Eye of a Tiger
Groomed for greatness since he was a tot, James Stewart is on a
fast track for stardom. Remind you of a certain golfer?
This is an article from the April 29, 2002 issue
The father has seen and heard the comparisons. Last week a
newspaper headline declared him the Tiger Woods of Supercross.
Sponsors drool over the Florida boy's cross-cultural appeal. His
buddy Ken Griffey Jr. calls him the Jackie Robinson of his sport.
But the father is preaching calm. "We don't listen to the hype,"
says James Stewart, whose son, James Jr., 16, is poised to become
the first African-American champ of a major pro motor-sport
series. "We tell James, 'Do what you know best, and your best is
on the bike.' Who's to say he's the Tiger Woods of motocross?"
In his first year as a professional in the AMA Supercross 125-cc
West series, the sport's second-highest tier, James Jr. sits in
second place in the standings with two races remaining in the
eight-race circuit. In January he became the youngest rider (16
years, 22 days) to win an AMA 125-cc Supercross main event when
he took first place in San Diego in his second pro race. "I'm a
little surprised at the success, but it was always my goal to be
that fast," he says. "I knew I could be."
James Jr. even has a big-time nickname, Bubba, though no one
seems to know why motocross fans call him that. Those closest to
him refer to him as Boogie, a moniker that Big James gave to him
before he was born. ("I'd press on my wife Sonya's stomach, and
he would move around like he was dancing," the father says.) The
son received his first bike (a PW50 Yamaha) for his third
birthday and began racing one year later. Four years ago Big
James built two professional-length race tracks--an outdoor
motocross track and a Supercross track--on the family's 41-acre
farm, which turned out to be a terrific investment. James Jr.
finished his amateur career with 11 national AMA amateur
motocross titles, breaking the record of nine held by defending
Supercross champ Ricky Carmichael. Last year he signed a
three-year, six-figure deal with Kawasaki; he also has a
featured role in the PlayStation 2 MX 2002 video game.
Among James Jr.'s many admirers is Griffey, a huge motocross fan
who first met the prodigy two years ago at a track near the
Stewarts' farm, which is in Haines City, Fla., a suburb of
Orlando, where Griffey resides. The two became fast friends and
often hang out during Griffey's off-season, tooling around the
Stewarts' motocross track and competing in Madden Football.
James Jr., a homeschooled 10th grader, will ride in the 125-cc
class again in 2003 before deciding whether to move up to the
250-cc class, the sport's highest, where megastars such as
Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath await. Don't bet on his being
intimidated if he does move up. When he's asked if it's important
for him to be the best ever at his sport, his answer evokes
thoughts of a certain Masterful golfer. "Yeah, I do," James Jr.
says. "I want to be the best, and I won't settle for anything
less." --Richard Deitsch
Oxygen and avalanches were just two of the concerns of R.D.
Caughron and his expedition team during its recent ascent of
Nepal's Mount Makalu, the world's fifth-highest mountain. On
April 5 the group was confronted by Maoist guerrillas armed with
grenades and automatic rifles. In a dispatch to everestnews.com,
Caughron, an American, said the rebels demanded 5,000 Nepalese
rupees ($64) per climber and their cameras, binoculars and
altimeters. After some negotiation, they settled for 10,000
rupees per climber in lieu of the gear. Caughron stressed that
the rebels were not particularly hostile, as they wrote out a
receipt to the mountaineers before moving on to collect from a
group of trailing Swiss climbers.
Cyclists, out of 192, who finished ahead of Lance Armstrong at
the Tour of Flanders on April 7. For those who might be
concerned that the defending three-time Tour de France champion
is in decline, fear not: Armstrong was riding in the event as a
domestique for his U.S. Postal teammate George Hincapie, who
For more adventure, go to siadventure.com and check out these
--SI flashback: blind climber Erik Weihenmayer's Everest ascent
--Pedal, don't paddle: biking to your favorite fishing
--Trail guide: complete U.S. national parks info database
Over the Edge by Greg Child (Villard Books, 288 pages, $24.95)
Don't believe the old saw that people climb a mountain "because
it is there." Climbing offers unique athletic challenges and, of
course, inherent risk that guarantees an adrenaline rush. Here's
a book about four thrill-seeking young adults who nearly paid the
ultimate price for their climber's lust. But their near-death
experience came not because of foul weather or a lack of
expertise but because they were kidnapped by terrorists.
