Canada’s World Cup qualifying game scheduled for March 28 in the Cayman Islands will now be played in Bradenton, Fla.
The match will be played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where the Canadian team held a camp in January.
The Canadian men kick off their Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign against Bermuda on March 25, also in Florida. While a Canada home game, the match was moved to Orlando’s Exploria Stadium because of pandemic-related border restrictions.
The Cayman Islands faces its own difficulties in hosting a game, given it currently requires visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon entry. That quarantine period is being reduced to 10 as of March 22, providing visitors have been vaccinated.
The Canadian men are currently ranked 73rd in the world compared to No. 169 for Bermuda and No. 193 for the Cayman Islands.
Canada is 5-0-4 all-time against Bermuda and has won the last three meetings, outscoring the Bermudians 9-2.
Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, inspectors were still catching Ontario long-term care homes violating crucial infection prevention and control measures.
A CBC News data investigation has found 1 in 12 long-term care facilities in the province were caught breaking COVID-specific government directives between June 2020 and January 2021. Many infractions occurred during or after outbreaks.
“To have egregious infractions in terms of not following standard operating procedure for things like infection prevention and control, these operators need to be held to account,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
The COVID-19 death toll in Ontario’s long-term care homes was 3,743 residents as of Feb. 26, 2021, according to the province. Of those deaths, 1,848 occurred before Aug. 31, 2020, which means the second spike in long-term care homes was even deadlier than the first.
Improper screening was a frequent issue at homes. Many were cited for not asking staff members or visitors questions or taking their temperatures, and failing to ensure they were wearing masks as they entered or left the premises.
Some of the reports from provincial inspectors also detail long lists of infection control issues. While other companies are reflected in the data, the number of Caressant Care-owned homes with inspection violations of COVID-19 directives is high relative to the number of homes owned by the company.
WATCH | Several Ontario nursing homes broke rules meant to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks:
A CBC News investigation has revealed that multiple Ontario long-term care homes didn’t follow infection prevention rules meant to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks with some breaking the rules during or after an outbreak. 2:50
At Caressant Care Listowel Nursing Home west of Toronto, where an outbreak infected nearly every resident of the home in January, an inspector found 12 major infection control violations during the outbreak.
“That probably explains quite a bit about how [COVID-19] got through so quickly,” said Alycia Houchen, whose grandfather, Edwin Rutherford, was one of 13 residents who died in the home, which has room for 45 people.
In all, 43 residents and 26 staff were infected during the winter outbreak at the home.
The violations included staff not being aware of the correct personal protective equipment to wear and not cleaning their hands after taking care of residents; staff working with both COVID-19 positive and negative residents; and hand sanitizer not being available in all areas of the home.
Houchen, herself a personal support worker at a different retirement home, says the inspection report findings are “disturbing and disgusting.”
“They have had plenty of time to prepare and to do whatever they needed to do, and they obviously didn’t do it.”
Caressant Care owns 15 homes in Ontario. Four of those facilities were caught breaking COVID-19 safety directives during inspections. Like the location in Listowel, two others were found to be in violation of the infection control rules during outbreaks in December or January.
The company declined to comment for this story.
Big operator accounts for more than 20% of violations
Extendicare, one of Ontario’s largest long-term care operators, which owns or manages 69 facilities in the province, was cited for the most violations of infection control and prevention directives.
Homes owned by the company accounted for 13 per cent of the provincial total of 60 violations. When homes the company manages are included, that increases to 22 per cent of the violations.
Other big chains such as Sienna Senior Living and Revera accounted for three and five per cent, respectively.
Inspection citations against Ontario’s long-term care homes hardly ever come with any consequences. Homes are asked to fix the problem, but even if an inspector returns and finds the same issue, there are no fines or penalties. In very rare cases, homes are barred from accepting new residents.
Extendicare says inspectors visited its owned and managed homes almost 200 times in the past six months.
“While some inspections do report issues related to COVID directives that require attention, these represent a small minority of the visits,” Extendicare said in a statement to CBC News. “While our goal is to have no issues, it’s important to note that in 93 per cent of the inspections, there were no COVID-related compliance issues.”
For-profit long-term care homes received 70 per cent of the violation citations despite accounting for 56 per cent of the homes in the province. An additional eight per cent of the violations were found in non-profit homes managed by for-profit companies.
That for-profit operators are over-represented in the findings isn’t surprising to Tamara Daly, the director of York University’s Centre for Aging Research and Education. She has been studying the differences between for-profit and non-profit care for years.
“I think, at the end of the day, the working conditions and the caring conditions have been shown to be worse at for-profit facilities and the research data backs this up, both pre-pandemic and during the pandemic,” she said.
CBC News sent the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care its findings from the inspection reports. It responded with a statement that said inspectors monitor for the health, safety and quality of care of residents.
“Repeated non-compliance is a serious concern and can result in escalated measures and sanctions by the ministry,” the statement says.
Inspectors spot infection control issues during outbreaks
Of the infection control and prevention violations, 52 per cent occurred in homes either during or after an outbreak.
The fact that inspectors were finding repeated violations in the same home, or violations after an outbreak, is very concerning, said Daly.
“To get those reports indicating that there’s still improper use of PPE after an incident, that concerns me greatly, because where is the learning?”
Ten homes were cited for denying entry to essential caregivers. Short staffing in homes has been well documented, and restricting family access means residents often don’t get the care they need, said Daly.
It’s also a quality of life issue, she said.
“Being in long-term care is very different than being in a hospital bed,” she said. “You’re there to live. And I think what we essentially did is we removed that part of their care, the living part, the part that makes life worthwhile.”
Infection control important after vaccinations
Even as residents at Ontario nursing homes get vaccinated, the number of infection control violations is still concerning, said Stall, the geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Vaccine euphoria is a good thing. We should all be excited about this,” he said.
However, he said, we don’t know definitively that the vaccines prevent transmission.
The vaccine supply didn’t make it in time to help at Caressant Care Listowel.
