Tag Archives: Canadian

Canadian women’s soccer kicks off a busy stretch for club and country

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

The Canadian women’s soccer team is kicking up its Olympic prep

This summer in Tokyo, the team will play for its third consecutive Olympic medal after winning the bronze matches in 2012 and ’16. On April 21 — exactly three months from the start of the tournament — Canada will learn its path to another podium when the draw to assign teams their opponents for the group stage is held.

In the meantime, many of Canada’s players are kicking off a busy stretch for both club and country. Here’s what happening:

Club

The U.S.-based National Women’s Soccer League returns today with the second installment of the Challenge Cup. The month-long tournament was born last summer as an alternative to trying to pull off a conventional regular season and playoffs during a pandemic. It went well enough that the NWSL decided to keep the Challenge Cup and use it to kick off the 2021 season. The tournament runs through May 8 and will be followed by a 24-match (for each team) regular season from May 15-Oct. 30. The NWSL playoffs open Nov. 6 and culminate with the championship game on Nov. 20.

A few things are different about this year’s Challenge Cup. It won’t be played in a bubble, like last year’s in Salt Lake City. Matches will take place in teams’ home stadiums, with some fans in attendance where allowed. There are 10 teams this time, not eight. The Orlando Pride are back after missing the 2020 tournament because of an outbreak, while Racing Louisville FC joins as an expansion team. Also, New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC was rebranded as NJ/NY Gotham FC.

More than a dozen Canadians play in the NWSL, including four on the defending Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash. Canadian national-team captain and all-time international goals leader Christine Sinclair is still with Portland Thorns FC. Get a full breakdown of the Challenge Cup — including details on each team and their key players — by reading this piece by CBC Sports’ Signa Butler.

While the top women’s pro soccer league in North America is just kicking off, Europe’s top club competition is nearing an end. Three of the four spots in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals are filled, and the last will be decided April 18. That’s when French powerhouse Lyon, which is going for its sixth consecutive title, plays the second leg of its quarter-final matchup vs. Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon won the opener 1-0 on the road before the second leg was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.

Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan plays for Lyon, and fellow national-team members Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence are on PSG. There’s one Canadian on the three teams who have already made the semis: Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming.

Country

The Canadian women’s national team played its first match since February’s SheBelieves Cup tournament today in Wales. Canada, ranked eighth in the world, won the friendly 3-0 over the 31st-ranked Welsh. There was some bad news, though, as Sinclair left in the first half with an apparent foot or ankle injury. The extent of the injury was unclear at our publish time. Next up is a friendly vs. No. 6 England on Tuesday.

Buchanan was left off Canada’s roster for the friendlies as her club deals with its outbreak, and veteran midfielder Diana Matheson was also among the players listed as out for “medical reasons.” But just about every other key player is there in the UK as rookie coach Bev Priestman ramps up preparations for the Olympics. Sinclair and several other NWSL players are missing the start of the Challenge Cup for these matches. For more on the pair of friendlies and why they’re important for Canada, read this story by Signa Butler.

Deanne Rose opened the scoring in the first half, as Canada went on to beat Wales 3-0 in an international friendly in Cardiff in the United Kingdom. 1:07

Quickly…

Canada scraped into the playoffs at the men’s curling world championship. Last night’s clutch 6-4 win over Norway clinched a spot in the six-team playoffs and also guaranteed Canada an entry in the 2022 Olympic men’s tournament. Both were in doubt after Brendan Bottcher’s rink lost back-to-back tough matchups vs. Russia and defending champion Sweden on Wednesday. The pressure is off a bit now, but the Canadians are still in a tough spot. After beating Germany today to finish the round robin with a 9-4 record, they’re going to wind up either third or fourth in the standings. That means having to win an elimination game tonight at 9 p.m. ET in order to join Russia, Sweden and the winner of the other elimination game in the semifinals. At our publish time, Canada’s opponent was still unknown. But you can follow CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux’s Twitter feed for up-to-the-second updates. You can also join Devin and Colleen Jones for That Curling Show tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Sports YouTube channel. They’ll be setting up Canada’s game and the rest of the playoffs.

Justin Rose stayed atop the Masters. The 2016 Olympic gold medallist shot a 7-under first round yesterday to open up a four-shot lead. Some of that evaporated today as Rose meandered to an even-par second round, but he still led by two strokes at our publish time. Canadian Mackenzie Hughes will easily make the cut after shooting a pair of even-par rounds, and Corey Conners is looking good too. Just before our publish time, he eagled the par-5 13th to move to 2-under. Former champ Mike Weir, who’s no longer a serious contender, shot 1-under today but will miss the cut as he’s still 5-over for the tournament. See the updated leaderboard here.

Chris Boucher had the night of his life. Making just the seventh start of his NBA career, the 28-year-old big man from Montreal put up career highs in points (38) and rebounds (19) in last night’s 122-113 Raptors loss to Chicago. With Toronto down to eight available players due to injuries, health-and-safety protocol and a suspension, Boucher also played a career-high 36 minutes. Read more about the game and watch Boucher’s highlights here.

This weekend on CBC Sports

Olympic Games Replay: The theme of this week’s show is “jaw-dropping Winter Olympic moments.” It includes the wild women’s snowboard cross final from the 2006 Games in Turin, the exciting men’s slopestyle events from 2014 and ’18, and of course the classic 2014 women’s hockey final that Canada rallied to win over the U.S. Watch the show Saturday from 3-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

Women’s hockey: The latest stop on the Dream Gap Tour is in St. Louis, in partnership with the Blues. Watch Sunday’s game live at 6 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app.

