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2022 Canadian Paralympic chef de mission Josh Dueck embracing the unknown

As chef de mission for Canada’s 2022 Paralympic team, Josh Dueck wants to create opportunity from the unknown.

It’s a mantra he takes from Ozzie Sawicki, who served in the role while Dueck was winning a gold medal in super combined alpine skiing at the 2014 Sochi Games.

As other teams set out to the hill to begin training, Canada was left behind due to a luggage mixup. It wasn’t a major setback, but it did throw off athletes’ practice schedules.

Sawicki turned it into a positive: “This additional time to acclimatize, to [get] some recovery training is going to play to our advantage. The other teams up there, they’re getting some training in, but they’re going to wear thin,” Dueck recalls Sawicki saying.

“He just held this really great space for us and just turned what was like a pretty big unknown and uncertainty into an opportunity,” Dueck said. “And then from that opportunity, we were able to springboard.”

Of course, Dueck is already dealing with much more than lost luggage one year ahead of the Beijing Paralympics. There’s the coronavirus pandemic that already caused the delay of the Tokyo Games and continues to define lives around the world even as vaccines begin to roll out.

And then there’s the increasing calls from rights groups, including some in Canada, calling for a boycott in Beijing to protest reported human rights abuses against the Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs in China.

In 2014, Dueck didn’t know whether his luggage would arrive. In 2022, the arrival of the Games themselves are in question.

“There’s a lot of things happening in the world and I feel that my life and experiences really prepared me well to be there to hold space with the athletes and the teams as we venture into the unknown,” Dueck said.

Dueck, 40, was born in Kimberley B.C., but currently resides in Vernon, B.C. In addition to the Sochi gold, the skier won downhill silver in 2014 as well as silver in sitting slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

WATCH | What to expect from Dueck as chef de mission:

Paralympic champion Josh Dueck has been named the chef de mission for the 2022 Paralympic games. Josh speaks with Scott Russell about his new role, and what he hopes to bring to the table. 5:31

He says he was approached then about his willingness to boycott the Sochi Games due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and his reaction still stands now.

“If I compete in the games, I have an opportunity to inspire some change through my life and actions. And if I don’t, then that opportunity is gone.”

Dueck points to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi, who both spouted the positive power of sport as a uniting force. The Olympics and Paralympics certainly fall under that umbrella.

And while Dueck says the treatment of the Uyghur people in China breaks his heart, the idea of a boycott is not relevant.

“I think it’s important that the Canadian government has taken a position. I think it’s important that other national governments take a position. I think it’s important that the United Nations make this a priority as the truth of the matter needs to be seen and heard,” Dueck said. 

“I don’t think it’s the position of our athletes to boycott the games, and I’m not sure if that’s going to have a significant effect on the Chinese government in their actions right now.”

Eyes on the prize amid pandemic

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 continues to rage across the world, athletes remain challenged to find training time and space. 

The Canadian Paralympic Committee continues to take guidance from national health offices as well as top doctors to help inform training programs with just 365 days to go.

“Being diligent to the guidelines that are being put in place, that obviously has created some restrictions for our ability to travel and compete at this time. But when we’re allowed and where we’re allowed, we’re fully maximizing those opportunities,” Dueck said.

Dueck was inducted to the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2019. (Lydia Nagai/Canadian Paralympic Committee)

Beijing hopeful Mark Arendz, an eight-time Paralympic medallist in Nordic skiing, said knowing the Paralympics were around the corner has helped him through the pandemic.

“It has been reassuring throughout the past year to keep my focus on the start of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, acting as a steadfast anchor and point of reference. A point where I can always look towards and direct myself despite the surrounding chaos. Now the goal comes into greater focus, being just one year away,” Arendz said.

1st to land backflip on sit ski

In addition to his trio of medals, Dueck also lays claim to being the first person to land a backflip on a sit ski. The idea began as an uncertainty — almost a joke — soon after he first broke his back in a skiing accident in 2004.

After medalling in Vancouver, those whispers started to become reality. It took less than a year before Dueck stuck the back flip, which he says rivals the feeling of winning gold — though the medal was more celebration, while the backflip was relief.

“Both were akin to skydiving, the level of fear. And then using my breath to reconnect to my senses and overcome those fears was very similar in the start gate in both Vancouver, Sochi and at the top of the run for the backflip.”

Now, Dueck’s role as chef de mission is to guide today’s generation of the athletes as it jumps from the proverbial plane into the Beijing Paralympics.

