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Surfboards, Dog Sleds and Toyotas Rule

When the Super Bowl hoopla ends, the media coverage landscape expands and all of the other cool things in sports finally get more publicity. The three I want to mention are the Yukon Quest Dog Sled race in Alaska, the Titans of Mavericks Surfing Contest and the Daytona 500. All of these epic events are arguably the marquee events in their sport.  The Yukon Quest is the 1000 mile dog sled race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse in Yukon Territory.  The Titans of Mavericks is the most intense big wave surfing contest that happens in Half Moon Bay, California. Lastly, the Daytona 500 which every racing fan loves more than any other road race.

The Titans of Mavericks surf competition is of course the world famous and long running spectacle held in Half Moon Bay, California. The epic waves that are enormous 30 to 50 foot high behemoths full of spirit and unpredictability are only ridden by a select few.  Almost every surfer has a wipe out in the competition and depending how bad your spill sometimes determines how well you will do in the competition.   Nic Lamb an American for Northern California outlasted 23 competitors and a big wipe out to capture the $120,000 purse.

If you don’t know much about the Mavericks event and you are curious about surfing or like watching like most of us, you can find plenty of documentaries and YouTube clips to get the feel of the event. The event has grown beyond cult status to a must see event for surf fans and even curious lookee loos.   The 24 contestants were given 48 hours to get to there from all around the world.  Last year there wasn’t an event because the waves never got to the size that warrants the competition.   This year the waves were consistently coming in at 35 to 40 feet all day.

The next on my list is the Yukon Quest held in Alaska and the Yukon Territory which just finished up on February 15th.   The Yukon race is the granddaddy of all sled dog races and it too separates the well prepared and trained from the lesser.  It is a 1000 journey through all kinds of conditions of weather and terrain.  It is a true test of capacity of humans and canines and a tribute to the strength of ancient bond that unites them.   Of course the Quest is not the most compelling of spectator event s but more of a scene to be part of as the towns of the north embrace their competitors and the beloved sport  as their own.

This year’s winner was Hugh Neff an Alaskan musher who crossed the finish line 9 days after starting the race. The 48 year musher won it once before in 2012 and this year he remarkably lead the majority of the race.   This year, the contestants had to withstand blizzards, equipment failures and sick dogs in this grueling race.  The winners take this year was $35,000 out of pool of $115,000.  It doesn’t seem like a lot compared to other sports but then again, only the few and special can endure such an event.   The history of this event is a good read so check it out there is plenty of information on the internet.

Last but not least is the Daytona 500.  First we had the man versus wave in Mavericks, second we have man and dog versus the elements of the Yukon and now man and machine to persevere  against other men and machines.   The Daytona 500 took place on February 21st and the winner was Denny Hamlin in  one the closest finishes ever captured on video.  It looks like he won by less than 1 foot coming in at top speed, certainly  the closest in Daytona 500 history.  Hamlin beat out Martin Truex both driving Toyotas which was part of their domination in this year’s event.    The victory was also a first at Daytona for Joe Gibbs racing whose been competing here for 23 years.

What makes the Daytona 500 the Super Bowl of auto racing is the fact that it is always held in February and it the first official NASCAR race of the season. It gets the most viewership than any other racing event, even the INDY 500 and it offers the biggest purse as well.  It is very prestigious to win since its inception in 1959.  Daytona International Speedway is sacred ground in racing and Richard Petty owns the most victories (7) and Chevrolet has the most wins with 23.

As you notice these are not mainstream sports with the slight exception of the Daytona 500 but it too doesn’t get the full recognition as the other 4 and 5 sports.   There is something cool to follow for all sports fans  even if it is hard to find on the television, you always know you can find it on the internet.   These sports usually take place in that small window of media absence when the NFL is not ruling the airwaves.  Next year, check in with one of these events and you will find it a breath of fresh air from the typical offerings.

Daytona 500 Photo Credit – www.thedailybeast.com

 

 

 

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Alex Zanardi: Cannot Be Stopped

No Limitations

The Alex Zanardi story is one that most people do not know about. I didn’t either until I saw him on a late night television talk show in November of 2014. He walked out and sat down and proceeded to tell his story.

Alex Zanardi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1966. He had an early inspiration for racing when he built his own racing karts from a dustbin of pipes from his father’s workplace. From that humble beginning, he became involved in European road racing in its various formats.

He moved onto Formula One Racing for a few years with mixed results while enduring crashes and injuries. From Formula one he moved to CHAMP Car racing and became one of its most popular drivers through his daring style and victories.

Alex zanardi 1In the 2000 season, Zanardi was not signed for a team so he moved back to Formula I racing. In his most competitive race of the 2001, he suffered a violent accident at the Euro Speedway Lausitz on September 15th while trying to merge back onto the track. His car was impacted from the side at high speed, severing the nose of the car. Zanardi lost both legs (one at and one above the knee) and nearly three quarters of his blood volume. His life was saved due to some rapid medical interaction.

You would think the story ends there. Zanardi was fitted with two prosthetic limbs and began an ambitious rehabilitation program.   Zanardi was not happy with the limbs and so he designed and built his own custom legs. He wanted them made to be able to withstand the rigors of race car driving. By 2002, he was back on the track in a specially designed car to take test laps and in 2003 he was back competing. Zanardi has been racing ever since in various formats and cars.

In 2006, Zanardi took up hand cycling as part of an exercise program. With only four weeks of training, in 2007, he achieved 4th place in the New York City Marathon in the Handcycling Division. He took up the sport in earnest to compete in major handcycling events. He won the Venice Marathon in 2009, the Rome City Marathon in 2010 and the New York City Marathon in 2011.   His crowning achievement in this sport was the Gold Medals he won in the 2012 Paralympics in London.

As with Zanardi, there are no limitations. Zanardi completed the 2014 Ironman World Championship with a time of 9:47 ranking 272 overall and 19th out of 247 in the 45-49 year category. He used a hand bike for the cycling section and an Olympic wheelchair for the running section.Alex Zanardi 3

Zanardi has lived his life with the greatest of passion. Zanardi is the rarest of humans that cannot be stopped to achieve his goals with grace and humility.