For Houchen, the tragedy was hard to watch from the outside.
She didn’t get to say goodbye to her grandfather, and as a personal support worker, not being able to help him in his final days made it worse, she said.
“I followed it with my heart breaking,” she said. “Every time [the deaths] climbed up, my heart was just breaking more because there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do to help.”
In the backdrop of empty seats, cardboard cutouts of fans sprinkled across some of them, and restricted movement unlike anything ever seen at a women’s national championship, the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is set to begin Friday night in Calgary — in the midst of pandemic.
And while the journey to get to this point has been anything but smooth, 18 of the top women’s teams from across the country have finally made it to the curling bubble and are sitting in hotel rooms ready to take the pebbled ice for the national championship.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
This is anything but an ordinary Scotties, with curlers having taken extraordinary measures to find ice time, stay in shape and prepare for the event. Some were even sliding on backyard rinks and ponds and whatever they could find to remind them what it feels like.
Staying mentally sharp for the next nine days of competition is going to be as much a part of the story as the curling playing out across the four sheets.
Curling Canada is adamant the bubble setting will be “strictly enforced,” and curlers will not be seeing much light of day as they travel from hotel, to vehicle, to arena and back.
You’ve known and loved CBC’s curling coverage for decades. Now we’re going digital with That Curling Show 🥌<br><br>Co-hosts <a href=”https://twitter.com/Devin_Heroux?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Devin_Heroux</a> and <a href=”https://twitter.com/cbccolleenjones?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbccolleenjones</a> are bringing all the rich stories, drama and curling banter you can handle each and every night of the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/STOH2021?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#STOH2021</a> at 7:30pm ET! <a href=”https://t.co/NJGhkfaqzg”>pic.twitter.com/NJGhkfaqzg</a>
For months, the majority of curlers have been sitting around, locked away like the rest of Canada, without being able to practise properly — and in an overwhelming amount of cases, most teams didn’t even play in a provincial or territorial tournament at all. The majority of teams were handpicked to represent their area of the country.
They’re going from idle time to a national championship overnight and the player’s health and safety, as well as being in championship form, will certainly be something to watch as the event drags on.
Getting off to a solid start at the Scotties has always been paramount to success, but perhaps this year those first few games will be that much more important because nobody really knows what to expect after so much time away.
And as if the situation wasn’t dramatic enough, Curling Canada has changed the playoff format this year, taking away the Page Playoff system, which saw four teams advance to the weekend. Now just the top-three teams from the preliminary and championship advance to the playoffs, with the best record going straight to the final game and the second- and third-place teams battling to also reach the final.
Margin of error never slimmer
The margin of error at a Scotties has never been slimmer, all in the face of a dizzying amount of unknowns.
This year’s event marks 40 years of the women’s national championship being named the Scotties and it’s a stacked field. Defending champion Kerri Einarson’s team from Manitoba will take the ice as Team Canada having won the title against Rachel Homan in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year.
Skips who have won the past 13 editions of the Scotties will all be in the bubble in Calgary. There is undoubtedly a richness of history and legacy to this event, and the throwback retro uniforms the teams will wear is a tip of the cap to all the great moments from the past.
There is no shortage of storylines.
Will Jennifer Jones be able to capture a historic seventh Scotties title, allowing her to surpass Colleen Jones for most championships ever as a skip?
Can Homan regain her winning form, having lost the past two Scotties finals in extra ends?
Then there’s Chelsea Carey, who didn’t think she’d be playing this year after her team disbanded during the off-season — only to get the call from Team Tracy Fleury to take the place of Fleury herself, who is staying home with her daughter due to health concerns.
There are five Manitoba teams with the addition of two extra wild-card spots, including MacKenzie Zacharias’ world junior champion team. How will some of the younger teams handle the bright lights of the big bonspiel?
What about upsets? There could be plenty. And one of those dark horse teams could very well be Suzanne Birt’s Prince Edward Island foursome who are always in the mix — and have been on the ice for much of the winter.
There are familiar faces. There are new faces. And there’s not a lot of time to figure things out. A couple of early losses will spell disaster for teams — and so it’ll be fascinating to see if the veterans can lean on their experience or if it’ll be the younger teams that don’t really have a lot to go on who rise to the top early.
The teams in Calgary are separated into two pools of nine, and have been seeded based on their final standing in the 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System.
They will play a full round robin within their respective pools, and then the top four teams in each pool will move on to the championship pool starting Friday, Feb. 26. They will then play four more games against the teams from the other pool with their preliminary pool records carried forward.
From there, the top three teams will make the playoffs — the first-place team after the championship round will go straight to the gold-medal game, while the second and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal.
Winning teams earns Olympic trials berth
The winning team earns a spot at the Olympic trials in November and also will play as Team Canada at the Scotties next year in Thunder Bay.
It also takes home $ 100,000.
Normally the winning team would also represent Canada at the women’s world championship — but the World Curling Federation had to cancel the event that was slated for mid-March in Switzerland. At this point there’s no word on whether the event will be in a different location this winter or spring or if they plan to move it to next fall.
It will be a crucial event when it does take place with Canada needing a top-six finish to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
There is a lot at stake, but with Scotties curling is officially back.
Canada will play England in a women’s soccer friendly on April 13 as part of its preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
Canada Soccer called it an away match but said location will be announced at a later date. The game falls during the April FIFA international window.
England is ranked sixth in the world while the Canadians are tied for No. 8 with Brazil.
The match will be a reunion of sorts.
Bev Priestman, an English native who took over the Canadian team in November, left Canada Soccer in August 2018 to become an assistant coach with England under Phil Neville.
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson, meanwhile, left her job as Canadian youth coach and senior assistant coach last month to become an assistant coach job with the English women.
Canada is 6-7-0 all-time against England. The Canadians won the last meeting between the two, in April 2019 in Manchester, England, on the strength of a Christine Sinclair goal in the 80th minute.
That 1-0 win avenged a 2-1 quarterfinal loss to the Lionesses in Vancouver at the 2015 World Cup.