“[My job is to be] a champion, a cheerleader, and the one that helps them to define and set the mission and the vision for the entire team that’s going to represent Canada at the Games in Beijing,” Dueck said.

Already one year out, there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2022 Paralympics. But that’s nothing new to Dueck.

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CBC | Sports News

Catriona Le May Doan, 2-time gold medallist, named Canada’s chef de mission for Beijing Olympics

Catriona Le May Doan sounds as if she’s ready to do battle.

The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that Le May Doan has been appointed chef de mission for Team Canada at the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

“At times, the chef has to put on the armour and lead the team,” the two-time Olympic gold medallist in speed skating said from her Calgary home.

“The role is to lead and to defend and when our athletes shine the role of the chef is to step aside. It’s all about the athletes. Only an athlete knows the pressure of representing our country on the Olympic stage. I don’t know if you can put on the armour if you haven’t been an Olympic athlete.”

The pandemic and the uncertainty facing every athlete on the planet coupled with an increased social consciousness pervading the world of sport has caused universal upheaval on every field of play at all levels.

The Olympics, which were once counted on to provide a spectacular expression of humanity every two years, are now in question. They are facing major challenges to their relevance.

WATCH | Le May Doan familiar with Olympic pressure athletes face:

The two-time Olympic champion in speed skating joins Scott Russell to discuss why she’s ready for the responsibility of the role and the global importance of the next Olympic Winter Games. 6:43

That’s why the choice of chef de mission — the person who essentially becomes the face of the Canadian Olympic team at any given Games — is so important.

“These are intelligent and thoughtful people who are alive to the issues that are going on in the world,” said COC president Tricia Smith, who had a hand in selecting Le May Doan. “[Le May Doan] is alive to the unique role that all of sport and the Olympic Games can play in bringing the people connection to the forefront.

 “She’s someone who absolutely has earned credibility and respect of the athletes of the team and of all Canadians.”

Indeed, Le May Doan’s qualifications to lead are impeccable.

Paving way for others to follow

She’s competed at four Winter Games beginning in 1992 in Albertville, France with the last Olympic speed skating event contested on an outdoor oval.

In Lillehammer, Norway in 1994 she tasted bitter defeat when, as one of the favourites to win a medal in the 500-metre event, she fell and was eliminated.

“I dealt with the gut-wrenching feelings of failure for a very long time,” she said as she reflected on that experience.

Four years later at Nagano, Japan she claimed the gold medal in the sprint and added a bronze medal in the 1000m. Then having carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, Le May Doan won gold again and became the first Canadian athlete, winter or summer, to successfully defend an individual Olympic title.

“It was at those Games that I would experience the most pressure I had ever faced in my life,” she recalled. “I was able to dig deeper emotionally and mentally than I even knew possible, and pave the way for others to follow.”

Following her retirement from the sport, Le May Doan became a broadcaster and then served as the lead mentor for the Canadian team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. She is currently the president and CEO of Sport Calgary, a non-profit organization which delivers a bevy of sport and recreation to hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and ability in that community.

Her motivation for aspiring to the honourary and volunteer position as chef de mission is both altruistic and genuine.

“I want the athletes to experience the power of the Games as I did,” she said. “They will become the messengers who will take the ideal of hope and unity through sport back to all of our communities in Canada.”

Big shoes to fill

Le May Doan is the latest in an impressive line of Canadian champions to become chef de mission. Prior to 2008 and the Beijing Summer Games it was rare for an athlete to assume the position more frequently occupied by a sports administrator.

“We have a shared history with those currently competing and can truly understand what they need,” said Sylvie Bernier, the 1984 diving gold medallist who was Canada’s chef de mission the first time the Olympics were held in China a dozen years ago.

Mark Tewksbury, who won swimming gold at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, served as chef de mission 20 years later in London in 2012.

“The role is about leadership of our Olympic team,” Tewksbury said. “Canada is one of the few countries to have an athlete in this role. This is invaluable. Only an athlete who has been there can unite the team around them very quickly and use the chef de mission’s position as a competitive advantage.”

Catriona Le May Doan, centre, speaks beside former Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury, right, as current and past Canadian Olympic athletes encourage the city of Calgary to continue a 2026 Winter Olympic bid. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Short track speed skater and 1992 Olympic champion Nathalie Lambert was the high-profile chef de mission at the home Games in Vancouver/Whistler in 2010 where Canada won a then-record 14 gold medals.