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With Olympic spot hanging in the balance, Canadian curlers pushed to the edge at men’s worlds

There was a time, not that long ago, when Canada arrived at the men’s world curling championship and there were those games littered across the schedule you could basically pencil in a win for the Canadian curlers.

There were those “they should” win games — free spaces on the bingo card. 

But those days are over. And it’s been proven this week.

Canada is on the verge of missing the playoffs at the event, but more importantly, missing a prime opportunity to qualify for the 2022 Olympics.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET; Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Brendan Bottcher and his team out of Edmonton have been the mark of consistency for years. They’ve been one of the best teams in the world. To make it to four consecutive Brier finals, finally breaking through with a title this year, is no small feat. 

But an international event with the weight of the maple leaf pressing down is a different beast entirely. And Bottcher and company are teetering on the edge. 

With a 7-4 record and two games left in the round robin, Canada finds itself in a must-win situation Thursday night (9 p.m. ET) against Norway, and then in its last game against Germany on Friday. The top six teams in the round robin advance to the playoffs and qualify for Beijing. 

WATCH | Russia collects 1st win ever against Canada at worlds:

After Canada skip Brendan Bottcher made a runback double takeout to score three to force an extra end, Russian skip Sergey Glukhov scored a single as Russia defeated Canada for the first time at the world men’s curling championship. 2:21

Nothing is easy

It looked like Canada would easily clinch a spot. But then Wednesday happened.

Canada lost to the Russian Curling Federation for the first time at the event. Just a day earlier they lost to Korea for the first time as well.

And then in a stunning collapse Wednesday night, Canada was outscored 7-1 in the last three ends against Sweden to lose 9-7. 

It’s gotten uncomfortably tense now. 

The rest of the world has been gaining on Canada for years. The rhetoric the past decade was that international teams were gaining on Canada. They’re on the same level as Canada now and the pressure has hit a different levels. 

Since the 2018 Olympics, when the Canadians failed to podium for the first time in the history of the Games, there hasn’t been a lot of gold to talk about. 

For as dire as the situation has gotten, this is not a time to panic for the Canadians. Bottcher is known for his steely resolve and calm demeanour. He showed it again last night in the post-game interview, his voice steady and his tone relatively optimistic.

“We really need to compartmentalize today. We actually played quite a few really good ends of curling as a team,” Bottcher told reporters. “We made a lot of really good shots. When we get back on the ice tomorrow [Thursday] it’s got to be a brand new game”

We’ll learn a lot about the character of this team in the coming days. And past history shows they’ll meet the moment. 

There’s no question it’s been a wild and somewhat wacky bonspiel to this point. Consider where Switzerland, reigning bronze medallist at the Olympics and a formidable opponent, sits. The Swiss are at five losses heading into the last two days of the round robin. Nobody could have predicted that. 

It’s almost unfathomable to consider either Canada or Switzerland having to compete in a last-chance Olympic qualifier but here we are. 

WATCH | Canada collapses against Sweden:

Niklas Edin scores 4 in the 10th end and lifts Sweden to a 9-7 victory over Canada’s Brendan Bottcher. Sweden sits alone in first place while Canada falls to 6th place. 1:21

Bottcher team resilient

Bottcher’s team knows how to be resilient having lost three consecutive Brier finals, only to rise from the granite ashes this year to win the national championship. The rink is going to have to dig deeper than even before to string together what could become a memorable comeback if it’s able to make it, not only into the playoffs, but a medal game.

But should Bottcher’s team falter the rest of the way though and miss this chance at the Olympics, all is not lost for Canada. 

A last-chance qualifier has been scheduled for this upcoming December, with exact dates and a location yet to be announced. There will be anywhere from nine to 11 teams competing and will include either three or four spots, depending on where host China finishes the rest of the way at the men’s world championship.

The Canadian Olympic curling trials are scheduled for late-November in Saskatoon to determine what team would potentially represent Canada at the Games. But who that team would be could get messy. 

It’s something Canadian curlers and Canadian curling fans don’t even want to have to consider.

It’s pretty simple to avoid. Just win the rest of the way. 

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The Masters is back in its right place — and a Canadian has a puncher’s chance

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

The Masters is back where it belongs

Golf’s most prestigious tournament was bumped to November last year because of the pandemic, and it wasn’t the same. Augusta National looked different, played different and just generally had a less-satisfying vibe in the fall — especially with no fans allowed on the course.

But everything we simultaneously love and love to make fun of about the Masters and the way it’s presented — the iconic holes, the impossible landscaping, the over-the-top reverence, the tinkling piano music — is all back in its traditional springtime slot. Well, almost all of it. Only a “limited” number of patrons (Augusta-speak for fans) are being granted entry, and the popular Wednesday Par 3 Contest was cancelled. Otherwise, though, it’ll be a pretty traditional Masters.

Here’s a look at some of the key players competing for the green jacket starting Thursday:

Dustin Johnson is the favourite. The 36-year-old American won his first green jacket (and second major title) in November by shooting the lowest score in Masters history — a 20-under 268. Sure, the course played softer in the fall and scores were down across the board. But Johnson produced a truly dominant performance, winning by five strokes. He’s currently the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the betting favourite to repeat as Masters champion. If he does, DJ will join Jack Nicklaus (1965, ’66), Nick Faldo (’89, ’90) and Tiger Woods (2001, ’02) as the only players to win back-to-back green jackets.

