlikely to reach the age of 30."The Ataxian" follows Kyle Bryant, an athletic, charismatic Californian with the disease whose ability to walk and speak has already been impaired, as he channels his energy into raising awareness and money for research. He wants, he says, "to do something crazy!" and assembles a team of four bicyclists - including himself (on a recumbent bike) and Sean Baumstark, a friend who also has the disease - to take part in Race Across America, an annual competition that covers 3,000 miles in nine days.Directed by Zack Bennett and Kevin Schlanser, the film smartly cuts between days on the open road and conversations with researchers and families who have been confronted by the diagnosis, including Ron Bartek, who set up the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance, a nonprofit resource and advocacy group, after his son, Keith, was stricken."The Ataxian" has moments of inspiration, beauty, even euphoria. But its lasting contribution is in making the world a little more familiar with this disease, and a little less lonely for the families struggling against it.

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In the Arena: Speed Skating Has a Star to Wish Upon - the ...
Christopher ClareyMARCH 7, 2005INZELL, Germany - It was freezing in this small Bavarian town, just below freezing actually, and yet Anni Friesinger was staring down from the side of a chalet wearing a sultry look and very little clothing. It was only a poster, an advertisement for sports underwear. The real Friesinger was just a short walk away Sunday, much more of her surface area covered in her snug-fitting racing suit as she powered around the 400-meter oval of ice on her way to her fourth medal and second gold medal of these world single-distance speed skating championships.They were, in a sense, her championships. Friesinger was raised in Inzell and, though she now lives just across the border in the postcard-ready Austrian city of Salzburg, her training base remains Inzell's quaint, historic stadium, one of a fast-shrinking number of outdoor venues in her increasingly indoor sport."Everybody calls this my living room," she said. "Nobody knows this ice rink as well as I - the turns, the ice quality. I'm used to the wind, the cold."Friesinger first skated here when she was four years old. "It was the most natural thing in the world," she said.It was natural because both of Friesinger's parents were competitive speed skaters. Her father, Georg, was good enough to race in the world junior championships for West Germany. Her mother, Jana Korowicka, raced in the 1976 Olympics for Poland, finishing 16th in the 3,000 meters.Anni was born less than a year after those Games, and after taking to the sport in a hurry, she would eventually improve greatly on her family's competitive record. The gold medal in the 3,000 on Sunday was her 12th at the world championship level.But neither that remarkable statistic nor her world record and gold medal in the 1,500 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City fully explains why she is the most prominent female athlete in Germany at the moment.Speed skating is an unusual sport. With its bent-forward-at-the-waist technique; big arm swings; shining clap skates and hooded, big-thighed, tricontinental cast of Dutch, Germans, Norwegians, Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Chinese, it can be mistaken for nothing else.Yet sex still sells, and Friesinger has done her best to respect market forces: posing in the near-nude for a German magazine, exposing plenty more skin for her sponsors and publishing a provocative, romp-in-the-hay autobiography last year titled, "My Life, My Sport, My Best Fitness Tips.""She's beautiful; she's got the body for it, maybe if I looked like her, I'd be doing the same sort of thing," said American Jennifer Rodriguez, one of Friesinger's friendly rivals.Friesinger is not doing much that the tennis player Anna Kournikova has not done in larger, better-remunerated doses before her, but the extroverted, generally sunny Friesinger is a much more pleasant interlocutor. She also wins, although not quite as often as she would like. Coming into the Olympics in 2002, she expected to dominate on the fast ice of Salt Lake City, but she ended up with one medal - her gold in the 1,500 - while her teammate Claudia Pechstein won the 3,000 and 5,000 in world-record times.During that Olympic season, Friesinger's and Pechstein's frosty relationship became a national talking point. The blizzard in an ice bucket began when Friesinger questioned Pechstein's sincerity after Pechstein raced to a brilliant victory in the 5,000 at the European championships after complaining of illness. But the issue also played into lingering concerns about the state of east-west relations. Like Gunda Niemann, whose success helped raise the profile of speed skating here, Pechstein was raised in the former East Germany. She was 17 when the wall in her native Berlin came down.When Pechstein and Friesinger competed in the 3,000 in Salt Lake City, an estimated 15 million Germans were watching on television.There were only about 8,000 spectators in attendance for the 5,000 in Inzell on Sunday, as Friesinger ended up beating Pechstein, who settled for a silver medal, by 35/100ths of a second. The chill between the women appears to have thawed somewhat. 1 2 Next Page »We're interested in your feedback on this page. Tell us what you think.
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