Talent? Check. Tenacity? Check. Our inspiring SportsKid of the Year finalists have distinguished themselves in their sports and their communities in very unique ways.
1 of 5
Before she even turned 13, Chloe had lived abroad, was fluent in two languages, and had hung out with Olympic gold medalists. Oh yeah: She had also already won a world championship and an X Games medal. Chloe — who spent third and fourth grade living in Geneva, Switzerland, where she learned French — became the youngest medalist at a Winter X Games when she won silver in the Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe last January and shortly afterward became the youngest ever World Snowboard Tour overall champion. She has become friends with U.S. Olympians Kelly Clark and Kaitlyn Farrington. In fact, she would have joined them at the Sochi Games if she had been old enough. “She’s clearly one of the best developing athletes in winter sports,” says Rick Bower, head halfpipe coach for the U.S. Snowboard Team. Chloe’s goal is to qualify for the 2018 Olympics and make the podium. “I think I just need to keep enjoying the sport, and everything else will come along,” says Chloe. And realistically? “She’s got a very good shot at winning,” says Bower.
Photo: John W. McDonough
The starting goalie on the New Jersey Titans Squirt team, Luke has worn hearing aids since he was six years old, and in spite of this obstacle he is an integral part of the team. Luke moved into the net a year ago, and he has excelled ever since. “Before I was goalie, I was not able to hear the whistle, so I would keep playing even after play had stopped,” he says. “As goalie I just need to stop the puck!” Luke, 10, participates in baseball and basketball, too; on the court he watches the clock closely to know when the buzzer will go off. Luke is also on the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association freshman team, and he raises money and awareness for the AHIHA by posting flyers in hockey rinks and selling raffle tickets for their annual auction. “I love to win,” he says, “but most importantly I’m there to demonstrate that it is okay to be different!”
Photo: Michael J. Lebrecht for Sports Illustrated
Since birth, Ezra has faced challenges, but he hasn’t let a single one slow him down. He was born without four fingers on his left hand and without a fully formed lower left leg. He underwent several surgeries — including a lower leg amputation — to gain mobility. Today, Ezra, who is nine years old, uses a prosthetic leg to help him pursue his love of sports. He’s the quarterback for his school’s fourth-grade flag football team and is a blue belt in karate. He was the captain of his undefeated summer league basketball team, and at the National Junior Disability Championships in July, he set national track and field records in the 11-and-under division in the 60-meter, 100-meter, and 400-meter races, along with the long jump, shot put, discus and javelin. “He’s very well-rounded and competitive,” says his track coach, Chris Asher. “Every time people saw me training him they would be in awe.” When he was four, Ezra began speaking to kids and adults about his physical differences, and every year he and about 100 family and friends meet at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge as Team Ezra to help raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Says Ezra, “I just want everyone to know that anything is possible if you go out and try.”
Photo: Kohjiro Kinno for Sports Illustrated
When she was five years old, Tionna was finally old enough to join her brother Ty’s flag football team. So what did she do during her first game? “We were on the 20 yard line, and they handed it off to her and nobody could catch her,” remembers Ty, who ran to the end zone to give a high five to his little sister, the only girl in the Police Athletic League. It wasn’t until last November, when Tionna was in sixth grade, that she began to truly test her speed against others, joining the track club that met at Kokomo High. She broke the 100-meter record at Kokomo and at nearby Tipton High. Then in June, she won the 100-meter and 200-meter races in the 11–12 girls’ division at the 2014 USA Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships and took second in the long jump. One month later, she won all three events at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships. And what impresses long jump coach John Alsup Jr. the most about 12-year-old Tionna? “Everything,” he says. “I’m impressed with her focus. I like how cheerful she is. At her age, her doing the things she’s doing is so impressive.”
Photo: Andrew Hancock for Sports Illustrated
Myles has a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in his basement filled with his wrestling trophies and belts. He has won three New York state championships and six national championship tournaments. Not bad for a sixth grader, right? Myles, who is as humble as he is talented, will be the first to tell you that he won’t beat you because he has a lot of power; he will win through the technique he has honed over six years of practice. “As soon as I stepped on the mat, I knew I loved it,” says 11-year-old Myles, who in fourth grade was honored by his school for exemplifying “high standards of character and scholastic achievement.” He also plays first base, catcher, and pitcher for a local Little League team and has led his soccer league in scoring in two of the last three seasons. His goal is to wrestle for the U.S. Military Academy and to emulate his role models, NCAA champion Kyle Dake and Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. Says Jason Goldman, who has coached Myles in state wrestling tournaments, “Myles is a sponge when it comes to the sport. He wants to learn, he wants to grow, he wants to get better.”
Photo: Bill Wippert for Sports Illustrated
2014 SportsKid of the Year Finalists