Bryson DeChambeau is the wild card. The most interesting man in golf is always worth watching because he’s the longest player on tour and the most aggressive. DeChambeau riled some of Augusta’s stuffed blazers last year when he said he was treating their hallowed par-72 course as a par-67. He wound up shooting only 2-under for the tournament — tied for 34th. But the 27-year-old American’s monster drives and willingness to try anything make him potentially golf’s most disruptive force since a young Tiger Woods.

Jordan Spieth is back. When he won the 2017 British Open shortly before his 24th birthday, it looked like Spieth was on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats. The 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion now owned the three most respected major titles and had already won 11 tournaments in just five years on the PGA Tour. But that victory at Royal Birkdale would turn out to be his last for nearly four years. The former world No. 1 even dropped as low as 92nd earlier this year. But something must have clicked because, since then, Spieth has five top-10 finishes in seven starts, and he snapped his victory drought Sunday by winning the Valero Texas Open. Suddenly, Spieth is a top-five betting favourite for the Masters, which he won in 2015 and has finished third or better in four times.

A Canadian has a puncher’s chance. Corey Conners is about a 90/1 longshot at the more respected online books. But he might have what it takes to become Canada’s first green jacket winner since Mike Weir in 2003. Somewhat ironically, considering its manicured beauty and the soft touch needed on its tricky greens, Augusta is a bomber’s track. It favours big hitters more than most courses. Conners isn’t super long, but the 29-year-old from Listowel, Ont., has been above average in driving distance over the last few years, and this season he ranks 10th in strokes gained off the tee — a stat that measures the overall quality of all tee shots. Other encouraging signs: Conners tied for 10th at last year’s Masters, and he’s playing really well right now. Over the last month, he finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and seventh at the high-end Players Championship. Conners is 43rd in the official world rankings — eight spots above Mackenzie Hughes, the only other Canadian with a legitimate hope of contending this week. But the more-astute Data Golf model puts him 16th. So don’t be surprised if Conners is in the hunt this weekend.


Bryson DeChambeau is capable of overpowering Augusta with his length off the tee and go-for-broke approach. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Quickly…

North Korea says it’s pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics over COVID-19 concerns. It’s always tough to get a handle on the dictatorship’s true motives, but a website run by North Korea’s sports ministry said the decision was made to protect athletes from a “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.” The South Korean government expressed disappointment, saying it had hoped the Tokyo Games would be another opportunity to improve relations with its neighbour. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, athletes from the North and South marched into the opening ceremony together and the two countries entered a joint team in the women’s hockey tournament. Since then, their relationship has cooled. Read more about North Korea’s decision to skip the Olympics and the current state of its relations with South Korea here.

Baylor ruined Gonzaga’s perfect season. The Zags’ bid to become the first undefeated NCAA men’s basketball champion in 45 years crashed and burned last night with an 86-70 rout by Baylor in the tournament final. It was the lowest point total of the season for Gonzaga (31-1), which averaged an NCAA-best 91.6. Star freshman Jalen Suggs scored a team-high 22 points for Gonzaga after hitting that instantly iconic buzzer beater from just inside the halfcourt logo to win Saturday’s semifinal vs. UCLA. He’s expected to declare for this year’s NBA draft and be among the top picks. Read more about the sour end to Gonzaga’s season here.

The NHL’s Canadian division is dealing with its first big crisis. All the major COVID-19 outbreaks in the first couple of months of the season happened on U.S.-based teams. But with vaccinations now proceeding much faster in that country while Canada experiences a troubling rise in cases and hospitalizations, the tables have turned. Seventeen of the 22 players on the Vancouver Canucks’ active roster are now on the COVID-19 protocol list, meaning they’ve either tested positive or had close contact with someone who did. Four Vancouver games have already been postponed, and it appears the team will be out at least through the end of the week. This is throwing the North Division schedule out of whack, but NHL deputy commissioner insists the Canucks will be able to complete their full 56-game season. Read more about Vancouver’s situation here.

And finally…

This photo of a baseball crowd was taken yesterday, on planet Earth:


(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

If you’ve engaged with any Americans over the past few weeks — in real life, on social media, listening to a podcast, or wherever — you’ve probably been struck by the feeling that we’re living in two different worlds. On this side of the border, we’re doing virtual Easters, debating whether to keep our kids in school and hoping our parents and grandparents can get vaccinated soon. Down there, they’re posting second-dose selfies, going on trips and having family gatherings. But nothing illustrated the divide quite like yesterday’s Blue Jays-Rangers game at Whatever Corporate Name Field in Arlington, Tex. It was played in front of an announced sellout crowd of 38,238. Judging by the photo, that’s considerably higher than the number of people who took the mask “requirement” seriously. Read more about the jarring crowd and the game here.

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Canadian striker Jonathan David sidelined for several weeks with ankle injury

Canadian international striker Jonathan David will be out for several weeks after rupturing the lateral ligament in his right ankle playing for Lille.

The 21-year-old from Ottawa went off after scoring the winner Saturday in Lille’s 1-0 win over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain in a top-of-the-table Ligue 1 clash.


David scored his 10th of the season in the 20th minute with a slightly deflected strike that had PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong way. The Canadian exited 15 minutes later after a challenge from an opponent, with Lille offering the medical update Monday.

David has 11 goals in 12 appearances for Canada, whose next matches are World Cup qualifiers June 5 and 8 against Aruba and Suriname.