Canada has won two of their last three meetings but lost four straight to the English prior to that. The teams first met in June 1995 in Helsingborg, Sweden, in the World Cup debut for both. England won 3-2.
Return to the pitch
The Canadian women return to action later this month at the four-country SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. Canada opens Feb. 18 against the top-ranked U.S before facing No. 31 Argentina on Feb. 21 and No. 8 Brazil on Feb. 24.
Canada last played March 10, 2020, when it tied Brazil 2-2 at an international tournament in France.
A growing number of Canadians now play in the FA Women’s Super League in England. They include Janine Beckie (Manchester City), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Rylee Foster (Liverpool), Adriana Leon (West Ham) and Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham).
The Canadian women won bronze at the last two Olympics. England will be part of a Great Britain entry in the Olympic soccer tournament slated to run July 21 to Aug. 6.
Canadian Olympians will tell you it’s a privilege to sport the maple leaf.
But with that often comes crushing expectations, especially when you’re a Canadian curler or hockey player and the expectation is gold or bust. Anything else is not good enough.
Now with just one year to go until the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the pressure is ramping up again. With added weight.
For the first time since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, when curling and women’s hockey were added, Team Canada will take to the ice for a Winter Games without being defending champions in any one of the four men’s and women’s curling and hockey events.
This is uncharted territory for a nation that prides itself on being the best hockey and curling nation in the world. But in PyeongChang, that wasn’t the case.
Neither Canada’s men’s nor women’s curling teams won medals, the first time either team missed the podium in five Olympics. It sent a shockwave through Canada’s curling community.
The men, skipped by Kevin Koe, finished fourth, while the women’s team, led by Rachel Homan, missed the playoffs entirely. There was a gold medal won by Kailtyn Lawes and John Morris in the inaugural mixed doubles event, but the shutout in the traditional men’s and women’s tournaments was difficult to process.
2018 called ‘an aberration’
“We are a sport that has produced medal after medal, world champion after world champion. I would characterize this as a bit of an aberration in our system,” Katherine Henderson, Curling Canada CEO, said at the time.
On the hockey side, the women’s team suffered a heartbreaking shootout defeat in the gold medal game to the Americans — the pain and emotion of the loss evident as Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque took her silver medal off during the ceremony.
She later apologized, saying “in the moment, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, and my emotions got the better of me.”
‘Hurts to think about’
The men’s team, without NHL players, rallied for bronze after being defeated by Germany in the semifinal game, a loss that was devastating for Team Canada GM Sean Burke.
“It hurts sometimes to think about,” Burke said that February. “We played our best hockey in all but one period against the Germans.”
So after sweeping gold in all of those traditional team sports four years earlier in Sochi, there just was just one silver and one bronze in PyeongChang. While the hockey teams mostly dodged the wrath of Canadian fans — they still brought home medals after all — the same couldn’t be said for the curling teams. Team Homan and Team Koe faced unflattering headlines, pundits calling for a curling summit and a barrage of online hate.
“It was only a matter of time before we didn’t win everything in curling,” said Marc Kennedy, Koe’s second in 2018. “For so many years we had great results and hadn’t felt the wrath of people until that moment. For everyone in PyeongChang that was an eyeopener. It felt horrible. It sucked.
“Being such a dominant country in curling and in hockey, that pressure just comes with the territory. So many people are counting on you to perform well. You can’t hide from that pressure. Win or lose it’s really important to block out that noise. That’s what it’s become.”
Kennedy has been on both sides of it.
Eight years prior to PyeongChang he was part of a curling dream team along with Kevin Martin, John Morris and Ben Hebert. In front of a boisterous home crowd in Vancouver, the Canadian foursome didn’t lose a single game on their way to the gold medal.
Put winning gold in perspective
“I knew it couldn’t have gotten any better. Undefeated. At home. Kevin Martin getting his gold. It was a storybook,” Kennedy said. “And I think that’s what PyeongChang did for me. It put the incredible Games in 2010 into perspective. It’s still hard to put it into words”
From the highest of highs, to as low as it gets.
Hebert was also part of both experiences. When he walked off the ice in PyeongChang having just lost the bronze medal game, he said then it was “rock bottom” for Canadian curling.
“I know my quote at that point was rock bottom. But guess what? At the time it was rock bottom. I was living that life. That’s where I was,” Hebert said recently.
He’s not there anymore.
Hebert is still part of Koe’s team, alongside B.J. Neufeld and John Morris. Kennedy has moved on to a team with Brad Jacobs, E.J. and Ryan Harnden, a team that also knows that sweet taste of Olympic gold having captured it in 2014.
Nothing to do with redemption
While both curlers understand people will want to talk about redemption on ice for Canadian curlers and hockey players, they say for them personally it has nothing to do with that.
“I know that’s what the media is going to write. I know what gets action. I don’t think you’re wrong for writing it. I’m telling you my feelings on it,” Hebert said, never shy to speak candidly. “When you talk about the great curling nation, it’s not even close. We have six or seven teams on the men’s side and good depth on the women’s side who could represent Canada and win a medal at the Olympics.
“Could you imagine if Sweden sent their third-ranked team to the Olympics? I don’t think they’d win a game. Our third-ranked team could win gold.”
That pressure, both Hebert and Kennedy conclude, is a privilege — famous words once said by tennis star Billie Jean King. It means you’re the favourite. It means if you play the way you’re supposed to, you’ll be a champion.
“If there’s no pressure it probably means you don’t have a chance to win. Having pressure because you’re the favourite is my favourite kind of pressure,” Hebert said.
Kennedy agrees with Hebert about the storylines around redemption and also doubles down on Canada still being the best on ice in the world.
Could you imagine if Sweden sent their third-ranked team to the Olympics? I don’t think they’d win a game. Our third-ranked team could win gold.– Ben Hebert
“It’ll be played up and it’ll be an important tag line but for the athletes it won’t matter that much because we’re the best country in the world in curling and in hockey,” he said.
