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After a prolonged battle with throat cancer, Cookie Gilchrist, who was named AFL MVP in 1962 with the Bills and in '64 led Buffalo to its first AFL title (above). Signed by the Browns out of high school, which was against NFL rules, the running back instead took his game to Canada, where he spent his first six years in the CFL. Later, in the AFL, with the Bills, the Broncos and the Dolphins, he was among the league's top four in rushing yards, attempts and TDs in every one of his first four seasons. He was the first AFL back to run for 1,000 yards (1,096 in the 14-game '62 campaign), and in a '63 game against the Jets he set a league record with 243 rushing yards. In retirement Gilchrist was outspoken about the racism he'd encountered as a player—especially in Canada—and went so far as to decline induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
At age 81, former major league pitcher Ryne Duren, whose poor vision and 100-mph fastball once led manager Casey Stengel to quip, "I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head, you might be in the past tense." Pitching mostly in relief over 10 seasons with seven teams, Duren made two World Series appearances with the Yankees, against the Braves in 1958 and against the Pirates in 1960. Fans knew the thick-spectacled hurler (after whom Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was named) as a showman: He typically hopped Yankee Stadium's bullpen fence rather than use the gate, and he often hurled his first warmup pitch far over his catcher's head as a warning. Lesser known was Duren's dark side. In 1965, after he was shelled by the Yankees, a drunken Duren climbed a Potomac River bridge and threatened to jump before his Senators manager, Gil Hodges, talked him down. Duren was released a week later, marking the end of his MLB career. He later worked as an alcohol-addiction counselor.
After a 23-year international soccer career that included a women's world record five World Cup appearances, with championships in 1991 and '99, 39-year-old Team USA midfielder Kristine Lilly. A teenage phenom, Lilly earned her first national cap at age 16 while attending Wilton High in Connecticut, then won national titles in each of her four years at North Carolina. Her 352 appearances with Team USA. are a world record (76 more than the next woman, Mia Hamm, and more than double Cobi Jones's men's record of 164), her 130 goals trail only Hamm's 158 across both sexes, and she was a stalwart on defense as well. Memorably, in the '99 Cup final, it was Lilly who headed clear what appeared to be China's extra-time game-winner off a corner kick (right). Later, in penalty kicks, she netted the goal that Liu Ailing failed to match, sealing the Americans' win.
By Russia, the 2011 world junior hockey championship in Buffalo, where it defeated favored Canada 5--3. Trailing 3--0 going into the third period, Russia scored five unanswered goals, including two from 19-year-old forward Artemy Panarin, whose game-winner with less than five minutes left sealed the team's third comeback win of the tournament and its first over Canada in six games. The gold medal victory was the first for Russia since 2003, and the team celebrated accordingly, reportedly carrying on the festivities at a hotel bar. After boarding a 6:10 a.m. flight, 30 members of the delegation were asked to get off the plane for "displaying unruly behavior," according to a Delta spokesperson. The team slept it off at a nearby hotel before being rebooked on Friday flights.
After she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing for more than 30 minutes on Jan. 5, 80-year-old Alice Ward, the mother and former manager of boxer Micky Ward, both of whom are portrayed in the current movie The Fighter. According to The Boston Globe, Alice was revived and placed on life support at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where she was joined by Micky and his half brother, Dicky Eklund, who was also featured in The Fighter. One family member has since posted on Facebook that Alice was coherent and speaking, and a hospital spokesperson reported her to be in stable condition. On Monday actress Melissa Leo, who received a Supporting Actress Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of the Ward family matriarch, told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts that she planned to visit Ward.