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Canadian Janine Beckie’s scoring not enough to help Man City get past Barcelona

Canadian Janine Beckie scored the opening goal in Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Barcelona in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals but it wasn’t enough as Barcelona advanced on aggregate, 4-2.

Beckie swept in a loose ball after a corner kick in 20th minute to give City hope of a comeback.

But just before the hour mark, Barca striker Asisat Oshoala tapped in from close range for a crucial away goal. She had earlier come close to scoring several times but had been denied by defender Lucy Bronze and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.

American international Sam Mewis converted a penalty in the 68th minute for City.

WATCH | Canada’s Beckie sweeps in opening goal as Man City ousted by Barcelona:

Canadian striker Janine Beckie scored the opening goal as Manchester City beat Barcelona 2-1, but fell 4-2 on aggregate scoring in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals. 0:43

Along with Barcelona, Chelsea also advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League on Wednesday.

Pernille Harder scored against her former team to lead Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg, and 5-1 on aggregate. 

Chelsea will face either Bayern Munich or Rosengård — who features Canadian national team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé — in the semifinals. Bayern defeated the Swedish club 3-0 in the first leg, and they play again Thursday in Malmo.

Barcelona awaits either five-time defending champion Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain. The Lyon-PSG second leg was moved to April 18 after a coronavirus outbreak in the Lyon squad.

The battle of French rivals features Toronto’s Kadeisha Buchanan for Lyon and the pair of Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack, B.C., and Ashley Lawrence of Toronto for PSG.

In Budapest, Harder converted a penalty in the 27th minute and Sam Kerr doubled the lead five minutes later. Both players had scored last week in the first leg. Fran Kirby added the third goal in the second half.

Chelsea and Wolfsburg played their quarter-final legs in Budapest because of travel restrictions. Chelsea was the “away” team on Wednesday.

Harder, who joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg in September, sent a long ball for Kerr, who was taken down by defender Sara Doorsoun. From the penalty spot, the Denmark captain then sent goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek the wrong way, rolling the ball into the corner.

Kerr scored in the 32nd minute, collecting a chipped pass with her back to the goal. The Australia striker turned and fired a right-footed shot low just inside the post.

Kirby worked a give-and-go with Ji So-Yun and beat Kiedrzynek from close range in the 81st minute. Jessie Fleming, from London, Ont., subbed into the game for Chelsea with 10 minutes to go.

The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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Christine Sinclair’s return highlights Canadian camp roster heading into friendlies

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair is back in the mix as the Canadian women’s national team gathers in England ahead of two European friendlies later this month. 

Sinclair, international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer with 186 goals, who sat out the SheBelieves Cup in February due to injury, was among the 26 players called to camp by head coach Bev Priestman as Canada continues to take shape ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in July.  

The No. 8 Canadians play world No. 31 Wales on April 9 at Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff before an April 13 match-up with No. 6 England at Stoke City Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Priestman, a native of Consett, England, who spent the last two and a half years as an assistant with England. 

“The matches against Wales and England in April are again critical to our preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Priestman said in a statement. 

“If you look at both teams, they have had success against top-10 teams over the past two years and obviously England were semifinalists at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, which will be a great Tier 1 test to assess players and where this group is at. I’m excited to get back in with the group and continue building towards where we want to be come the summer.”

WATCH | Analyzing Canada’s performance at SheBelieves Cup:

Signa Butler is joined by John Molinaro and Harjeet Johal, to assess Team Canada’s performance in their debut at the SheBelieves Cup and which players made the most of their opportunity, for the notably short-handed Canadian side. 7:20

Last chance to gage potential Olympic roster

This is Canada’s second camp in 2021 after being idle for 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and various travel and health restrictions. It’s also perhaps the last chance to get on Priestman’s radar look before the team is chosen for the Olympic Games.

The SheBelieves Cup, Priestman’s first tournament in charge since taking the reins in October, wasn’t a true evaluation of the Canadian squad as it was beset by player issues and availability issues. 

They won one game — 1-0 stoppage time win over Argentina — and lost two, a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the No. 1 United States and a 2-0 defeat to fellow No. 8 Brazil. 

While there were positives in the tournament, such as four players earning their first caps and younger players getting valuable playing time, goal scoring continued to be an issue. Dating back to February 2020, Canada has been outscored 9-3 in its last seven matches (1-4-2). Even more worrisome is their recent record against top-10 teams – 0-8-2, where they’ve been outscored 20-3. 

Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada’s reigning player of the year and a standout centre back with Olympique Lyonnais, is unavailable for medical reasons. 

The only new face to the camp is uncapped Cloe Lacasse, a 27-year-old forward from Sudbury, Ont., who plays in Portugal for Benfica.

Canada’s roster:

Goalkeepers: Rylee Foster (Liverpool FC), Stephanie Labbé (Rosengård), Erin McLeod (Orlando Pride)

Defenders: Lindsay Agnew (North Carolina Courage), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Samantha Chang (University of South Carolina), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea FC), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Jordyn Listro (Orlando Pride), Quinn (OL Reign FC), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash),  Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL), Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan)

Forwards: Janine Beckie (Manchester City FC), Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain),  Cloe Lacasse (Benfica), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Evelyne Viens (Sky Blue FC), 

Unavailable due to medical reasons: Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais), Adriana Leon (F, West Ham United), Kailen Sheridan (GK, Sky Blue FC), Sabrina D’Angelo (Vittsjö GIK), Diana Matheson (MF, Kansas City NWSL), Bianca St-Georges (D, Chicago Red Stars)

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Canadian explorer to attempt 1st human-powered crossing of Turks and Caicos Islands

Toronto-based explorer Mario Rigby spent two years crossing the African continent on foot. Last summer, he paddled the length of Lake Ontario in 20 days.