As for Canada’s hockey teams, NHL players will once again be back at the Games, which will no doubt garner a lot of attention.
In some ways, Canadian hockey fans were more forgiving and perhaps didn’t care as much when the men’s team won bronze, because they made the argument the best of the best weren’t there.
It was the first time since 1994 NHL players hadn’t attended the Olympics and Canada had won three of the six gold medals up to 2014.
NHL players return to Olympics
Now the pros are back and the pressure will once again be ratcheted to an incomparable level. Storylines will swirl, predictions on who will be on the roster will run rampant and Canada will once again be expected to bring home gold.
Sidney Crosby might be playing in his final Olympics. Connor McDavid will be playing in his first Olympics. Canadian hockey fans will be whipped into a frenzy.
On the women’s side, there will be the same amount of pressure there always is to become Olympic champions.
The Canadian women have been dominant at the Games, having won four out of the six Olympic golds since it was added to the Olympic program in 1998.
After losing that first championship game in Nagano, Team Canada won four straight gold medals.
Marie-Philip Poulin, the team captain, has been a member of the last three teams. In her first Olympics, at home in Vancouver, she quickly rose to fame when she scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 victory over the U.S. to take the gold.
She ascended to greatness four years later in Sochi, scoring both the tying goal in the waning seconds and the golden goal in overtime against the Americans.
But she was also on the ice in PyeongChang, feeling for the first time what it’s like to watch another country’s team flag rise to the rafters.
“Losing. It sucks. You want to win and it’s where you want to be at the Olympics,” she told CBC Sports. “I was able to be on both sides of it. Looking back on 2018 is motivating.”
Poulin, 29, and Team Canada just finished a two-week training camp in Calgary, the first time they’ve been together in nearly a year. The last competitive game Poulin and the team played was a rivalry series game against the U.S. last February. But being back together again in the same space reignited that desire to get back on top.
“I’m the most motivated I’ve ever been,” Poulin said. “Our goal is to bring back a gold medal to Canada in 2022. We learn through adversity. If we want to be back on top we’ll have to go through that.”
Quite simply, Poulin hates losing. And wants that winning feeling back for herself and all of Canada.
“Every time we have the chance to wear that jersey it’s something that’s super special. I know there’s pressure coming with it. But it’s an honour,” she said.
None of the athletes will call it redemption.
But make no mistake, getting back to the Olympics and winning gold is the only thing on their minds one year out.
The draws for the Olympic basketball tournaments took place today and the NBA-star-studded U.S. men’s team landed in a group with France, Iran and the winner of this summer’s last-chance qualifier in Victoria. That’s the one Canada is in. So winning the event will not only clinch the Canadian men’s squad its first Olympic berth in more than two decades, but also its first-ever Olympic showdown with America’s best players.
The NBA started participating in the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, where Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley headlined the original (and still greatest) Dream Team. But the Canadian men’s squad has reached the Olympics only once since then — in 2000 in Sydney. Future NBA MVP Steve Nash led Canada to a first-place finish in a group that did not include the U.S., and they didn’t cross paths in the knockout round either. Canada fell in the quarter-finals to France, which went on to lose to the Americans in the gold-medal game. Vince Carter (at the peak of his powers that summer — just ask Frederic Weis) co-led the U.S. with 13 points in the final.
In order to earn a date with the Americans — which would happen on July 31 — Canada must first get out of Victoria. The June 29-July 4 qualifier has six teams in it, and only the winner gets to go to Tokyo. One of the countries Canada has to beat is Greece, which could be led by two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — if his Milwaukee Bucks are eliminated from the playoffs in time.
And, of course, all this comes with the caveat that some NBA stars (not to mention the teams that pay them millions of dollars a year) might not be too keen on the idea of travelling to Japan after a long, compressed season… during a global pandemic. So this could be the softest Dream Team in quite some time, though other countries could lose NBA players too.
The Olympic women’s draw was also held today. Canada, which has already qualified for the third straight time, avoided the mighty U.S., which is heavily favoured to win its seventh straight gold. But the fourth-ranked Canadians still drew a tough-looking group that also includes No. 3 Spain, No. 8 Serbia and No. 19 South Korea.
Both the women’s and men’s tournament are made up of three groups of four teams. The top two from each group advance to the knockout stage, plus the two best third-place teams. Canada hasn’t won an Olympic basketball medal since the Hitler-hosted 1936 Games in Berlin, where a men’s tournament (and only a men’s tournament) was played on an outdoor dirt court.
Jevohn Shepherd talks with some of the biggest names in Canadian basketball about how the culture of the sport has changed over the past two decades, and if this is only the beginning of developing NBA stars. 7:18
Bianca Andreescu delayed her comeback again
She was supposed to play her first match in 15 months at the Grampians Trophy — one of the Australian Open warmup events happening in Melbourne. Andreescu was seeded No. 1, which entitled her to a first-round bye. After that, she was scheduled to meet the winner of a match between former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez. But Andreescu pulled out last night, saying in a statement that she and her “team” have “decided to focus this week on training for the Australian Open,” which starts Monday.
It’s a curious move, considering Andreescu has said she’s fully recovered from the knee and foot injuries that have contributed to her being sidelined since October 2019. She indicated in an interview a few months ago that it was more than just physical issues that kept her off the court, saying “the virus kind of pushed me back, and some little personal things here and there.” But she described herself at the time as “perfectly healthy” and said she’d “100 per cent” be at the Australian Open.
The trip has been a tough one, though. Andreescu was among the 72 players forced to endure a two-week, solitary quarantine in their hotel rooms after arriving on one of three contaminated charter flights. Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Melbourne on one of those planes. He said the rest of his “team” tested negative, and there has been no indication that Andreescu tested positive. Read more about her withdrawal from the Aussie Open tuneup here.
