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Olympic hopeful trades sneakers for Army fatigues, all in the name of country and giving back

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sam Chelanga did not want to be a runner; it just happens to be his life story.

"When I'm running, I feel relaxed and I feel appreciative of where I've gone so far and it's a way for me to remind myself to not forget how far I have come," he said.

Sam Chelanga said that life was tough and that he wanted to get out of his poor, rural village in Kenya.

His mother passed away when he was young and then his father fell ill. One of 12 children, Sam Chelanga said he had to look for ways to survive. Opportunity was scarce and he wanted to go to college.

"I thought maybe I could get like a law degree and then go back and help my family," he said.

But, college seemed out of reach. Then, he met a friend through his brother who told him about running and getting a scholarship in the U.S.

Sam Chelanga's older brother Josh Chelanga was a marathoner. His friend was professional Kenyan runner Paul Tergat. Tergat saw something special in Sam Chelanga and offered him the chance of a lifetime.

"I looked at him and I said, 'I don't think I can run. I've never run. And, I'm not even good,'" Sam Chelanga said.

He didn't want to follow in his brother's footsteps. He didn't enjoy running. Yet, Tergat persuaded him to come to Nairobi for a camp with world-class runners.

So, off Sam Chelanga went to the running camp, where he trained for about a year and a half. He won a scholarship and a one-way plane ticket to the U.S. He boarded the plane determined, he said, to use his good fortune to help his community.

For a year, he attended and ran track for Fairleigh Dickinson, a private and nonsectarian university in Teaneck, New Jersey.

"I did very well," Sam Chelanga said, "(but) I just wasn't true to myself because I never went to church. I wanted to go to Christian school."

In the fall of 2007, he transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; however, because he'd left Fairleigh Dickinson before his scholarship allowed -- to the university's distaste -- he had to sit out a year at Liberty before he could run on its team.

"It was the first decision I ever made by myself in my life and the best one," he said. "My life took off at Liberty. ... I started getting better in running. That's when I started winning like NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) nationals."

At Liberty, he quickly became a legend, holding the NCAA record in the 10,000 meter. He won several national titles and was responsible for Liberty's winning four of its six national titles in its history of track and field.

"I definitely felt like he had a chance to be an Olympian someday," said Liberty coach Brant Tolsma.

Sam Chelanga said he wanted to race in the Olympics for the U.S. but learned that he'd need a green card, making him a permanent resident. He started the process for U.S. citizenship but, before he could get a green card, he found love with college sweetheart Marybeth Carlson, a member of his cross-country team. The two eventually married.

Marybeth Chelanga said she'd grown up in love with Africa, plastering her walls with maps and pictures of people in remote villages.

"She was really nice and she wanted to know about my village," Sam Chelanga said.

Marybeth Chelanga helped him stay the course with running and giving back.

In 2011, he graduated from Liberty and soon afterward was offered a contract and salary from Nike. The company paid for his travel and training.

"Everybody in the track and field world realizes that Sam signing with Nike was, was a big deal," said Liberty coach Clendon Henderson.

"There (were) moments that I looked at myself and I said, 'There must be a reason why I'm being blessed like this,'" Sam Chelanga said.

Sam Chelanga said that every Christmas, he'd pick 10 struggling families to sponsor but felt inspired and motivated to do more. Marybeth Chelanga said that people in his village were getting sick, specifically from typhoid because of the water, so they started brainstorming ways to help.

"We wanted to drill a well. ... It's a lotta money," Sam Chelanga said.

So instead, with the help of Marybeth Chelanga's father, he came up with different plan: water filters.

"It's like a giant Brita filter and it works," Sam Chelanga said.

"Each one serves three to four families. And, right now, we have about 100 filters," Marybeth Chelanga said. "We've heard reports that typhoid is no longer in their community."

Marybeth Chelanga said becoming a U.S. citizen was always in view for her husband.

"I knew how hard I worked in Kenya and how hard I worked here," he said. "It's not that I was special or anything. It's just the U.S. system worked really well to nurture my talents. ... That's why I wanted to become a part of it."

In 2015, Sam Chelanga crossed a different type of finish line: He was approved to become a U.S. citizen. When the Olympic trials came along, he ran and finished sixth in the 10,000 meter.

But an Olympic uniform wasn't the only uniform that Sam Chelanga had in mind.