“In my opinion we always need someone with great communication skills and an extensive knowledge of performing on demand,” Lambert said.

For her part, Marnie McBean, the three-time rowing gold medallist, has been patiently leading Team Canada’s expectant and nervously optimistic athletes through the pandemic toward the Tokyo Olympics, which have been delayed until the summer of 2021.

“I’ve been determined to normalize the path … the emotions and the roller-coaster ride that come with the ambition to be the best at the Olympics,” McBean said.

“I need to be out of their way not in it.”

The chef de mission’s role has evolved into an inspirational one from a Canadian perspective. The chef is the example to follow. Le May Doan is well-aware of this reality in very strange times.

“With sport being taken away from us it’s more important than ever to show our communities, our country, and the world how sport can heal,” she said.

“Beijing will be an environment which is safe for our athletes. We’ll go representing Olympic values and Canadian Olympic values. If athletes want to have safe space to express what they believe, they’ll have safe space. The Olympics and the athletes wearing the Maple Leaf represent hope and will allow our youth to dream again.”

As it is with her immediate predecessors, Le May Doan believes the best recipe for success as Canadian chef de mission is an unwavering passion for the purpose of the entire Olympic movement.

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CBC | Sports News

The Best Meal Delivery Service for Fresh, Delicious Food — Blue Apron, Home Chef, Sun Basket and More

The Best Meal Delivery Service for Fresh, Delicious Food — Blue Apron, Home Chef, Sun Basket and More | Entertainment Tonight

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Facebook accuses ‘Putin’s chef,’ wanted in U.S., of targeting users in African countries

Facebook said on Wednesday it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that attempted to interfere in the domestic politics of eight African countries and were tied to a Russian businessman accused of meddling in past U.S. elections.

The campaigns targeted people in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, Facebook said. They used almost 200 fake and compromised accounts to reach more than one million followers in the eight African countries.

All the networks were connected to “entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Facebook said. Prigozhin has previously denied wrongdoing. His lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest Facebook accusations involving African countries.

Prigozhin has been indicted by U.S. special prosecutor Robert Mueller as a principal figure behind an alleged Russian “troll farm” accused of trying to sway elections in the United States with covert social media campaigns.

In some of the African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to better disguise their origins and target Internet users, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”

Facebook declined to identify which local people or organizations had worked with the accounts or which companies it had connected to the activity and Prigozhin, a catering tycoon nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of banquets he has organized for the Russian leader.

Ties to Wagner Group alleged

But researchers at Stanford University who worked with Facebook on its investigation said the companies included the Wagner Group — a firm of military contractors that sources have previously told Reuters has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine and Syria.

Reuters reported last year that the group had expanded into economic and diplomatic work in countries including the Central African Republic as part of a push by Russia to increase its influence in Africa.

Russian authorities deny that Wagner contractors carry out their orders and Moscow has repeatedly rejected Western allegations of election meddling. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wagner has no public profile and has never commented about its activities. Prigozhin has denied links to Wagner.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have vowed to step up the fight against political manipulation of their platforms after facing fierce criticism for failing to counter alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Despite the increased scrutiny, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by Russia and other countries who they say may still attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential contest.

The campaigns shut down for meddling in Africa had posted about local news and geopolitical issues, as well as sharing content from Russian and local state-controlled media, Facebook said.

Some of the accounts were active as far back as 2014.

They also spent money on advertising, although Facebook estimated the total at less than $ 90,000 US. The paid social media advertising markets in many African countries are still small.

Researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory, the research lab at Stanford University, said the networks used a variety of techniques across the different African countries.

Some accounts supported a specific party or candidate, they said, while others backed multiple figures. In other cases, the pages appeared geared towards building support for Wagner activities or Russian deals for natural resources.

In Sudan, said Observatory Research Scholar Shelby Grossman, “the tone has been generally supportive of the government, but not transparently so. It does suggest the strategy is very different across countries.”

The activity marks a shift from the previous alleged efforts by the Internet Research Agency to target U.S. voters, said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief and now head of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The “franchise” model of working with local people in target countries makes the activity more difficult to detect, he said, and may have been developed to circumvent a move by Facebook to publish the locations of administrators of some political accounts.

