At last week's Titan Games, a three-day, three-ring circus built primarily around amateur combat sports such as judo, boxing and fencing—all going on simultaneously—senior writer Kelli Anderson thoroughly enjoyed the cacophony. But she was in San Jose to experience the calm at the center of the competition: the imperturbable Cael Sanderson, making his debut on the international stage. Sanderson, who in 2002 became the first wrestler to finish his college career undefeated, approached the much-anticipated event (page 54) with the same mellow demeanor he maintained throughout his 159-match winning streak at Iowa State. "He's very down to earth, very humble," says Anderson, who has been with SI for 13 years, mainly covering college basketball. "He's casual in a lot of ways. Considering all the attention he's had this year, he doesn't have a superstar air about him at all."
Wading into stormier waters by visiting with Nolan Richardson (page 50), senior writer Tim Layden found the deposed Arkansas basketball coach planning a legal battle against his former employer with the same intensity once associated with his Forty Minutes of Hell defense. "He feels he was mistreated when Arkansas fired him last March, and it's not in his nature to take this sort of thing lying down," Layden says. "He may be right or wrong, but it's fascinating to listen to him tell his story." Richardson, who still lives about 15 minutes from the campus where he coached for 17 seasons, has his supporters around Fayetteville, but most people wish the issue would just disappear. Layden, who has written numerous college basketball stories in his nine years with SI, says, "I've been around him enough to know that this is the way he is. He is a passionate guy. Almost everything he says is a speech, and that hasn't changed."
The world of golf, meanwhile, entered a new era last week when Annika Sorenstam (page 62) announced that she would play in the PGA's Colonial tournament. Her decision is intriguing on a couple of levels, including how she compares to the best male golfers in the world, says senior writer Michael Bamberger, who has covered golf and other sports for SI since 1995. On a broader scale, Bamberger says, Sorenstam is setting a precedent for intergender competition: "It's the first step of what can be a long journey. Of all the major sports, golf offers the best chance to have men and women compete with each other." More immediately, Sorenstam's decision moves her into the spotlight, a place where, despite her level of accomplishment and a mental game that Bamberger calls better than Tiger Woods's, she has rarely dwelled. "She's one of the great athletes of our era, and maybe you didn't know anything about her a week ago," says Bamberger, who is working on a book, Wonderland: Vie Story of a Prom, an account of the lives of some Pennsylvania high school students, to be published by Grove/Atlantic in May 2004.