In July 2000 climbers Tommy Caldwell, John Dickey, Beth Rodden
and Jason Smith travel to Kyrgyzstan's Yellow Wall, where they
are captured by a terrorist group, the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan. For six days they wander the brush with a pair of
knuckleheads they call Abdul and Su. On a typical evening Abdul
would read from the Koran, then go off and masturbate furiously.
Su would sometimes fall asleep while on guard duty.
While Abdul is off searching for food and clothing the Americans
left behind at their base camp, Caldwell sneaks up on Su and
pushes him over a cliff, presumably killing him. The freed
climbers then run into the night, where they eventually find safe
haven with the Kyrgyz Army.
That ought to be the end of the story, but it's not. Su is found
bruised but alive by troops (he ended up in a Kyrgyzstan prison),
and doubts are raised about the climbers' tale. A U.S. journalist
even travels to Kyrgyzstan to investigate their story. Child
produces mounds of evidence to support the climbers' story,
though he seems to be making more of an effort to save their book
and movie deals than to entertain the reader.
The moral of the story is delivered by climber Kate Dooley, who
was in Kyrgyzstan prior to the terrorist incursion: "Ignorant
western climbers," she writes, have no business "going into areas
they've been warned away from and endangering their own and other
peoples' lives." --Charles Hirshberg
On May 1 Erik Lindbergh (above) will make his much-publicized
transatlantic flight to commemorate the 75th anniversary of his
grandfather's historic crossing. Less known about the 37-year-old
Lindbergh is that he was an accomplished mountaineer and Telemark
skier before 1986, when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid
arthritis, a condition that will make sitting in his plane, The
New Spirit of St. Louis, for the projected 18 to 20 hours very
tough. "I think I will feel a tremendous sense of elation that I
did it," says Lindbergh of his flight, which will touch down at
Paris's Le Bourget Airport. "I will have completed this really
difficult task that would have been impossible for me just a few
years ago. That's an extraordinary gift."... At last month's
U.S. Open, his first major post-Olympics snowboarding
competition, gold medalist Ross Powers (SI, March 18) finished
eighth in the men's halfpipe, which was won by U.S. silver
medalist Danny Kass. Kelly Clark took first in the women's
halfpipe at the Open, duplicating her gold medal performance in
Salt Lake.... For the second straight winter, erratic waves
forced the cancellation of the Quiksilver Men Who Ride Mountains
contest, which has traditionally attracted some of the world's
top big-wave surfers. But the anticipated return of El Nino this
summer augurs well for next winter. "It's like putting a match to
gasoline," says Sean Collins, whose surfline.com website monitors
surf conditions worldwide. "You get much bigger storms."
The tides of March
It was over and out for the crew of the Penguin boat during
the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships off Queensland's
Kurrawa Beach last month.
Sports Afield Magazine
This was Sports Afield: Jimmy Robinson duck hunting with Clark
Gable on the Delta Marsh of Lake Manitoba in 1939; Grits Gresham
talking gun control with Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office in
1984; Thomas McGuane salmon fishing in the Arctic. It had style.
Founded in 1887 by Claude King as an eight-page "Journal for
Gentlemen," the hunting and fishing magazine announced last week
that it will end its 115-year run with its June issue. SA's
chief operating officer, Ken Elliott, says "the two-year-long
recession, compounded by the events of last fall" did the
magazine in. But to many longtime readers of America's Original
Outdoor Magazine, the end came in the late '90s, when the
publication underwent a makeover to respond to outdoor
recreation's changing demographics. Gone were the literary
essays on hunting ethics, the reasoned editorials about
conservation and the how-to staples of service journalism that
won SA two National Magazine Awards. In their place were columns
on mountain biking, whitewater rafting, even snowboarding.
Sports Afield was suddenly just one more outdoor magazine. "What
made the magazine memorable was that the writing was about the
soul and the spirit of the outdoors," says Gresham, an SA writer
and editor for four decades. "Eventually it got away from what
made it great." --Albert Chen