"I said, 'You know, I wanna go to the Olympics but if I didn't do the running, I would go to the Army. I really wanna go to the Army,'" Sam Chelanga said that he'd told his wife. "And she was like, 'Wow. Really?' I say, 'I do.'"

Marybeth Chelanga said the two planned for him to run two more races before he joined the Army.

"It literally all happened this summer," she said. "Now, he's in basic training."  

After seven years at Nike and at the height of his career -- and some of his best years still ahead of him -- Sam Chelanga reported to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.

He was met with a lot of blank stares, he said.

"People thought it was crazy," he said.

"What he's giving up is, you know, a lotta fame and glory and money and success and comfort. And to give up all of that is pretty hard to understand," Henderson said.

Sam Chelanga said Nike had even offered to renew his contract and a friend had offered him a job.

"I just really wanted to do this (join the Army)," he said.

So at the age of 33 -- more than a decade older than the average trainee -- Sam Chelanga started basic training at Fort Jackson.

"Age is just a number. If you wanna do something, (you) just have to do it. I don't even think about (it) every day. I don't even know how young those guys (are). ... Nothing really with basic training comes easy," he said. "It's just like running. It's not supposed to be fun."

Sam Chelanga said the only hard part was missing his family.

Marybeth Chelanga, who moved in with her parents temporarily for extra support in Georgia, said their oldest son misses Sam Chelanga a lot. She is now expecting their third son.

"I think, in the long run, that's the whole point of sacrifice," she said. "I'm willing to miss him, even though it's super painful. ... My parents are super helpful. It's nice having grandparents around."

The family will be reuniting soon after Sam Chelanga completes basic training. He will begin officer school in Georgia in October.

Sam Chelanga said without the U.S., he would not be where he is today. And as thankful as he is to be an American, he said he still cherishes his homeland. He hopes to serve both countries as well as he can.

"The reason Sam wanted to go to a university, or then become a runner, was always to help his family," his wife said. "So the more he's (been) given, the more he tries to find ways to give to others."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


School superintendent resigns over racist comment about NFL quarterback

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- The superintendent of a Texas school district stepped down Saturday and is apologizing after he made racist comments about Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Lynn Redden, superintendent for the Onalaska Independent School District, submitted his resignation letter to the Board of Trustees during a special meeting held Saturday that was intended to discuss possible penalties for the educator.

"I want to express my deepest apologies to the Board of Trustees, staff, students and patrons of the Onalaska Independent School District for the comments I made on Facebook," Redden said in his letter. "The comments were wrong and inappropriate, and have been an embarrassment to the district, my family, friends and to me. For this I am deeply sorry."

The superintendent, who had worked for the district for 12 years, criticized Watson earlier in the week in a public Facebook post after the Texans lost to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

"That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I've seen in the NFL," he wrote on Facebook, according to Houston ABC station KTRK-TV. "When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback."

Watson mostly brushed off the criticism when asked about Redden's comments during practice this week.

"I'm not worried about what he had to say," Watson told reporters. "I'm all about love -- that's what I focus on."

Watson's teammates, including All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, were not as diplomatic.

"I think it's a very ignorant comment that doesn't deserve any more play," Watt told reporters on Wednesday. "I don't think anyone who speaks like that should get any run. It's ridiculous."

Head coach Bill O'Brien made similar comments, calling Redden's words "ignorant and idiotic."

Redden admitted he has "a lot to learn" about the situation and praised Watson.

The 23-year-old quarterback is in his second season in the NFL and is currently one of four African-American starting NFL quarterbacks -- along with the Panthers' Cam Newton, Cowboys' Dak Prescott and Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. The Buccaneers' Jameis Winston, currently under suspension, and Tyrod Taylor, who started for the Browns this week before being injured, are also regular starters.

"As an educator, this experience has taught me that I still have a lot to learn," Redden wrote. "My comments were not only uninformed, but also hurtful, and I understand now why they were offensive to so many people. I'd like to apologize directly to Deshaun Watson. I recognize that given the opportunity to respond by criticizing or belittling me, he chose peace and positivity instead."

"In spite of the terrible position I put him in, he showed himself to be the kind of role model I'd be proud for any of my students to follow," he added.

The Texans, who are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, play the New York Giants in Houston on Sunday.