The baseball season will be normal. That’s a relative term these days, but the players’ association rejected the owners’ interesting proposal for a modified season that would see spring training pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22, opening day from April 1 to April 28, and each team’s schedule cut from 162 games to 154. The offer also included expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, extending the DH to the National League and putting a runner on second base to start extra innings, which was first tried last year. Plus, this fun wrinkle: the higher-seeded teams involved in the first round of the playoffs would get to pick their opponents — and the choices would be announced on a television show. But, in classic baseball fashion, the offer was swiftly rejected. So we’re back to the old 162-game season, starting around the usual time. Read more about the rebuffed proposal here.
The National Women’s Hockey League lost another team. Last week, the Metropolitan Riveters dropped out of the NWHL hub in Lake Placid, N.Y., after several team members tested positive for the coronavirus. Now the Connecticut Whale have bailed for reasons unstated, leaving only four teams. They all advance to Thursday’s semifinals, which pit the top-seeded Toronto Six vs. the Buffalo Beauts, and the Boston Bride vs. the Minnesota Whitecaps. The winners of those games play for the Isobel Cup on Friday.
A defenceman who almost never scores beat one of the NHL’s best goalies — from the far blue-line. Calgary’s Chris Tanev racked up exactly two goals in each of the past four seasons. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy last year. So, naturally, Tanev put one past him from about 115 feet away last night:
From downtown … Calgary 😎 <a href=”https://t.co/8XBzCeYpps”>pic.twitter.com/8XBzCeYpps</a>
Public health measures are ramping up in five regions across Ontario on Monday, with one more region moving to the “red alert” level on the province’s tiered pandemic response plan.
Windsor-Essex is entering the red level, Haldimand-Norfolk is entering the orange level and Hastings Prince Edward, Lambton and Northwestern are entering the yellow zone.
The province said the regions will stay in their new categories for at least 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, before a change is considered.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 39,406 more test samples of the novel coronavirus, and recorded a test positivity rate of 4.6%. 618 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, 168 in ICU, 108 are on a ventilator. <a href=”https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2″>https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2</a>
Ontario on Monday reported 1,746 cases of COVID-19, with 622 new cases in Toronto and 390 in Peel Region, which are both under lockdown measures. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that more than 39,400 tests had been completed.
The province reported eight additional deaths, bringing Ontario’s death toll to 3,656. Hospitalizations hit 618, with 168 in intensive care, according to provincial data.
Meanwhile, a window company in York Region, which is currently in the red alert zone, has declared a COVID-19 outbreak after 62 cases were confirmed there.
Health officials say this is the second outbreak at State Windows Corporation’s facility, following an initial outbreak in May that ended up infecting 17 people.
With many children continuing to attend school virtually during the pandemic, Premier Doug Ford on Monday announced a one-time support payment — of either $ 200 or $ 250 per child — to offset education-related expenses for families. The funds can be used for expenses including technology, school supplies and developmental resources.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 374,051, with 64,773 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,076.
In Saskatchewan,more than 100 medical students have signed an open letter to the provincial government calling for more action to control the spread of COVID-19.
In the letter, the University of Saskatchewan students thank the government for some of the measures already taken, such as mandatory indoor masking, but say they’re not enough.
Saskatchewan reported 325 new cases and two COVID-19 deaths on Monday. Along with 49 recoveries, there are now 3,879 active cases across the province.
Officials also reported 123 hospitalizations, which is a new record for the province.
Manitoba reported 343 new cases on Monday, along with 11 new COVID-19 deaths, including a man in his 30s and a woman in her 40s. Seven of the deaths are connected to outbreaks at long-term care homes
The province also hit a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations with 342 people in hospital, 43 of whom are in intensive care.
Two Manitoba churches held drive-in services over the weekend, in violation of public health orders capping gatherings at five people and ordering religious services to move online.
WATCH | Steinbach, Man., pastor says RCMP is ‘blocking God’ by stopping drive-in church service:
Members of a church in Steinbach, Man., a COVID-19 hotspot, clashed with the RCMP when they tried to enforce public health measures prohibiting all gatherings, including religious services. The pastor said officers were ‘blocking God.’ 2:35
Quebec reported 1,333 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths on Monday, bringing the number of deaths in the province to 7,056. Hospitalizations stood at 693 in Quebec, with 94 in intensive care, according to a provincial tally.
The update comes a day after a Montreal long-term care home transferred 20 residents to local hospitals after COVID-19 took hold at the home in the last week, concerning officials and terrifying families.
Quebec long-term care homes were hit hard during the first wave of the pandemic last spring. Many facilities were under-staffed and in some cases, personnel moved between centres — allowing the virus to spread more easily.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 338.Prince Edward Island, which has just four active cases total, had no new cases to report on Monday.
Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases on Monday. The province started using pop-up clinics to test for COVID-19 last week.
WATCH | N.L. premier explains ‘difficult decision’ to leave Atlantic bubble:
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he is ‘following the evidence’ with the decision to pull out of the Atlantic bubble for now. 8:30
While the overall numbers are far lower than what health officials are seeing in Central and Western Canada, the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in several Atlantic provinces sparked enough concern that both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. decided to temporarily withdraw from the bubble that allowed free movement between the provinces.
Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey told CBC’s Rosemary Barton that his province’s decision to temporarily leave the Atlantic travel bubble was a “tough decision — but it was one that we based on evidence.”
Not long after the changes announced by Newfoundland and P.E.I., New Brunswick added some border restrictions of its own, saying that people travelling into the province — including people who live in other Atlantic provinces — would be required to self-isolate for 14 days unless exempt.
“Registration for travel into New Brunswick, including New Brunswickers returning home from travel, is also now mandatory,” the province said in a statement last week.
Alberta reported 1,608 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the second-highest daily total in the province since the pandemic began. The province, which has reported a total 533 deaths, said Sunday that there were 435 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Ninety-five of those people were being treated in intensive care units.
In British Columbia, which doesn’t provide COVID-19 data on weekends, a church in Langley was hit with a $ 2,300 fine for holding an in-person religious service, which is currently prohibited.
There was no new case reported in the Northwest Territories on Sunday.
Have questions about COVID-19 in Canada? Join Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang of The National for a virtual town hall.