Now, the Canadian-Turks and Caicos Islander is returning home to paddle, run, hike, cycle and swim across the eight main islands that make up the Turks and Caicos archipelago. If he succeeds, he’ll be the first known person to make the crossing.

The six-day expedition scheduled for the end of April will rival the difficulty of his past feats, Rigby said. The mission will be gruelling, but it’s also a sentimental one that will connect him to his roots.

“I get to go back home and enjoy traversing and learning more about the home I was born in,” he said. “So there’s a sense of glory and pride [with this expedition].”

Turks and Caicos is a British overseas territory made up of more than 40 coral islands, but Rigby will explore the major eight — Salt Cay, Grand Turk, South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales and West Caicos, as well as three cays along the way.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow will spend two weeks on Providenciales acclimatizing and completing his training before embarking on the Caicos Challenge.


Rigby will launch his kayak from Salt Cay on April 30, joined by professional sea kayaker and Hudson River Riders Director Chev Dixon of Kingston, Jamaica. (Submitted by Mario Rigby)

What to expect on the open Atlantic

Each leg of the expedition poses its own unique challenges. However, kayaking across the Columbus Passage — the turbulent channel that divides his birthplace of Grand Turk and the island of Salt Cay from the other main islands — is likely to be the toughest.

The passage is around 40 kilometres wide and reaches depths of more than 6,000 feet. It’s notorious for surface conditions that can change from manageable to extreme in a matter of minutes.

“Some folks are afraid to travel [the passage] in a boat, so imagine doing that in a kayak,” said Jarret Forbes, Director of the Turks & Caicos Sports Commission, a body which governs sporting activities in the territory.

No one in recorded history has accomplished a human-powered crossing. Rigby would be the first if he can successfully weather the large swells and scorching, shadeless heat that awaits him on the open water.

“Weather can be sporadic, especially out on open Atlantic water,” Rigby said. “Within 10 minutes, the waves can grow by 10 metres.”

But he’s no stranger to crossing large bodies of water for days on end. Rigby spent two months kayaking the length of Lake Malawi in Tanzania, the third largest lake on the continent measuring 550 km in length.

WATCH | Mario Rigby describes training program ahead of Caicos Challenge:

Toronto-based explorer Mario Rigby talks about his training program for the Caicos Challenge, in which he’ll run, hike, bike, swim and cycle across the Turks & Caicos Islands. (Mario Rigby). 1:49

For the Caicos Challenge, he’s focused on building endurance through what he calls a “be ready for the world” training program.

The program involves training in notably colder temperatures than those he’ll encounter in Turks & Caicos. The former track and field athlete is completing part of his sport conditioning program in Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula National Park.

“For me, it’s more about getting your feet moving and not giving excuses,” Rigby said about dealing with a more than 25-degree temperature difference for training.

He added that he’s never faltered in thinking bigger with his expeditions because there’s no room for excuses at that level of athleticism.

“That’s kind of what stifles people from doing these grander expeditions … My lungs need to open up and become stronger, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Social responsibility and sports

Rigby’s adulthood was largely spent in Canada after moving to Toronto at 16, but it was his childhood on the territory’s capital island of Grand Turk that forged his passion for exploration — cloudless days spent with his younger brother and friends exploring the diverse terrain.

That’s why, he said, he wanted to go somewhere that felt like home for his next big expedition.

“It’s essentially [an opportunity] for me to go back to being a kid exploring my islands,” he said. “Except now I get to do it in a really cool way where I get to advocate for sustainable development.”

The 21st-century explorer, who has attracted big-name sponsors like Arc’teryx for the mission, is big on social responsibility. In 2018, he spoke about climate change and clean energy at the United Nations and was recognized by a UN initiative, MIPAD, as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent.

WATCH | Rigby kayaks length of Lake Ontario during summer 2020:

Mario Rigby kayaked the entire length of Lake Ontario this summer, starting his journey in Hamilton and concluding it recently in the Thousand Islands. Kelda Yuen spoke to him about what this achievement meant to him — and the message he hopes it sends. 2:42

For this mission, he’s planning to advocate for the 547-km long barrier reef system that protects the archipelago’s low-lying islands from waves and storms that could worsen with climate change. Funds raised from the expedition will support the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund’s education initiatives and free swimming lessons for local youth.

But another important focus for him is inspiring his community. Rigby formerly competed in the 200- and 400-metre sprints internationally for Turks and Caicos before he retired from track to become a personal trainer in Toronto.

For young people, both in Turks and Caicos and internationally, he’s long been an inspiration in sport. For adults, he gives athletes a glimpse of what it means to push boundaries after a career in professional sport.

“Mario encourages young athletes to take risks and to push themselves to a limit they didn’t think was possible. He represents long-term fitness,” Forbes said.

“Oftentimes, we think that being an athlete ends at 25 or 26, and for professional athletes you might go as far as 35. But his fitness goals inspire adults to keep training and keep taking on new challenges in sport.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


(CBC)

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Raonic becomes latest Canadian upset by Hurkacz at Miami Open

Canada’s Milos Raonic is out of the Miami Open after losing a close match in the round of 16.

The 12th-seeded Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to No. 26 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland on Tuesday.

