Race walker Albert Heppner, who apparently committed suicide after failing to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. Heppner, 29, finished fifth at the 50-km Olympic trials on Feb. 15 in Chula Vista, Calif., even though he held a two-minute lead 30 kilometers into the race. After fading dramatically ("I just started falling apart," he said later. "I've never crashed like I did today"), Heppner collapsed at the finish and was taken by stretcher to a holding area, where he soon recovered. Three days later police discovered his car abandoned by the road near the Pine Valley Bridge where he and his teammates often went hiking. They found Heppner's body the next morning in a gorge, 200 feet below. Heppner, who would have had another chance to qualify for the Olympics at a meet in May, took up race walking in 1989 as a high schooler in Maryland. By '99, after competing at Wisconsin, he was the U.S.'s second-ranked 50-km race walker. In 2000 he withdrew from the Olympic trials in Sacramento, suffering from hypothermia in the frigid, wet conditions. An aspiring journalist who was studying at San Diego State, Heppner trained at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and was known for the way he embraced new teammates. "Al was the self-appointed welcoming committee and the most outgoing, fun-loving guy on the team," said Curt Clausen, who won the Feb. 15 race. "This is impossible to understand."
A 90-minute riot by 100 Danish prisoners protesting a crackdown on bodybuilding. The uprising, in which an office was destroyed by fire, took place in a maximum security facility 87 miles west of Copenhagen and followed a government order to remove all dumbbells and other weights of 66 pounds or more from the country's prisons and to crack down on the use of anabolic steroids by inmates. Wardens and prison employees had complained that they felt threatened by colossal cons. "Some inmates have grown to abnormal size," Carsten Pedersen, the chairman of the Union of Danish Prison Officers, said. "They have become monster men."
The University of Florida basketball team, to sign a contract with FC Barcelona that will pay him $1 million through next season, starting guard Christian Drejer. The 6'9" sophomore from Denmark was a top recruit two years ago, but injuries limited him as a freshman. This year he averaged 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds, and Barcelona, facing a March 3 deadline to add players, swooped in on the agile player they have courted since he was 16. Gators coach Billy Donovan, whose 15-8 team is on the bubble of the NCAA tournament, seemed peeved as he spoke to reporters about Drejer's decision and said, "What it came down to was himself and his career."
By Fleer, a 2002 baseball card that depicts Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter but is labeled with Alex Rodriguez's name and carries A-Rod's stats and bio on the back. The card was picked up in a pack by Bob Jarvis, a 46-year-old chef from Kent, Ohio, and a spokesperson for Fleer says the card is a one-of-a-kind anomaly. Rich Klein, an analyst for Beckett.com, which tracks sports collectibles, says there's no benchmark to measure how much the card is worth but that the prophetic displacement of A-Rod by Jeter has cachet: "Someone will pay a decent amount of money for it," says Klein, "just because of who it is."