CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

Following up on the true lights of 2013 sports

Ella Wood pioneers flag football for girls, Ekaterina Gordeeva skates with a new lift, and Boston Marathoner Bill Iffrig has another road ahead.

Bill Iffrig

Bill Iffrig holds the Sports Illustrated magazine that feature him on the cover following the bombings at the Boston Marathon. (Ken Lambert / Associated Press / April 19, 2013)

"It feels as though we live in an age of constant calamity," Chris Jones writes this month in Esquire, summing up a sentiment to which we can all relate.

Which is why we need our silly games more than ever, even amid their blingy, hare-brained, idiot moments.

So grab a cup of nog and settle in with this simple trilogy of holiday follow-ups:

The Pioneer

You may remember Ella Wood, the quiet kid with missiles for legs and a bit of good old-fashioned gridiron grit. All the seventh-grader wanted last year was to play flag football for the Sequoyah School in Pasadena, for which she was totally suited. Yet the league said, "No go, no girls allowed."

Despite going 8-0, the team was forced to forfeit every win because Ella played (her male teammates in full support).

Ella's story provoked a certain outrage, and the league finally relented. This season, with her playing both offense and defense, Ella's team won the Foothill Sports League championship.

"Throughout the season we saw ... other girls playing on other teams, and Ella felt so good, knowing her stand had made a difference," her mother Sophia says.

This isn't just an "atta-girl" for Ella, though she deserves most of the credit. This is a salute to all the readers who contacted the league on her behalf, folks who'd never met Ella but wouldn't stand for such silliness.

Way to go.

The Ice Princess

You may also remember figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva, also known as "Katia," also known as the fairy princess who had it all, then didn't.

She and skating partner Sergei Grinkov were a striking couple — good Russian cheekbones and dance moves like Nureyev. They had grown up together, won two Olympic golds in pairs skating in 1988 and '94, fallen in love, married and started a family.

"I was the luckiest girl on Earth, wanting for nothing," she said of that period in her life.

But soon Gordeeva would suffer the sort of gasping loss no one but the Brothers Grimm could ever conjure. Gordeeva and Grinkov were training when he collapsed and died of a heart attack at age 28, leaving her with no one to cling to but their toddler daughter, Daria.

Gordeeva was 24.

"I had huge support from a lot of people," Gordeeva says today from her rink in Lake Forest, where she trains young Olympic hopefuls, including a second daughter, 12-year-old Liza. "I had huge support from people who gave me work."

It was the skating that kept her sane — her safe place, the activity she needed.

Skating was also how she met Ilia Kulik, another champion skater.

"I felt an aura and an energy from him," she recalls. "I think I fell in love with him almost right away."

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