It was the second upset in a row against a Canadian for Hurkacz, who knocked off No. 6 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., on Monday, and his third against a North American opponent after downing American Denis Kudla in the second round.

“Just the way it worked out this week so far,” Hurkacz said. “Very happy with my performances.

“Obviously pumped to play another match here in Miami. Just trying my best.”

WATCH | Raonic upset by Poland’s Hurkacz at Miami Open round of 16:

Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont. loses to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in the round of 16 at Miami Open. 3:06

Raonic fell one win short of making the quarterfinals at the ATP Masters 1000 event for the fourth time.

Hurkacz will face the winner of a match later Monday between No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 24 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Hurkacz got a mini-break on the first point of the third-set tiebreak and never trailed. Raonic fought off three match points before Hurkacz finished him off.

Raonic saved 10-of-11 break points he faced in the match, while converting on one-of-two.

Raonic’s big weapon — his serve — wasn’t as effective as his opponent’s. The Canadian won 75 per cent of his points when he got his first serve in, while Hurkacz was good for 81 per cent.

Hurkacz had 14 aces, two more than Raonic.

“I think I served very well and that helped me to stay in the game and be competitive against Milos … He’s a very dangerous player,” Hurkacz said.

“I’m pretty happy with my serve today, and I felt I was returning pretty good. In the middle of the first set he was serving bombs and I was just trying to hold my serve to be there.”

In a women’s doubles quarterfinal Tuesday, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico beat Americans Coco Gauff and Caty McNally 6-4, 7-6 (4).

In women’s singles, eighth-seeded Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., will face unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in a quarterfinal Wednesday night.

Korda upsets Schwartzman

20-year-old Sebastian Korda of the United States stunned fifth-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 for the biggest win of his career to date. And it’ll make for an interesting Thursday for the Korda family: he’ll be in the Miami quarterfinals that day while his sisters, Jessica and Nelly, will be playing in the first round of the first women’s golf major of the year, the ANA Inspiration.

Korda, whose father Petr Korda reached No. 2 in the world during his stellar career, put on a show to delight the evening crowd. He was broken at 5-4 in the third to give Schwartzman hope, then responded by breaking the Argentine right back and finally serving out the match.

WATCH | Korda advances to quarters after upsetting Schwartzman:

Sebastian Korda, ranked 87th in the world, earns his 1st victory over top-10 player by beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. 1:14

Barty unfazed by humidity

The heat and humidity this time of year in South Florida remind Ash Barty of what conditions can be like in her native Australia. She loves it.

The world’s top-ranked player didn’t wilt in the conditions Tuesday at the Miami Open, winning the final nine points to finish off No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in a quarter-final matchup — her third three-set win in four matches in this tournament.

The temperature reached the mid-80s Fahrenheit (upper 20s Celsius) on Tuesday and the humidity made it feel even hotter, especially so without any shade on the court. Barty and Sabalenka got a 10-minute heat break before starting the third set, though the defending Miami champion from when the event was last held two years ago looked like she didn’t need much downtime.


Ashleigh Barty of Australia returns a shot during her quarter-finals win over Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the Miami Open on Tuesday. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Barty faced seven break points in the match and saved them all. She’ll meet No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in Thursday’s semifinals; Svitolina eased past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday night to make the final four in Miami for the first time.

Barty is now 18-3 in her last 21 three-setters, 10-1 in her last 11 quarter-final matches and 12-3 in her last 15 meetings against fellow top-10 players.

Meanwhile, Roberto Bautista Agut didn’t take the easiest route to the Miami quarter-finals.

The No. 7 seed from Spain fought off a match point before ousting former Miami champion and No. 18 seed John Isner of the U.S. 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7) — his second three-set win in as many matches so far in the tournament.

Bautista Agut will face top-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the quarter-finals.


Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain defeated John Isner of the United States on Tuesday to advance to the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Medvedev reached the quarters with a straight-set win over Tiafoe, achieving 11 aces and showing no signs of wear, two days after cramping in the heat during a third-round win.

Bautista Agut lost the first point of the third-set tiebreaker on his serve, giving the big-hitting Isner the early edge. Isner lost the mini-break by putting a forehand into the net five points later, then gave himself match point after a 138 mph ace for a 6-5 edge.

Bautista Agut wasn’t fazed, won three of the last four points and escaped.

“He makes always difficult matches playing against him,” Bautista Agut said. “He has a very big serve and a lot of power from baseline with the forehand. It makes it always difficult, no?”

It was Isner’s earliest Miami exit since 2017, when he lost in the third round. He won the tournament in 2018 and lost the final in 2019 to Roger Federer in straight sets.

Another American man bowed out when No. 32 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan downed 22nd-seeded Taylor Fritz 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4. Bublik will face No. 21 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy in the quarter-finals; Sinner advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.

“The serve was going well today,” Bublik said.

All eight of the men’s round-of-16 matches were set to be played Tuesday. Isner and Fritz were two of the four U.S. men to reach that round.

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Canadian teenager Corbeanu impressing early in World Cup soccer qualifier

After missing out on Canada’s January camp, teenage winger Theo Corbeanu wasted little time showing what he can do in World Cup soccer qualifying.

The 18-year-old from Hamilton scored off the bench in his debut in Canada’s 5-1 win over Bermuda last Thursday, prompting his phone to light up like a Christmas tree.

“It was crazy. I’ve never got that many messages before. It was amazing.” he said.

Coach John Herdman then gave Corbeanu the start in Monday’s record 11-0 romp over the Cayman Islands in Bradenton, Fla.

