Fresh contenders for Paralympics

As much as 15 percent of the U.S. Paralympic team will be drawn from the 31,000 men and women disabled by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Out of the carnage of roadside bomb blasts in Iraq, U.S. Paralympics recruiters are finding new competitors for world-class sports in Beijing and beyond. Foremost among those heading to China this summer: Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell. She made her first mark on history four years ago when she became the war’s first female combat amputee. Now she has etched a new distinction as the first disabled Iraq war veteran to qualify for this summer’s Games in China.

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S.F. protests force Olympic torch to dodge controversy

Tibetans from around the United States converge on San Francisco to try to stop China’s Olympic torch. Street action. For Tibetan-Americans, the day became a strategic battle of controlling tempers. They find they must draw on every bit of Buddhist teaching they had and the warning of their leader, the Dalai Lama, who has threatened to resign if pre-Olympic protests turn violent.

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Battlefield to boxing ring

Soldier trains for his shot to compete in Beijing Games

By any measure, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Downs would appear a long shot to join the U.S. Olympic Boxing team at the Summer Games in Beijing. He’s 33, the oldest on record for the team, a father of two and, until the Iraq war began, he had never entered a boxing ring. On top of all that, he first had to survive 13 months in combat to get where he is now. Saturday, Downs leaves for a fight in Trinidad and Tobago that could qualify him for China. Regardless of whether he makes it, Downs will resume his Army infantry duties when he’s finished with his Olympic effort.

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Olympians weigh politics

Some 625 China-bound U.S. athletes are targeted in a growing campaign by activist group Team Darfur to persuade athletes worldwide to use their voices in China to make a political point. U.S. Olympic Committee officials this year instituted mandatory “ambassador” seminars that teach about China and encourage athletes to think carefully about how best to represent their country. Yet USOC officials say they’ll let athletes decide for themselves whether to speak out on sensitive issues — as long as they stay mum at official Olympics sites, in accordance with International Olympic Committee rules.

The USOC stayed firm as government and Olympics officials in Europe, Britain and New Zealand recently moved toward silencing China-bound athletes. Freedom of speech and expression are “values of our country,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said. “As an Olympic committee, we would not restrict values that are consistent with what we stand for as a country. . . . It’s up to the athletes to make individual choices.”

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