The league has been embroiled in racial controversy for the past two years after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee before games to protest the treatment of minorities, especially by police. President Donald Trump criticized him publicly and repeatedly beginning at the start of the 2017 season. Kaepernick has not played the past two seasons and is suing the league, claiming he's been blackballed.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Scoreboard roundup -- 9/22/18

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Saturday’s sports events:

INTERLEAGUE
Chicago Cubs 8, Chicago White Sox 3

AMERICAN LEAGUE
N.Y. Yankees 3, Baltimore 2, 11 Innings
Toronto 5, Tampa Bay 2
Detroit 5, Kansas City 4
Cleveland 5, Boston 4, 11 Innings
Houston 10, L.A. Angels 5
Seattle 13, Texas 0
Oakland 3, Minnesota 2

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 3
St. Louis 5, San Francisco 4, 10 Innings
Washington 6, N.Y. Mets 0
Pittsburgh 3, Milwaukee 0
Miami 5, Cincinnati 1
Colorado 5, Arizona 1
L.A. Dodgers 7, San Diego 2

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PRESEASON
Pittsburgh 7, Columbus 3
Minnesota 7, Colorado 0
Tampa Bay 5, Nashville 2
Toronto 3, Buffalo 2
Detroit 4, Boston 3
N.Y. Islanders 5, N.Y. Rangers 2
Montreal 3, Ottawa 2
Florida 4, Dallas 3
Arizona 6, Anaheim 1
Calgary 5, Vancouver 2
Vegas 5, San Jose 4

TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL
(1) Alabama 45, (22) Texas A&M 23
(2) Georgia 43, Missouri 29
(3) Clemson 49, Georgia Tech 21
(4) Ohio St. 49, Tulane 6
(5) Oklahoma 28, Army 21
(6) LSU 38, Louisiana Tech 21
(7) Stanford 38, (20) Oregon 31
(8) Notre Dame 56, Wake Forest 27
(9) Auburn 34, Arkansas 3
(10) Washington 27, Arizona St. 20
(12) West Virginia 35, Kansas St. 6
Old Dominion 49, (13) Virginia Tech 35
Kentucky 28, (14) Mississippi St. 7
Texas Tech 41, (15) Oklahoma St. 17
Texas 31, (17) TCU 16
(18) Wisconsin 28, Iowa 17
(19) Michigan 56, Nebraska 10
(21) Miami 31, FIU 17
Purdue 30, (23) Boston 13
(24) Michigan St. 35, Indiana 21
(25) BYU 30, McNeese St. 3

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Iowa State mourns slain star golfer with sea of yellow, video tribute

ABC News(DES MOINES) -- On most game days, the stands filled with fans for the Iowa State Cyclones football team are a riotous mix of colors.

But on Saturday morning, all you could see was a sea of solemn yellow, a tribute to a beloved star golfer who was killed earlier this week.

Celia Barquin Arozamena, recently named Iowa State’s female athlete of the year, was found dead with stab wounds in a pond on a golf course on Monday. Hours later, a man, who according to court documents, has a criminal background who had purportedly made statements recently "to the effect of having an urge to rape and kill a woman," according to court documents, was charged with her murder.

The 22-year-old golfer was a native of Spain and her murder sent shockwaves from the nation's heartland to her hometown of Reocín, Spain, which held three days of mourning and condemned the "vile act" that took her life.

At the Cyclones' game on Saturday, fans and supporters wore yellow -- Barquin Arozamena's favorite color and a symbol of her Spanish roots. Cheerleaders wore yellow ribbons in their hair and players on the field wore yellow wristbands. Many wore a sticker with the letters 'CBA' -- Barquin Arozamena's initials -- on their T-shirts.

A video tribute played on a giant screen, the band used a formation that spelled out her initials, both teams wore a decal on their helmets in her memory, and players, cheerleaders and fans -- all 60,000 of them -- observed a moment of silence before the national anthem was played.

Barquin, the Cyclones’ first conference champion in 25 years, was finishing up her degree at Iowa State and working toward her ultimate goal of becoming a professional golfer.

"It's just a horrific, horrific senseless death," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Tuesday.

Reynolds' statement was echoed by Iowa State head women's golf coach Christie Martens.

"We are all devastated," Martens said in a statement.

