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Gamers To the End
Rick Reilly
February 05, 2007
YOU UP for a challenge?
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February 05, 2007

Gamers To The End

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YOU UP for a challenge?

I'm going to tell you about five young Americans at the peak of their athletic lives. Your job is to guess how all five lives came together in the past month.

One. As usual, Elizabeth Loncki is acting very unlady-like, just the way she likes it. It's 2001, she's 18 and she's challenging her dad to a push-up contest. He just did 50, but now Elizabeth is hitting 51.

He could've done 100, and she would've done 101. That's how she is. A 5'5" Energizer Bunny, she's the furnace that heats the volleyball team at Padua Academy in Wilmington, Del. She's the darling of the weight room wherever she works out, spotting guys twice her size.

She also reads to shut-ins and runs errands for seniors. And seems like twice a week, she'll get up early so she can get balloons for somebody at school. Just don't try calling her "sweet."

Two. Brian (Cap'n) Freeman is about to become one of the best in the world at something he never thought he'd even try—bobsledding.

A burly brakeman from the virtually snowless town of Temecula, Calif., Freeman digs in, grunts and pushes the U.S. to a bronze medal at the 2002 America's Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y. But Freeman isn't just the piston for his sled team, he's also the soul of it—willing to push for drivers other than his own, just to give them a chance to develop with a few more runs. "A total team guy," says Steven Holcomb, the current World Cup bobsled points leader. "I wouldn't be where I am today without Brian."

Three. If you'd been there when Shawn Falter was a toddler, with those massive braces on both legs, you wouldn't believe what you're seeing now, as the senior leads his 1998--99 Homer (N.Y.) High basketball team. No longer pigeon-toed, he's blocking shots, rebounding like a man on a caffeine drip, scoring when it's needed and setting up teammates the rest of the time.

That's nothing. You should see him on the football field, scoring TDs at tight end and trying to decapitate receivers at safety. And all while being skinnier than a one-iron.

"All heart," marvels Jeff Tabel, who was his hoops coach. "Born to lead."

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