Category Archives: Sports

Remembering Bill Steinkraus

Bill Steinkraus — member of a celebrated Westport family, and the first American to win an Olympic individual gold medal in an equestrian sport — died November 29 in Darien. He was 92.

His death was announced yesterday the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.

According to the New York Times, Steinkraus was considered “one of the greatest riders in the history of equestrian sports.” He was on all 6 Olympics teams from 1952 through 1972.

He won a gold medal in 1968, silver medals in 1960 and 1972, and a bronze in 1952. He was on the US national team for 22 years, including 17 as captain. He was elected chairman in 1983, and chairman emeritus 9 years later. He was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1987.

Bill Steinkraus

Steinkraus was accomplished in many areas. A Yale University graduate and noted violinist, he was an editor in New York. He wrote several books about riding. He was also an expert an old books and antique furniture, a television commentator and an Olympic judge.

Steinkraus rode in Burma in World War II with the US Army’s last mounted regiment. He helped reopen the Burma Road.

Steinkraus grew up in Westport. His sister, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, was active for many years in local and international affairs, many involving the United Nations. She died in 2002. The downtown Post Road bridge is named for her.

Steinkraus lived with his family in Noroton for many years. In 2016, his estate was put on the market for $175 million.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary. Hat tip: Susan Iseman)

Remembering Doug Caffery

Doug Caffery — a Staples High School Class of 2013 graduate, and outstanding decathlon competitor — died Saturday.

He was struck by a car in Greenville, South Carolina while crossing Academy Street around midnight the previous day.

Caffery was a member of the U.S. military. After Staples, he studied criminal justice at the University of Alabama.

Caffery was well known in the Connecticut track world. The “06880” community mourns his death.

Doug Caffrey

Ryan Felner: Entrepreneur, Drone Pilot, Crain’s Hero

Last spring, “06880” chronicled Ryan Felner’s wild ride.

A few months earlier, the Staples High School sophomore bought a drone. He registered it, followed Federal Aviation Authority rules, and began taking beautiful photos. He added gorgeous videos, then built a burgeoning business providing real estate brokers with drone shots.

Owenoke Park, from Ryan Felner’s drone.

But he ran afoul of a new FAA regulation. Ryan lacked Remote Pilot Certification — and faced hefty fines.

Petrified, he feared for his finances, his reputation, his college chances and more.

With the help of his parents, he responded to the FAA. He passed the test. Federal regulators were pleased. In April — before giving a talk at the Maker Faire chronicling his adventures in dronedom — he received his certificate. It was presented personally, by an FAA aviation safety inspector.

Ryan Felner

Today, Ryan is flying higher than ever.

Particularly because he was just named a Crain’s New York “20 Under 20” star. He’s one of 20 young people — all under 20 years old — doing great things.

“Balancing homework and family obligations with business meetings, financial management and travel,” Crain’s says, they’re rising stars in the New York business world.

So what’s next for Ryan Felner?

His newest enterprise is more down to earth than drone photography — but only in its location.

He’s launching a sports training service linking high school athletes with parents seeking role models for their kids. SporTutors handles the transaction, for a small percentage of the $30-per-hour fee.

“It’s highly scalable,” Ryan tells Crain’s. And he’s already working with an app developer to expand the Westport pilot program into a nationwide network.

Ryan Felner (Photo/ Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York)

Pics Of The Day #218

Don’t mess with these girls.

Police and teenagers threw balls at each other’s heads — and cheered for each other — at tonight’s annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament in the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Sponsored by the Westport Youth Commission, Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, the Westport Police Youth Collaborative and PAL, it’s a chance for a couple of hundred kids and a couple of dozen cops to play dodgeball, eat pizza, win trophies, raise money, and hang out.

Teams came in costume. Police took off their holsters and cuffs. It was a great night for all.

Whether it’s Staples Wrecker blue, or the men (and women) in blue, the message was clear: Blue lives matter.

A typical team — with actual cops on the far left and far right.

Yes, There’s A Marathon In Antarctica. No, Richard Garland Is Not Crazy For Running It.

We’ve all got travel goals.

I’d like to see all 50 states (I’m at 48). You might want to go on a safari, or walk along the Great Wall of China.

Richard Garland plans to hit all 7 continents. But that’s just the means to an end.