The action over the African countries was Facebook’s second move against groups it linked to Prigozhin in a week. Last week, Facebook said it had suspended a network of 50 Instagram accounts it linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, an organization U.S. prosecutors say was funded by Prigozhin to attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

Putin has been looking to strengthen economic ties and increase exports of military equipment and weapons to the continent, last week hosting dozens of African leaders at a summit in Sochi.

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CBC | World News

Todd Nicholson cherishes role of Canada's chef de mission

December 18, 1987 was the night of Todd Nicholson’s prom. It was supposed to be a night of promise for what was to come next and a rite of passage for the the students of Arnprior District High School just outside of Ottawa. 

But on that night, all of the stories Nicholson had imagined for his life changed. He was in a single-car accident on his way home from prom that left him a paraplegic.

“I remember laying in my hospital bed and saying to my parents ‘what the heck am I going to do with my life now?'” Nicholson recalls. 

His parents didn’t skip a beat. 

“They said ‘we don’t know how and we don’t know what but you’ll do something. There’s someone out there who will help us figure out what that is,'” Nicholson says. 

There have been many who have helped Nicholson along the way — too many to name, he says. More than 30 years later, Nicholson is one of Canada’s most decorated Paralympians, winning gold, silver and bronze medals along with two fourth-place finishes while competing in para ice hockey at five Games. 

Now the 49-year-old is Canada’s chef de mission in Pyeongchang, South Korea, leading the country’s largest Winter Games delegation — 55 athletes — into the 2018 Paralympics.

“For me the Paralympics is a conduit to being able to contribute to society,” he said “I’ve seen the value of sport and what I’ve been able to accomplish doing it.”

Room for growth despite progress

Nicholson will never forget the first time he was presented his Team Canada jersey. It wasn’t too long after his accident that he finished his first hockey World Cup tryout. He carries that same jersey with him to most speaking engagements to this day. 

“Every time I pull that jersey out of my bag the hair on the back of my neck still stands up 30 years later,” he said. “To be able to wear that maple leaf on your chest is something amazing.”

Now Nicholson wants to use his experiences competing internationally to help motivate and inspire not only this year’s team, but future Paralympians as well. He talks about what his first Games experience in Lillehammer was like, back when he says the Paralympics were somewhat of an afterthought to the Olympics.

“I have two memorable moments in those 1994 Games,” he said. “Looking up into the stands and seeing my parents who traveled to watch. But then seeing they were two of six people who were in the stands.”

Todd Nicholson hopes Canadians will get to know Canada’s 55 Paralympic athletes, as the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games get underway on Friday4:32

Fast-forward to his last Paralympic experience in Vancouver when he could barely find his parents in the sea of Canadian fans. The Games have grown but Nicholson knows the work isn’t even close to being done.

“What we need to do now is ensure Canadians know who our athletes are,” he says. “I never have to explain my sport anymore but I would love for the day I don’t have to explain who my athletes are either.”

Embracing the moment

Whether it’s an athlete’s first time or they’ve done this all before, Nicholson is doing everything he can to help them all remember what they’re a part of. 

Nicholson admits this might be the last time he takes part in a Paralympic opening ceremony and Games, and he isn’t taking it for granted.

“You have to have fun and find joy and excitement in this. As much as this is a job and you’re here to be successful, have fun doing it,” he says. 

As Canada’s athletes, coaches and support staff prepare to enter the Olympic Stadium behind flag-bearer Brian McKeever, Nicholson points to it all being a culmination of hard work, resilience and courage. 

“This is the pinnacle of their sport and everything they’ve tried to accomplish,” he says.

It also marks the beginning of nine days of intense competition featuring upwards of 670 athletes from around the world. Eighty medals are up for grabs between cross-country skiing, biathlon, alpine skiing, wheelchair curling, hockey and snowboarding. 

“It’s time to go. They’ve worked so hard for this. Now is the time to shine,” Nicholson says.

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CBC | Sports News

Khloe Kardashian’s Thanksgiving Spread Should Qualify Her for ‘Top Chef’: Look at the Treats!

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Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the fact that Khloe Kardashian is basically a master chef. The 33-year-old reality star celebrated Thanksgiving in Cleveland, Ohio, this year with her man, Tristan Thompson. Though Khloe hasn’t officially confirmed her first pregnancy, she certainly whipped up some major pregnancy cravings for her friends and family this Thanksgiving.  Thompson, 26, documented the epic spread in an Instagram video. Let’s just say, even if you’re recovering from yesterday’s…

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