Olympic Alpine skiing remaining all in the family in Beijing

Gold medallist Austria’s Johannes Ewald Strolz (R) during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and a file photo of his father alpine skier Hubert (L) competing in 1988 during Calgary’s Winter Olympic Games. (AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2022

Olympic Alpine skiing remaining all in the family in Beijing

  • They are the first father-son duo to win gold in the same Olympic ski racing event
  • Strolz’s father, Hubert, won gold in combined and silver in giant slalom at the 1988 Calgary Games

BEIJING: Austrian skier Johannes Strolz was preparing to sit on a stage in a room filled with dozens of journalists to describe his improbable run to the Alpine combined title at the Beijing Olympics when his phone rang. It was his dad.
So with the spotlights trained on him, Strolz backed away for several minutes to take the call, which was understandable with so much to share: They are the first father-son duo to win gold in the same Olympic ski racing event.
“He’s just overwhelmed (by) what happened today and he is happy for me and proud of me,” Strolz said. “It’s just an unbelievable moment for all of us and my family.”
Strolz’s father, Hubert, won gold in combined and silver in giant slalom at the 1988 Calgary Games, then almost won another Olympic combined four years later in Albertville but missed a gate near the end of the race. Johannes was born later that year — 1992 — and Hubert used the coming birth of his son to help him get over that missed chance.
Now, though, the family has another gold to celebrate.
Strolz, who has won only one World Cup slalom, was fourth fastest after the downhill run on Thursday. But he was half a second quicker than anyone else in the slalom, helping him edge first-run leader Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway by 0.58 seconds.
The combined adds the times from one downhill run and one slalom run.
Jack Crawford of Canada finished third, 0.68 behind Strolz.
Skiing is known as a sport handed down from generation to generation and the Beijing Olympics are quickly turning into a family affair.
In Tuesday’s super-G, American racer Ryan Cochran-Siegle took silver 50 years after his mom, Barbara Ann Cochran, won the slalom at the 1972 Sapporo Games. The super-G was won by Matthias Mayer, an Austrian whose father, Helmut, also won a medal in the same event — silver — in Calgary.
Crawford’s aunt, Judy Crawford Rawley, finished fourth in the 1972 slalom won by Cochran.
“She always told me no one remembers fourth place, and it feels really good to not be in that situation,” said Crawford, who finished fourth in Monday’s downhill and was also fourth in the combined at last year’s world championships. “It’s kind of cutthroat, but it’s true at the Olympic Games — a medal is everything.”
Strolz had a career-best finish of 10th in more than eight years of World Cup racing and was dropped from the powerhouse Austrian team at the end of last season. Then he won a slalom last month in Adelboden, Switzerland, and a spot on the squad for the Beijing Games, where he is continuing to prepare his own slalom skis — as he has done all season.
Strolz spent “3-4 hours” by himself in the wax room on Tuesday. His downhill skis were prepared by a professional ski technician.
“My skis were perfect, especially the downhill skis — they were absolute rockets,” Strolz said. “I got the skis from Matthias Mayer and obviously he has very fast skis.”
Back when Strolz was struggling to make the team, he worked as a traffic cop in his hometown, and helped out on the family farm.
When he placed the medal around his own neck per pandemic-era standards, Strolz was shaking his head in apparent disbelief.
“It is truly an amazing story,” said Andreas Puelacher, the head coach of Austria’s men’s team. “The Austria team is a strong team and it’s not so easy to be on this team.”
For Kilde, it was his second consecutive medal after a bronze in super-G.
“I hadn’t skied slalom in two years,” the Norwegian speed specialist said, adding that he got some slalom tips from his girlfriend, Mikaela Shiffrin, whose 47 World Cup slalom wins are the most in a single event by a man or woman — even though the American failed to finish both of her events so far in Beijing.
“She just said to me, ‘Keep up the tempo and keep the skis under you.’ And that’s what I’m going to do,” Kilde said after the downhill run.
After the slalom, Kilde recounted how he “went for it, just pointed the skis and tried to stay in balance.”
Defending overall World Cup champion Alexis Pinturault had a disappointing first run then fell in the slalom.
Another pre-race favorite, Loic Meillard of Switzerland, had an error in the downhill but managed to stay on the course. He failed to finish the second run after straddling a gate.
Thursday’s race had only 27 total entrants, compared to more than 40 for both the downhill and super-G earlier in the week. It was the first time in Olympic history that no American entered the event and it may have also marked the final combined at the Olympics with the International Ski Federation pushing to include parallel races in the program.
“It’s another discipline, another chance for us to get medals in the Olympics,” Kilde said. “So it would be a pity if they remove it.”
Barnabas Szollos of Israel was a surprise sixth-place finisher with the second-fastest slalom leg.
The downhill run had to be delayed for about 10 minutes when Yannick Chabloz crashed and was taken away in a sled. The Swiss skier tumbled into a barrier and then slid down part of the mountain.