WATCH | Canadian men’s team breaks national record in 11-0 victory over Cayman Islands:

Substitute Lucas Cavallini scored a second-half hat trick and Canada set a new national men’s record with an 11-0 win over the Cayman Islands in their World Cup qualifying match. 0:55

Corbeanu plays for the Wolves under-23 side in England. While manager Nuno Espirito Santo has had him dress eight or nine times for the Premier League squad’s first team in both league and cup action, he has yet to be called on. But it seems only a matter of time.

Where it all started

He is no stranger to turning heads — or making the most of debuts.

In December, the Birmingham Mail marked his inclusion in Wolves’ matchday squad for the first time with an article under the headline “Who is Theo Corbeanu? The ‘outstanding’ wonderkid in the Wolves squad for Burnley.”

Both his parents were born in Romania, coming to Canada in 1999 with his older brother who was seven at the time. Theo, who came on the scene three years later, says all his relatives are in Romania.

“I’m really the only one in the family tree who’s fully Canadian,” said Corbeanu, who speaks fluent Romanian.

Corbeanu has represented Romania at the youth level, scoring in his debut for its under-16 side against Ireland.

“It was a great experience but at the end of the day I’m Canadian. I’ve always wanted to play for Canada,” he said.

“I have both [nationalities] in me but I’m very proud to wear the Canadian shirt,” added Corbeanu, who has since switched his international allegiance to Canada.

‘More excited about the future’

He’s loving every minute of it.

“I’m excited right now and I’m even more excited about the future,” he said.

Herdman called him into his January camp in Florida but Corbeanu didn’t travel because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. He made it for the World Cup qualifiers, stopping first in Mexico for a few days training with the Canadian Olympic squad.

After replacing Junior Hoilett in the 77th minute with Canada leading Bermuda 4-1 in Orlando, Corbeanu stationed himself on the right flank and prepared to do some damage.

That took just four minutes with the debutant finishing off a six-pass move that started with goalkeeper Milan Borjan. Captain Atiba Hutchinson picked out Liam Millar on the left flank and the 21-year-old forward, on loan to Charlton Athletic from Liverpool, cut the ball back for Corbeanu, making a diagonal run between defenders off his wing, to square into the goal from the edge of the six-yard box.

After the game, Herdman shared what he told Corbeanu before sending him on.

“‘Just as he was taking the field, I said to him ‘Son, you’ve got 15 minutes. Sometimes these moments don’t come back. Go make an impact. Goal and an assist,”‘ said Herdman.

“And his bloody first touch was a goal,” the coach added. “Sometimes you say that stuff as a coach and think it’s going in one ear and out the other. I’m proud of him.”

Corbeanu, an imposing figure at six foot two, says football firsts like his Canadian debut don’t faze him.

“I’d say I’m very composed when it comes to stuff like this. For me, this is just another game. I just took it as another game, as if I was playing on the street with my friends. So no nerves.”

Canadian midfielder Samuel Piette was impressed by what he saw from the teen in training.

“First time I saw him on the pitch, I couldn’t tell you if he was left-footed or right-footed, which is an amazing skill. I’m not even sure he knows as well, to be fair,” said the CF Montreal veteran.

“He’s really mature for his age, outside the pitch but on the pitch as well,” he added.

Growing up, Corbeanu was a goalkeeper until he was seven or eight, switching to striker when his team was down a few bodies. A fan of players like Robinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, he enjoys taking players on.

“That’s my game. I’m a one-v-one player. I like to be brave on the ball and I really like to enjoy myself in games. Play free.”

That includes looking to befuddle defenders with stepovers.

Playing career

Growing up, Corbeanu played for the Mount Hamilton Youth Soccer Club, Hamilton Sparta and Saltfleet Soccer Club. He often followed coach Ron Davidson, whom he says played a “vital role” in his development.

Corbeanu spent two years with the Toronto FC academy, joining in late 2016 when he was 14 after spending time earlier on in its pre-academy camps.

“I was very used to the drive to that training centre from Hamilton, I absolutely loved TFC,” said Corbeanu, who still has close friends from his Toronto academy days.

But he always wanted to test himself in England. And in the summer of 2018, his agent set up a trial at Leicester City, which went well and drew the attention of Wolves.

He visited the club and liked what he saw.

“No disrespect to Leicester. That was a brilliant club as well. But I just felt like Wolves was a better fit for me.”

In 2019, he toured China on a pre-season tour with Wolves.

Formed as St. Luke’s FC in 1877, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC has spent 66 seasons at England’s highest level.

The storied club has been home to the likes of Billy Wright, Derek Dougan, Bert Williams, Phil Parkes, Paul Ince, Robbie Keane, Denis Irwin, Steve Bull and former Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson.

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Canadian men set scoring record, crushing Cayman Islands 11-0 in World Cup qualifier

Substitute Lucas Cavallini scored a second-half hat trick as a young Canada side ran up a record goal total Monday, crushing the Cayman Islands 11-0 in World Cup qualifying play.

The Canadian men’s previous scoring record was 8-0 over the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2018 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying play. The previous high in World Cup qualifying was a 7-0 victory in St. Lucia in October 2011.

Alphonso Davies and Mark-Anthony Kaye each scored twice while Frank Sturing, Cyle Larin, David Wotherspoon and Alistair Johnston added singles for Canada, which led 4-0 after 27 minutes and 6-0 at the half.

Sturing’s goal came five minutes into his Canadian debut. Wotherspoon, Kaye and Johnston also opened their Canadian scoring accounts.