His goal is to run a marathon on all 7 continents.

I got tired just typing that sentence.

Until I talked to Richard, I didn’t even know there were marathons on all 7 continents. Antarctica, after all, is a continent.

Turns out, there is a marathon there.

Not only that, it’s happening right now.

And Richard Garland is there to run it.

But he’s not just running 26.2 miles, on ice and snow in sub-zero temperatures while dodging penguins and, I’m sure, man-swallowing crevasses.

He’s doing it to raise money for the Adam J. Lewis Preschool.

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

And not just a few bucks. Richard’s goal is $100,000, for the fantastic Bridgeport institution that — with strong Westport support — honors the memory of a special 9/11 victim.

Richard has a special bond with the school that’s changing the lives of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in the West End. He knew Adam Lewis. Patty Lewis — Adam’s widow, and a driving force behind the school — is Richard’s wife’s best friend.

Travel — and giving back — are in Richard’s blood. A London native, he came to Westport to work. He thought he’d stay 2 years. Twenty-three years later, he’s still here.

Though he grew up playing sports, Richard hated running. “I thought it was for people with no lives,” he says.

But when he turned 50, he challenged himself to run the New York Marathon. He raised funds for the Westport-based Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — and got hooked.

Richard Garland, completing the New York Marathon.

Richard travels the world for work. He timed one trip to run a marathons in London. Others followed, in Kenya and Tokyo.

He ran the Boston Marathon too — in 2013. “I was slow enough not to be at the finish when the bombs went off,” he says.

Antarctica marks the 5th continent Richard will race on. On Sunday he flew to Punta Arenas, Chile. He boarded a Russian cargo plane, and arrives in Antarctica today.

The marathon is Friday. Unlike New York, Boston, London, Kenya, Tokyo — or anywhere else on earth — runners face an average windchill of -20 degrees Celsius, and strong winds. (And this is summer down there!)

It’s tough impossible to train for something like this. The best he could do, experts told Richard, was run on a treadmill in a walk-in freezer.

He did not. But he took the next-best advice, which is train on sand.

The Greens Farms resident ran at Burying Hill, Southport and Fairfield beaches. “It’s not very easy,” he reports. “I think I’ll run this marathon very slowly.”

You and I would relax after such an exhausting event. We’d check out the scientific stations and penguins, maybe see what Punta Arenas offers on the way home.

But you and I are not Richard Garland. He has a business meeting right after the marathon.

In London.

“I’ll pack my business suit, along with my Antarctic running clothes,” he says cheerfully.

The coldest continent marks Richard’s 5th for a marathon. He plans to run Easter Island — off the Chilean coast — next year. The last will be Sydney, in 2019.

Richard Garland in 5 marathons. Clockwise from upper left: New York, Tokyo, Kenya, London and Boston.

But 7 marathons on 7 continents is not Richard’s final goal. In fact, it’s just a warm-up.

In 2020, he’d like to run 7 marathons on 7 continents — in 7 days.

“Impossible!” you and I say. In addition to sheer exhaustion, just getting from one 26.2-mile race to the next is incomprehensible.

“No, it’s a thing,” Richard says, as if this is like walking down your driveway to pick up the mail. “There’s a private plane, with business class seats.”

But if he does that, he warns, there’s a price.

“It’s a million-dollar fundraiser for the Adam J. Lewis preschool.”

(Click here to contribute to Richard Garland’s current Adam J. Lewis marathon fundraiser.)

Hail To The Victors! Staples Field Hockey Wins State Championship

Last year, Staples and Darien tied in the state L (large schools) state title game. They were declared co-champs. That was quite an accomplishment.

But this year, there’s no sharing at all. The Wreckers edged the same team — the Blue Wave — 1-0 in the championship match, at Wethersfield High School.

Congratulations to coach Ian Tapsall, and his girls!

The 2017 state champion Staples field hockey team. (Photo courtesy of Sal Augeri)

They were not the only Staples team playing for a state crown today.

The girls soccer team — fresh off their FCIAC championship — fell 2-1 to Ridgefield, in the LL (largest schools) clash at West Haven High.

It’s very difficult to beat the same good team 3 times in one season. The Wreckers of coaches Barry Beattie, Mackenzie Pretty and Dave Sharpe had knocked off the Tigers twice before, in regular season and FCIAC tournament play.