What’s happening around the world
WATCH | Consider COVID-19 risks of holiday celebrations, urges WHO chief:
‘We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with’ during holiday celebrations because of the coronavirus, says World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 2:19
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 1:30 p.m. ET
As of Monday afternoon, more than 62.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 40.3 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths.
Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. Across the Atlantic, British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam confirmed on Monday its first locally transmitted case of the coronavirus in nearly three months, after the infection of a man related to a flight attendant who had tested positive after returning from Japan two weeks ago.
The country’s health minister ordered provinces and state agencies to tighten screening and controls and contact tracing efforts were launched after the 32-year-old man was confirmed as the first reported domestic infection in 89 days.
With its strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam has managed to quickly contain its coronavirus outbreaks, allowing it to resume its economic activities earlier than much of Asia.
Vietnam crushed its first wave of coronavirus infections in April and went nearly 100 days without local transmission until the virus re-emerged and was quickly contained in the central city of Danang in July.
Indonesia reported a record daily rise in coronavirus infections on Sunday with 6,267 cases, bringing the total to 534,266, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
Cambodia’s Education Ministry has ordered all state schools to close until the start of the next school year in January after a rare local outbreak of the coronavirus.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron issued a statement late Sunday saying that all schools will be shut to prevent students from being infected. Public schools will remain closed until Jan. 11, the start of the next school year, while private schools must close for two weeks, he said. Students in private schools will be permitted to study online.
Cambodia has reported only 323 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, most of them acquired abroad, with no confirmed deaths.
In the Americas, U.S. health authorities will hold an emergency meeting this week to recommend that a coronavirus vaccine awaiting approval be given first to health-care professionals and people in long-term care facilities.
Counties across California, meanwhile, are imposing stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Monday as cases surge statewide and Thanksgiving travellers return home.
Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases in the next two or three weeks that could be tied to holiday gatherings.
Los Angeles County, for example, will impose a lockdown calling for its 10 million residents to stay home beginning Monday.
WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:
At the start of the school year, Cornell University implemented a strategy of regular testing and robust contact tracing on campus. The plan was expensive, but it’s prevented any major COVID-19 outbreaks at the New York institution. 8:19
The state reported 7,415 coronavirus hospitalizations on Sunday, citing the most recently available data from the previous day. More than 1,700 of those patients were in intensive care units. California’s previous record was 7,170 in July.
As of Sunday, California has had nearly 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 19,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The state reported around 15,600 new cases on Saturday.
Mexico reported 6,388 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 196 additional deaths on Sunday, health ministry data showed.
In Africa, mass vaccination against COVID-19 is unlikely to start in Africa until midway through next year and keeping vaccines cold could be a big challenge, the continent’s disease control group said.
Kenya’s central bank has cut its forecast for 2020 economic growth by more than half, joining the Treasury in realizing that the coronavirus had inflicted more damage to the economy than previously thought.
In Europe, Belgium will let shops reopen from Tuesday, but keep other curbs over the festive period, while Italy will ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions from Sunday. Ireland will allow shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food to reopen next week and permit travel between counties from Dec. 18.
Italy reported 541 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, against 686 the day before, and 20,648 new infections, down from 26,323 on Saturday, the health ministry said.
While Italy’s daily death tolls have been among the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy is slowing, suggesting the latest wave of infections is receding.
Meanwhile, Greek officials say the number of new infections is waning in most parts of the country, which has been in lockdown for three weeks. The lockdown initially had been set to end Monday but has been extended for another week.
Greece on Monday recorded 1,044 new confirmed infections — down from a record high of more than 3,000 earlier in November — and 85 new deaths.
The hardest-hit country in the Middle East, Iran, had more than 948,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 47,000 recorded deaths.
British Columbia’s health minister has ordered an immediate review of alleged misspending by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) during the COVID-19 crisis.
The order comes after CBC News brought forward concerns raised by multiple sources with intimate knowledge of operations within the PHSA, which is charged with ensuring access to a provincial network of health-care services.
The whistleblowers accuse B.C.’s central health authority of squandering $ 7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China; hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to its executive offices; and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff.
Insiders say the costs were racked up despite Ministry of Health orders to end discretionary spending and direct every dollar to front-line workers fighting the pandemic.
“I was shocked and felt it was simply unconscionable,” said one source.
CBC News has agreed to protect the informants’ identities because they fear professional repercussions.
“As a taxpayer, it makes me sick. It’s wasteful,” said a second insider.
Health Minister Adrian Dix moved quickly after being shown their concerns.
“I appreciate these allegations being raised to me,” Dix said in a statement to CBC News. “I have directed the deputy minister of health to assess PHSA’s decisions and conduct … and provide advice and recommendations to me.”
New president, new spending
The whistleblowers claim the misspending started shortly after Feb. 3, when the PHSA board hired a new president and CEO from Montreal, Benoit Morin.
Morin is paid $ 352,000 a year, and his accommodation and a car are provided — part of his relocation package.
Both the PHSA and Morin declined to be interviewed, stating the minister has responded on their behalf.
Dix’s written announcement of a review includes the health authority’s submitted response to him — confirming some allegations while denying others.
The health minister indicated the PHSA’s answers will be scrutinized.
$ 7M worth of masks deemed unusable
The most costly mistake by the PHSA was the purchase of unusable face masks in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health authority, in its response to Dix, confirms that Morin personally sought a supplier in his home province of Quebec “early in the pandemic.”
Of $ 11.5 million paid to the supplier, almost $ 7 million worth of masks brought in from China were deemed “problematic” and unusable in the health sector.
Sources said many were KN95 masks (Chinese standard) instead of N95 (North American standard) and failed fit tests, while other masks were deemed to be counterfeit.
The PHSA admits it eventually wrote off $ 6.7 million of the cost at the end of March but said nothing of potential additional losses carried into this fiscal year.
Insiders said the mistake was kept from the public.
By comparison, the federal government admitted it had purchased unusable face masks through a Montreal supplier back in May. It publicly vowed it would not pay for the shipments.