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Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Updated 03 July 2022

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

  • Group likens attack to the massacre of 10 Black people at a supermarket Buffalo, New York in May

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
St. Petersburg police said they are investigating the fire and are working to identify a suspect.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”
Akile Akai, the group’s director of agitation and propaganda, said the attack is in the same vein as the May killing of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Police say the arrested suspect in the Buffalo massacre is a white nationalist.
Akai said such attacks are caused by the decline of a “social system and facade of normalcy based on oppression, colonialism and exploitation.”

 

 


3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

Updated 03 July 2022

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

  • Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m

NEW YORK: A 3-year-old boy died after falling from a 29th floor balcony of a New York City apartment building on Saturday morning, police said a preliminary investigation shows.
Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe the child exited through a window, but exactly how that occurred is under investigation at the time,” a police spokesperson told The Associated Press. The apartment is located in the Taino Towers residential complex in Harlem.
New York City law requires owners of buildings with three or more apartments to install window guards if a child age 10 years or younger lives there or if a tenant or occupant requests them. It’s unclear whether window guards were installed in this particular apartment.
The spokesperson said the child’s death is under “active investigation” and police are speaking with two individuals who were inside the apartment when the boy fell.
Nidia Cordero, who lives on the 34th floor of the building, told the New York Post that she suddenly heard what she believes was the mother of the child screaming.
“And I looked,” she said, “and the baby was in the scaffolding.”
Richard Linares told the New York Daily News he was outside the apartment complex when the toddler fell.
“We heard a big bang,” he said. “My boy that was here ran to the front. He ran up the scaffold to find the baby. The baby was still crying and breathing when he got there.”
He later added: “By the time the paramedics brought him down, they had a towel over his face.”
Tanjelyn Castro, a neighbor, described to the Daily News a frantic scene as police and residents tried to reach the child.
“Everybody that was outside was running, climbing,” she said. “Every man you saw was trying to get to the scaffold. It was a whole bunch of emotion.”


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Updated 01 July 2022

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

  • Bachman said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional
  • When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.


Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Updated 30 June 2022

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

  • In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses”

LONDON: Airbnb Inc. said on Tuesday it will make permanent its ban on parties in homes listed on its platform after seeing a sharp drop in reports of unauthorized gatherings since the prohibition was put in place in August 2020.
The company announced seeing a 44 percent year-after-year drop in the rate of party reports since implementing the policy.
This comes after the San Francisco-based company introduced and extended the party ban to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections. Now the company wants to make the ban permanent as the summer travel season begins.
“This is an issue where I don’t know if I’d say there’s a finish line,” said Ben Breit, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Airbnb will keep working to address the issue.
The company said it will also remove its 16-person limit, allowing larger homes listed on the platform to be booked to full occupancy.
In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses” or listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance.
Airbnb has also updated its policies considering the pandemic, removing both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules.
More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.
In May 2022, the company reported revenue was up 70 percent from the previous year bringing in $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also projected revenue to be above market estimates for the second quarter of the year, expecting to bring in between $2.03 billion and $2.13 billion.