 

Westport Scores For Bridgeport Tennis

Last March, “06880” featured an unlikely sports story.

Bridgeport’s Central High School had boys and girls tennis teams. Had is the right word — budget cuts eliminated funds for both sports.

Andrew McConnell swung into action.

Andrew McConnell

His story is as unlikely as his team’s. The longtime Westporter spent 2 decades on Wall Street. But a decade ago he switched careers. He’s now a 9th grade social studies teacher at Central — and the tennis coach.

Because tennis was life-changing for some of his players — it builds confidence, and teaches leadership and character — he set out to save Central tennis.

Stop & Shop donated Gatorade and bagels (home teams provide food for themselves and their opponents). The Connecticut Alliance for Tennis and Education pitched in with racquets.

One of the biggest costs is transportation. McDonnell — who is on the board of First Serve Bridgeport — got that after-school program to serve as a conduit for fundraising.

He had a bold idea: Buy a van. That would not only help with transportation fees (school buses are exorbitant to rent); it could also be used by First Serve throughout the year.

McConnell set up a GoFundMe page. The “06880” story brought an outpouring of donations, including a substantial gift from Westporters Mike and Becky Goss.

That helped purchase — and renovate — a van.

Then, First Serve Bridgeport endowed the team with its first college scholarship. Girls captain Phonsavanh Keophannga now attends Fairfield University.

But there’s more: FCIAC coaches honored the girls team with the league’s Sportsmanship Award.

And McConnell was named Boys Tennis Coach of the Year.

Voicing support for Central’s program was Staples state champion boys coach (and former FCIAC awardee) Kris Hrisovulos. He cited the Bridgeport school’s effort, sportsmanship and character.

McConnell returns the compliments. “My team and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the state — and more importantly, to allow our players a chance to excel on and off the court,” the Westport educator/coach/mentor says.

(Click here to learn more about First Serve Bridgeport.)

A collage of Central High School’s boys and girls tennis teams.

Westporters Chill Out. And Restore.

Andy Udell stood in a tall tank-like chamber. He wore just a robe, socks and gloves. Only his head was visible.

Super-chilled air — minus 220 degrees Fahrenheit — swirled around him.

His body went into vasoconstriction, reacting to ancient cues to protect itself. His heart raced. Adrenaline surged.

Blood rushed to Andy’s core, protecting vital organs. Toxins were drawn out, making his blood nutrient-dense and oxygen-rich. Endorphins and anti-inflammatory proteins also coursed through his body.

Andy stayed inside — shivering and laughing. That was his reaction to both the seeming absurdity of his situation — volunteering to stand inside a ridiculously cold chamber — and the fantastic way he felt.

Andy had just undergone 3 minutes of cryotherapy. Now the rest of us can too.

Andy Udell, midway through his 3 minutes of cryotherapy.

Restore has come to the former Radio Shack store, on the Post Road across from the Sherwood Island Connector. The grand opening is tomorrow (Tuesday, November 14).

Owned by a group of local investors — including Andy — the new business is a franchise of an Austin, Texas-based company. The nearest location is Virginia.

Restore has taken over a large space. (I guess Radio Shack stored a ton of batteries and fax machines in the back.) And Restore offers a lot more than calorie-burning, skin care, pain-reducing, endurance-enhancing cryotherapy (in whole body, localized and facial versions).

There’s drip therapy. A personalized cocktail of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps burn fat, relieve inflammation and dehydration, and provide energy.

Two signs, in the drip therapy room.

And an infrared sauna makes you feel good by — pardon the analogy — cooking you from the inside out, like a microwave.

And a hyperbaric chamber delivers highly concentrated oxygen, while compression therapy offers leg, hip and arm sleeves. Both promote healing, particularly after races, games and workouts (for high-level athletes as well as weekend warriors).

The hyperbaric chamber.

But it’s the cryotherapy that will draw most people to Restore.

“I feel like I can do handsprings,” Andy — who back in the day was a Staples High School soccer star and is still very fit but, like many of us, now stands on the sidelines — says, emerging from his probably-felt-a-lot-longer-than-3-minutes cryo session.

“The energy boost is great. It helps my mental focus. It lasts all day, and I sleep better too.”

That sounds like quite an endorsement. Of course, you’d expect that from an investor.