It’s not known if B.C. used the same Montreal-based middleman.
The PHSA said it decided not to pursue court action against the supplier because “the cost … would have outweighed any potential return.”
The health authority said that since the face mask fiasco, the Ministry of Health has toughened ordering procedures, “ensuring due diligence is undertaken before a final purchase is made.”
Redone renos to executive offices
Sources also criticize renovations that were torn up to accommodate more renos.
After more than $ 17 million had already been spent on renovations to the health authority’s new Vancouver headquarters at 1333 West Broadway, the PHSA admits that changes were ordered to the 14th floor.
It says the total cost of the “re-renovations,” which are ongoing, is almost $ 400,000, including nearly $ 60,000 on “technology upgrades.”
Whistleblowers allege that the changes were made to give Morin a better view of downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains.
But the PHSA “refutes that the CEO’s office was moved to improve the view. The new CEO office is smaller and incorporates a previously existing meeting room, enabling more privacy.”
It also says the renovations created additional office space, Zoom-enabled facilities and a reception area to “improve security on the floor.”
Critics say that’s spin — and whatever the reasons, the money could have been much better spent.
“At the height of a pandemic, spending $ 400,000 on a re-reno versus putting that money toward … MRI or CT scanners or ventilators, it’s just inexcusable,” one whistleblower said.
The PHSA said the money came out of its internal capital budget.
Catered avocado toast and steak nicoise salads
Insiders also take issue with catered meals provided at PHSA headquarters, well past the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staff say they observed breakfast and lunch being brought in for a total of 18 executives and their assistants virtually every workday until about May. This was reduced to just lunches that continued into June, even after local restaurants reopened.
The PHSA confirmed the numbers and dates.
Breakfasts reportedly included avocado toast with lemon ricotta berry crêpes. Lunches featured steak and salmon nicoise salads and sparkling water.
Sources estimate the total cost to taxpayers was between $ 30,000 and $ 40,000. At the same time, many front-line health-care workers were putting in 12-hour days, often without adequate meal breaks.
“What bothered me the most was seeing the people paid the least suffering the most,” one source said. “And the people paid the most got the most.”
The PHSA insists its executives were working around the clock, holding meetings at all hours, and were trying to keep “their bubbles small.”
Insiders insist that only happened in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Dix, B.C.’s health minister, said one aspect of his review will be to “assess the policies, guidance and spending directives … [for] catered meals.”
‘Cost-effective’ goals at odds with alleged spending
With a $ 3.7 billion annual budget, the PHSA co-ordinates services with B.C.’s regional health authorities, sets provincewide health standards and runs the B.C. Ambulance Service, among other responsibilities.
Its website states that it’s “driven to … be cost-effective.”
But insiders said key senior executives who once oversaw spending at the health authority no longer have their jobs.
They include the chief internal auditor, the chief financial officer and the executive vice-president of commercial services and procurement.
In addition, the PHSA’s veteran chief operating officer has revealed he’s retiring.
Sources say all four executives had raised concerns about spending prior to their departures being announced.
“No one will speak up internally anymore,” one insider said. “We’ve all seen what’s happened to some of our most respected leaders who’ve already tried.”
The health authority says its board hired a new CEO to lead organizational change — and the resulting changes to the senior leadership team were supported by the PHSA board.
Whistleblowers want more extensive probe
While the whistleblowers who spoke to CBC News welcome the review of spending ordered by B.C’s health minister, they want a deeper investigation.
“The ministry needs to investigate how something like this could have happened and why a number of warning signals were missed or ignored,” one source said.
Yet another insider wants B.C.’s auditor general to look into the spending decisions.
“These are public funds, and our health-care providers and their patients should be a priority — especially during a pandemic,” the insider said. “This is irresponsible … and it needs to stop.”
As for the PHSA’s justifications provided to the health minister, one whistleblower doesn’t mince words: “I think B.C. taxpayers are smart enough to see through all that — they can tell when someone is trying to put lipstick on a pig.”
CBC Vancouver’s Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whenever an organization is the victim of theft, the impact can be deep and long lasting. When money is stolen by an employee or volunteer, it can take years to rebuild trust with the community.
That’s certainly the case for youth sports organizations, which every year provide countless programs and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Canadian families.
An investigation by CBC Sports reveals that in the past decade nearly $ 8 million has been stolen from dozens of sports leagues and associations across Canada, almost all of it by someone inside the organization, leaving it and the families who participate devastated.
“In every article that I read, the parents are shocked. And I look at that and I’m like, well, why are you shocked?” said Erik Carrozza, a Philadelphia-area accountant who has documented dozens of similar stories across the United States. “Think about it for a minute. You have a person with all of these financial resources available to them with no governance, no oversight, no accountability.”
Darren Harvieux says rebuilding trust in his small Newfoundland community was one of the key reasons he volunteered to take over as treasurer of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association after it was discovered last year his organization had been defrauded of about $ 80,000.
With a financial background and two young children who play in the league, he was concerned about how theft had tarnished the way minor hockey was now viewed in the community.
WATCH | Why community sports organizations are vulnerable to fraud:
CBC Sports reporter Jamie Strashin speaks with Jacqueline Doorey about his latest investigation into fraud in youth sports organizations across Canada. 4:23
“The stigma around the hockey association and the community is something that I didn’t like to see kids grow up in,” he said. “I still tell stories about back when I used to play hockey with all my buddies, and I wanted to make sure that the children in this association had that same chance.
“So to be able to come back, build the trust and keep the hockey going was definitely top priority for me.”
Harvieux said the theft left the league in “an extremely difficult financial situation.” But through intensive extra fundraising, cost-cutting and countless hours of volunteer efforts, all the outstanding money has been replaced, he said.
None of it has been easy. Beyond restoring the organization’s finances, efforts have been focused on rebuilding trust and convincing people that governance changes have been implemented.
“We were almost fighting an uphill battle, trying to gain back the trust of 400 children’s parents and guardians who bring them to the rink every day,” Harvieux said.