Cavallini, who could have had a hat trick last time out against Bermuda but had no luck in front of goal, upped his Canadian total to 14 with goals in the 68th, 74th and 76th minutes.

Canada is ranked 73rd in the world, 120 places above the Caymans part-timers. And the first-ever meeting between the two at the senior level quickly turned into a rout. For long stretches, it looked like a training game contested in the Caymans’ end.

The Canadians showed no mercy at the IMG Academy, knowing that No. 141 Suriname had won its two first qualifying games with a plus-nine goal differential in CONCACAF’s Group B.

Canada (2-0-0) upped its goal difference to plus-15.

Canada opened its qualifying campaign with a 5-1 win over No. 169 Bermuda in Orlando last Thursday. The Caymans lost 3-0 Wednesday at Suriname, which improved to 2-0-0 with a 6-0 thumping of No. 200 Aruba on Saturday in Bradenton.

Next up for Canada is a June 5 match at Aruba and a June 8 home game against Suriname. Whether the team can play at home in June depends on whether the pandemic-related border restrictions are eased.

Thirty CONCACAF countries have been split into six groups in the first round of qualifying in the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. Only the six groups winners will advance.

WATCH | Larin hat trick leads Canada past Bermuda:

Canada dominates Bermuda 5-1 as they start World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. 3:19

It was 27 degrees Celsius at kickoff Monday, feeling like 29 C.

The game was slated to be played Sunday but was pushed back a day so the Caymans delegation could undergo the PCR tests required by FIFA rather than rapid antigen tests originally taken.

Alfredo Whittaker, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said the testing problem occurred because of travel delays that disrupted the necessary COVID-19 protocols.

Canada coach John Herdman, rotating his squad against the CONCACAF minnow, made nine changes to the starting lineup that dispatched Bermuda.

Only Larin and Davies retained their starting spots. Midfielder Samuel Piette wore the captain’s armband for the first time, taking over for Atiba Hutchinson, who has returned to Turkey to rejoin club team Besiktas.

Maxime Crepeau started in goal, with Milan Borjan returning to Red Star Belgrade. He could have taken a cup of coffee and newspaper out on the field because he had nothing to do.

Canada’s starting 11 had a combined cap count of just 144, with 118 of those coming from Piette (51) Larin (33), Davies (19) and Kaye (15). Six of the seven other starters have single-digit caps.

Ferreira, Sturing earn first caps

Ricardo Ferreira and Sturing started at centre back, earning their first Canadian caps in the process. Winger Theo Corbeanu and Johnston made their first starts — and second appearances — for Canada.

Davies, who had started further up front against Bermuda, returned to the fullback role he fills at Bayern Munich.

Herdman said prior to the game that he expected the Caymans to park the bus, “maybe a couple of buses,” meaning it would stack its defence. But the defensive block was breached quickly with 21-year-old Caymans goaltender Albertini Holness finishing himself in a shooting gallery.

WATCH | Canada looks to keep World Cup 2022 hopes alive:

Canada’s men’s national team squad, filled with as much raw talent as there is experience, has to win the group stage in the First Round of qualification to keep their hopes of participating in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 alive. 10:08

Sturing opened the scoring, knocking in a rebound through traffic in a goalmouth scramble after Larin’s shot bounced of the crossbar following a corner. Wotherspoon unselfishly set up Larin for a tap-in in the 13th minute to make it 2-0 with his 12th for Canada.

Kaye played provider for Wotherspoon in the 25th with the St. Johnstone midfielder beating a defender and then Holness. Taken down in the box, Davies converted from the penalty spot in the 27th minute.

Kaye made it 5-0 in the 32nd minute, tapping in a Wotherspoon feed from the byline as the Canadian attackers cut through the Caymans defence like a hot knife through butter. Johnston hammered a shot home in the 42nd to pad the lead to 6-0 after Corbeanu and Wotherspoon ripped open the Caymans backline.

Cameron Gray gave the Caymans something to celebrate when he nutmegged Davies early in the second half.

Canada showed its depth, bringing on Cavallini, Junior Hoilett and Sam Adekugbe on the hour-mark, with Davies pushing forward.

Still the Caymans managed to slow the Canadian attack to open the second half, holding them off the scoreboard for the first 18 minutes. Kaye made it 7-0, beating Holness after Wotherspoon hit the goalpost.

Cavallini made it 8-0 in the 63rd minute, heading home a perfect cross from Johnston.

After taking down Hoilett, Holness denied Kaye his hat trick, stopping both the LAFC midfielder’s spot kick and followup shot before Davis knocked in the rebound in the 73rd for his seventh Canadian goal. Cavallini goals in the 74th and 76th made it 11-0.

Monday’s game was officially a home game for the Caymans. But the three-island group with a population of some 63,000 has the same 14-day quarantine as Canada so opted to shift the site to Bradenton where the Canadian men had held a camp in January.

The Caymans have enjoyed some success under 31-year-old English coach Ben Pugh, a former academy coach at Ipswich Town. They won four of six League C matches in the CONCACAF Nations League in 2019, including a 3-2 victory over No. 162 Barbados.

This Caymans team was without 22-year-old winger Elijah Seymour, who plays professionally in Romania for CS Tunari. Whittaker said there were too many travel restrictions to bring him in.

“We are in a rebuilding process,” Whittaker said of his squad.

He said the Caymans roster included some “key players” from the national under-17, under-20 and under-23 and “a handful of players that we called experienced players that are 24, 25, 26.”

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