It didn't take long for the Americans to find a replacement for cycling champion Lance Armstrong. After watching his seven championship years at the Tour de France, perhaps American sports fans thought they could spend their July worrying about mid-season baseball or the British Open. Not this year. Floyd Landis, who won despite trailing by nearly 10 minutes at one point, made certain of that.
In the runup to the 2006 Tour, OLN hyped Landis, a Mennonite raised near Lancaster, Pa., as a favorite to win the Tour. The comparisons to Armstrong are easy to make. Like Armstrong, the 30-year-old Pennsylvanian had to overcome a medical obstacle to race to a Tour victory, and like Armstrong, he will now have to overcome post-race doping charges. Armstrong beat cancer. Landis' condition also makes him an unlikely champion.
Landis' problems started in 2003 when he broke his hip in a crash. Unbeknownst to him or his doctors, his fracture cut off blood circulation to the head of his femur. Over the next year, the ball-shaped end of his femur began deteriorating. When doctors finally X-rayed the joint, most of the femoral head had collapsed and ground to powder. His disfigured femur had scraped away most of his cartilage and had begun to dig grooves into the bone in his joint. Doctors say Landis' condition mirrors that of former two-sport star Bo Jackson, whose career was cut short by a deteriorating hip.
But in a lot of ways, Landis is the anti-Armstrong. At the end of Armstrong's seven-year run, he celebrated victory with his rock-star girlfriend Sheryl Crow and parlayed his celebrity into gigs hosting the ESPY Awards show. Landis grew up in a world where television and rock music were frowned upon. His parents didn't even watch his victory ride through the Champs Elysées on July 23-they chose to go to church instead.
One other difference: Because of his deteriorating hip, Landis doesn't look like a repeat champion. He's slated for joint-replacement surgery and may not be able to compete in the 2007 Tour de France.
TENNIS: Struggling American tennis pro Andy Roddick thinks he knows how to get back to championship form: a championship coach. Roddick announced on July 24 that he would start working with tennis icon Jimmy Connors to try to turn his game around. Roddick, now 23, won the U.S. Open in 2003 but has lost his No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer. Connors, who doesn't normally coach tennis, with characteristic humility thinks he can help Roddick: "I would like to try to give him a little bit of what made me what I was."
HORSERACING: British horseracing officials weren't so thrilled when jockey Paul O'Neill headbutted his horse after the equine tossed him during pre-race warm-ups. London media, on the other hand, loved it. London's Evening Standard mocked O'Neill's use of his head, headlining the story, "Angry jockey does a 'Zidane' to his horse"-an obvious reference to the instant classic head-butt dealt by French soccer star Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup finale.