Harvieux says the new group of volunteers “basically started from ground zero” in rebuilding the league’s finances. They were transparent with parents and creditors, keeping everyone informed about what they were doing through monthly reports and open meetings.
Harvieux said the entire way the league conducts its business has changed.
“There’s no one single person involved in whether it be the banking, the cash handling, paying employees, it’s always a team approach,” he said.
“We want to make sure that there’s always people watching. We want to make sure that if somebody had a question, we could answer the question on the spot.”
Carrozza, who founded the Center for Fraud Prevention to help youth sports organizations implement prevention strategies to reduce the risk of theft, says transparency in an organization is critical for regaining trust.
OMHA short on details
But the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, which was defrauded of $ 2.4 million dollars in 2018, has communicated little to the thousands of families it represents about exactly how it lost so much money.
The organization also has not publicly outlined what organizational changes it has implemented to protect against future thefts.
The OMHA briefly acknowledged the theft in a letter to members and during its annual general meetings but offered no details to members around accountability and took no questions.
The OMHA declined requests for an interview, telling CBC in a statement that despite a guilty plea already being in place, any comment “could affect the sentencing hearing.”
That lack of communication prompted Murray Taylor, former president of the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association, which falls under the OMHA’s umbrella, to write the organization’s leadership calling for executive director Ian Taylor to be fired or resign.
“No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month,” Murray Taylor wrote. “That is a managerial level of incompetence that simply cannot stand.”
No manager in any truly professional organization can adequately explain why he/she didn’t notice budget deviations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.– Murray Taylor in a letter to the OMHA
He says he never received any response.
Murray Taylor said that while most youth sports organizations are run by volunteers, the OMHA is run by a paid executive, tasked with administering hockey for much of the province.
“My issue is with that professional arm, because I think that professional piece of it needs to be held accountable for what is going on,” he told CBC Sports. “My concern is, what have they changed, what processes have been put in place to protect themselves from it happening again?”
‘Parents are hesitant to come forward’
Murray Taylor is one of many OMHA members who CBC spoke to about the organization’s handling of this case, but one of the few willing to discuss their concerns publicly.
“It comes back to the concern around how coming forward might impact my child if you start asking questions,” he said. “Parents are hesitant to come forward because they’re worried about how it might impact their child. I think that has driven hesitancy in a lot of people’s minds about coming forward.”
In audited statements, the OMHA says all but $ 120,000 of the stolen money was offset by insurance, but Murray Taylor says that shouldn’t absolve the OMHA from reform and accountability.
“There’s got to be a faith that when I hand over the money I’m going to get what I’m expecting to get from it. This could have really impacted a lot of hockey programs negatively,” he said.
“We were fortunate in that it didn’t hurt. But again, that doesn’t negate the fact that this happened. And how is it being addressed? That would be my question.”
Following a seven-month pandemic layoff, Jessica Klimkait needed just 81 seconds to get the validation she needed.
The Canadian judoka’s quick and decisive win over Helene Receveaux of France at Grand Slam Budapest in late October propelled her to the top spot in the world rankings for the 57-kilogram category.
In the process, Klimkait, 23, leap-frogged fellow Canadian and reigning world champion Christa Deguchi in the standings as judo made its return to competition.
“To probably do one of the best tournaments that I’ve done in a very long time was a lot of validation to what I was thinking and the kinds of things that I was doing throughout the last four or five months,” Klimkait told CBC Sports, putting aside any concerns over being prepared to fight athletes from other countries who didn’t face the same level of training restrictions during the pandemic.
WATCH | Klimkait reaches top of podium in Budapest:
23-year-old Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont,, defeated Helene Receveaux of France to capture gold in the 57-kilogram category at the judo Grand Slam competition in Budapest. 8:44
A silver lining had already materialized for Klimkait when the sports world hit the pause button in March.
The Whitby, Ont., native and Deguchi, 25, who lives and trains in Japan, were just months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot in their category when Klimkait suffered a knee injury.
“It honestly was [good timing] because I needed those two or three months to fully recover and if the year continued as normal, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to train as normal,” Klimkait said. “I wouldn’t have been able to compete and I had a fight-off with [Deguchi] that I don’t think I would have been able to prepare for.”
Due to the Olympics being postponed until 2021, Klimkait, now fully recovered, and Deguchi are back on the same collision course to have that fight-off no later than early July — a winner-take-all scenario that will see one of them qualify for the Tokyo Games and the other left behind.
A matter of depth
Judo Canada high-performance CEO Nicolas Gill — himself a two-time Olympic medallist — acknowledges this is a good problem to have, but at the same time, his expectation is for one of them to be standing on the podium.
“[Those are] great stories both ways. At the end for us — and what I keep repeating — whoever goes needs to medal,” Gill said. “If not, we would have sent the wrong one. Whoever goes, still has to be our best chance of medalling.”
Gill dismissed the suggestion of having one of either Klimkait or Deguchi change weight classes so that both might compete in Tokyo. He said he would never put the organization ahead of the athlete.
“We would do that only if it helps the state of making weight,” Gill said. “That’s the only time we would force somebody to move up — if we feel there is danger for the athlete, but not for strategic positioning.”
Fight-off will determine Olympic fate
Other than meeting on the world stage in numerous important matches (5-0 in favour of Deguchi), the compatriots might as well be strangers — occasionally training together throughout the year, but mainly seeing each other at competitions.
Klimkait says this makes Deguchi as dangerous as any other top opponent.
“It’s a bit of a mental battle every time I do step on the mat [with Deguchi] because I know what it means to win against her and I know what it means to lose against her,” Klimkait said. “In the end, only one of us is going, so that’s always been in the back of my mind when I’m competing against her.”
Given that countries can only send one athlete per category, Judo Canada has no choice but to sit back and watch who wins.
“The idea to have a head-to-head matchup is to really pick who’s better in the month leading into the Olympics,” Gill said. “Putting our best athlete at that time in the Olympic field to increase the chance of performance.”