"Celia was a beautiful person who was loved by all her teammates and friends. She loved Iowa State and was an outstanding representative for our school. We will never forget her competitive drive to be the best and her passion for life."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Scoreboard roundup -- 9/21/18

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Friday’s sports events:

INTERLEAGUE
Chicago White Sox 10, Chicago Cubs 4

AMERICAN LEAGUE
N.Y. Yankees 10, Baltimore 8
Tampa Bay 11, Toronto 3
Boston 7, Cleveland 5
Kansas City 4, Detroit 3
Texas 8 Seattle 3, 7 Innings
Houston 11, L.A. Angels 3
Oakland 7, Minnesota 6, 10 Innings

NATIONAL LEAGUE
N.Y. Mets 4, Washington 2
Milwaukee 8, Pittsburgh 3
Miami 1, Cincinnati 0, 10 Innings
Atlanta 6, Philadelphia 5
St. Louis 5, San Francisco 3
Colorado 6, Arizona 2
San Diego 5, L.A. Dodgers 3

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PRESEASON
N.Y. Islanders 3, Philadelphia 2
Carolina 5, Washington 1
Chicago 5, Ottawa 2
Toronto 5, Buffalo 3
Tampa Bay 5, Nashville 1
St. Louis 3, Columbus 0
Winnipeg 4, Calgary 3

TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL
(11) Penn St. 63, Illinois 24
(16) UCF 56, FAU 36

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Blind teen scores 2 touchdowns during game

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Brophy College Prep's freshman running back No. 45 is a star.

Last week, during a freshman game, Adonis Watt, 14, scored not one, but two touchdowns for the Brophy Prep Broncos in Phoenix helping them win against Mesa Mountain View.

But there's more to his star power — Watt is blind due to a rare condition of congenital glaucoma but he said that didn't stop him at all.

"Eyesight is just really overrated," he said Friday. "You don't really need it to do whatever you want. ... (I just) try my hardest and just give it all and leave it all on the field."

 "You know, scoring those touchdowns felt like a big weight was off my shoulders. (It) felt like all the hard work, all the dedication, all the conditioning, all the waking up early in the morning finally just paid off," he told ABC News. "I'm just glad I did it."

It was Watt's second game but during the first game, against Gilbert Highland in August, the defense had let him score.

This time, though, he scored on plays that he'd practiced with his team over and over again — with no help from the other team.

"It was very exciting to finally just get in the end zone (and) know what it felt like to score for your team," he said Friday. "It was, in many ways, very indescribable. ... I just did my job and just powered it in."

Off the field and in the hallways of his school, Watt gets help from his classmates. His teammates said he was the glue that kept them together.

On Friday, he shared with ABC News about how he overcame struggles. He said his biggest dream was going to the NFL.

"You know, blindness shouldn't define you. ... Have faith. Have hope," he said. "Just trust your abilities because mountains do move, you just have to keep pushing them and pushing them and pushing them."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'What bothers me is that he has time': LeBron James says of Trump taking shots on him

Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(LOS ANGELES) -- LeBron James has never been one to hold back his disapproval on the actions and remarks of President Donald Trump, and he criticized the president again in his most recent interview, expressing worry that the president can even find the time to take shots at him.

"What bothers me is that he has time to even do that," James told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Thursday. "Like, you really got this much time that you can comment on me?"

On Aug. 3, Trump appeared to make a dig at James' intelligence after CNN anchor Don Lemon interviewed him. In a tweet, Trump described Lemon as "the dumbest man on television" who "made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do."

James laughed when asked if it bothered him when Trump calls him dumb, according to The Reporter.

"No, because I'm not," he says. "That's like somebody saying I can't play ball. That doesn't bother me at all."

The NBA star has a long history of railing against the president.

When Trump withdrew the Golden State Warriors' invitation to the White House in 2017 after point guard Stephen Curry said he would skip the traditional championship visit, James tweeted at the president, calling him a "bum" and highlighting that Curry "already said he ain't going!"

"Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!" James wrote.

During the NBA finals in June, James told reporters that neither team wanted to visit the White House.

"I mean, I know no matter who this series, no one's ... no one wants the invite anyway," he said.

In August 2017, after the Charlottesville protests turned violent, James tweeted that "hate has always existed in America," but "Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!"

James, who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, has also spoken out on Trump's immigration policies and rejected the characterization of Trump's comments to Billy Bush in the 2005 Access Hollywood video as "locker room talk."

"That's not locker room talk," James told reporters in October 2016. "That's trash talk."

James spoke to the reporter on his recent move to Los Angeles to join the Lakers roster and his role to 1990s hit "Space Jam."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/lebron-james-conquers-los-angeles-hollywood-1145452