So try it yourself. It sounds really cool.

I mean, freezing.

The Restore team includes Lauren Winchester, director of operations; Donna Toth, Westport manager, and lead investor David Kass.

Bob Bowman Leaves MLB

The New York Times has been busy covering Westport sports figures.

First came the news that Kyle Martino is running for US Soccer president.

Now the paper reports that Bob Bowman is leaving Major League Baseball.

Bob Bowman

The Times calls the longtime Westport resident “the person most responsible” for making MLB’s digital and video arm “one of the greatest success stories” in all of American business.

The 62-year-old will leave as president of MLB business and media at the end of the year.

Under Bowman’s leadership, the Times says, Major League Baseball Advanced Media became “the envy of every sports league and one of the most important companies as the broadcast world transitioned to digital streaming.”

Bam, the paper adds,

has consistently been at the bleeding edge of technology, and transformed how fans consumed sports. Bam bought MLB.com and redesigned the league’s website; centralized and ran each team website; created MLB.TV, allowing subscribers to watch out-of-market games; and created the At Bat smartphone app, “the highest-grossing sports app of all time,” according to the league.

Most important, the technology Bam developed to stream games simultaneously to hundreds of thousands of fans has underpinned some of the biggest internet streaming services. ESPN, HBO, WWE, Fox Sports and Hulu are some of the companies that have hired Bam to run their back-end streaming operations.

Before joining MLB, Bowman served as Michigan state treasurer, and was a top executive at ITT.

(Click here for the full New York Times story. Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Kyle Martino Runs For President

The president of US Soccer has a big job.

He oversees all levels of the sport in the United States — from the millions of kids playing to the pros, and of course the men’s and women’s national teams. By virtue of this country’s size and wealth — if not our international soccer prowess — he’s one of the most powerful people in the global sports world.

In the coming months, his job will be bigger than ever. He’ll help lead a US bid — with Canada and Mexico — to host the 2026 World Cup.

He’s also charged with naming a new men’s national team coach, and putting together that shattered program in the wake of the Americans’ dismal failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

If things work out, that new President of US Soccer may be 1999 Staples High School grad Kyle Martino.

Kyle Martino, in the 1999 Staples High School yearbook.

The New York Times calls the Weston resident “perhaps (the) biggest name yet” to enter the race — and “the biggest threat” to current president Sunil Gulati. The 3-term president — also a Connecticut native — has not yet announced if he will run again.

Though just 36 years old, Martino has strong credentials. A Wrecker star — and Gatorade National High School Player of the Year — who went on to college powerhouse the University of Virginia, he earned Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year honors with the Columbus Crew.

He later played with the Los Angeles Galaxy — where he teamed with the legendary David Beckham — and appeared 8 times with the US national team. He scored a goal in an important World Cup qualifier against Panama.

Kyle Martino

After retiring from pro soccer, Martino became a television analyst. He covers England’s Premier League for NBC Sports, and is known for his astute insights, strong personality and great TV presence.

Martino announced a 3-pronged plan on his website, EveryonesGameUSA.com. The components include “transparency, equality and progress” in American soccer. He is particularly concerned about the financial barriers that deter some youth players, and the “mistreatment” of female athletes.

One obstacle Martino faced is that the presidency is unpaid. He and his wife — actress and blogger Eva Amurri — have 2 young children. But he’s assembled a consortium of backers; he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign, and if elected he hopes to turn the job into a salaried post. (Gulati is a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia University, and receives a stipend for sitting on FIFA’s executive committee.)

Kyle Martino and his wife, actess Eva Amurri.

Martino — who has taken a leave from NBC Sports — says, “I won’t be able to forgive myself if I don’t stand up for US Soccer right now. I didn’t dream of doing this job, but I know I have to do it.”

Other candidates include former national team players Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri, among others. The election is February 10.

Win or lose, Martino will retain his affection for Staples soccer. Most recently, he led a project called “Etched in Stone,” honoring former players who died young. He did it in memory of his friend Drew Tursi, brother of Martino’s ex-teammate Brad Tursi.

Martino appeared at the dedication ceremony last month. It was one small — but important — way for him to give back to the game.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Kyle Martino, at last month’s “Etched in Stone” project dedication at Staples’ Loeffler Field.