The final round of the Masters has started with all the familiar pin positions for Sunday at Augusta National.
Hideki Matsuyama takes a four-shot lead into the final round. He is trying to become the first Japanese player to win a major and the second major champion from an Asian country. (The first was Y.E. Yang of South Korea in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.)
It’s never easy at Augusta National. In November, Dustin Johnson had a four-shot lead that was trimmed to one shot after only five holes. He recovered with a birdie and went on to win by five. Rory McIlroy lost a four-shot lead after 10 holes in 2011 when he shot 80 in the final round.
The most famous was Greg Norman losing a six-shot lead in 1996.
Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris were all four shots behind Matsuyama. Rose is the only major champion in that group. Zalatoris is trying to become the first player in 42 years to win a green jacket in his first attempt.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., is five shots back in sixth following a third round highlighted by a hole-in-one on the par-3 6th hole.
WATCH | Conners aces par-3 6th hole on Saturday at Augusta:
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., became the sixth player to ever hit a hole in one on the sixth hole at the Masters Saturday in Augusta, Georgia. 0:36
The 29-year-old will attempt to become the second Canadian to clinch a Masters Green Jacket, after Mike Weir in 2003.
Despite his lofty position, Conners was not worried about tossing and turning all night
“I’m notoriously a great sleeper, so I don’t think that will be a problem,” said Conners, who is scheduled to tee off at 2:20 p.m. ET.
Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele at 2:40 p.m., a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.
Matsuyama showed he could handle Augusta National when he first showed up as a 19-year-old amateur. Ten years later, the Japanese star put himself on the cusp of a green jacket.
Matsuyama looking to make history
In a stunning turnaround after storms doused the course, Matsuyama had four birdies, an eagle and a superb par at the end of a 7-under 65, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead as he tries to become the first Japanese player to win a major.
“This is a new experience for me being a leader going into the final round in a major,” Matsuyama said. “I guess all I can do is relax and prepare well and do my best.”
Matsuyama was at 11-under 205, and no one could stay with him after Saturday’s one hour 18-minute rain delay made the course a little more forgiving.
Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt across the 15th green to momentary join a four-way tie for the lead. Seconds later, Rose holed a 25-foot birdie putt back on the par-3 12th to regain the lead. That lasted if it took Matsuyama to rap in his five-foot eagle putt on the 15th to take the lead for good.
WATCH | Canadian golfers heading to the green in droves during pandemic:
Golf Canada is capitalizing on a remarkable interest in the sport while seeing paralleled success on the pro tours. 5:18
Kathryn Nesbitt ran the sidelines, waving a flag, blending in for all the right reasons.
The 32-year-old from Philadelphia became a pioneer as FIFA appointed women to work on-field officials for men’s World Cup qualifiers, serving as an assistant referee Thursday night when Canada opened with a 5-1 rout of Bermuda at Orlando, Florida.
There were no controversies in a match that featured Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies setting up three goals for Besiktas’ Cyle Larin. Nesbitt disappeared into the background as much as one can while working in a yellow jersey and black shorts, an orange and yellow flag in her hands.
FIFA announced the first men’s World Cup qualifiers with woman referees will be when Stephanie Frappart of France works the Netherlands’ match against visiting Latvia on Saturday and Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine calls Austria’s game vs. the visiting Faeroe Islands on Sunday. Karen Diaz Medina of Mexico served as an assistant referee for Suriname’s 3-0 win over the Cayman Islands on Wednesday.
WATCH | Nesbitt adds her name to the record books again:
Kathryn Nesbitt, 2020 MLS Assistant Referee of the Year, makes history by becoming the first woman to referee a CONCACAF men’s World Cup qualifier. 0:34
“I’m hoping that people will bring her to the men’s World Cup in a couple of years instead of the Women’s World Cup — actually both,” said Rick Eddy, U.S. Soccer’s director of referee development. “If FIFA really wants to make a stand towards saying they’re supporting women, here’s their opportunity.”
Nesbitt worked 18 MLS games last season, including the MLS is Back tournament final, and was voted the league’s assistant referee of the year. The workload of the 6-foot tall official has included 82 league games in all since 2015 plus seven more as an assistant video referee during the last two seasons.
Nesbitt earned a FIFA badge in 2016 and officiated at that year’s Women’s Under-17 World Cup, the 2018 Women’s Under-20 World Cup, and two matches at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“She’s pretty imposing physically,” said Howard Webb, a Premier League referee from 2003-14 who is entering his fourth season as general manager of Major League Soccer’s Professional Referee Organization. “She’s tall, athletic. She’s very calm and clearly intelligent as well. She’s able to process a lot of information quickly and accurately.”
WATCH | Nesbitt marks a North American pro sports 1st during MLS Cup final:
Kathryn Nesbitt, 2020 Assistant Referee of the Year, becomes the first woman to referee a championship match in professional men’s sports in North America by officiating the 2020 MLS Cup Final. 0:30
In U.S. soccer, “The Professor” was the nickname of Julio Mazzei, who served two stints as coach of the Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League in 1979-80. Nesbitt is a real professor with a Ph.D. She taught analytical chemistry as an assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland from 2017-19.
She quit to become a full-time soccer official.
“I actually started when I was 14 years old. Clearly, that was more of a hobby at the time,” she said. “So it’s just kind of made its way into a career over the last 20ish years or so.”
A competitive figure skater for 15 years and a volleyball player in college, she began officiating under-8 games while growing up in Rochester, New York. She started to work adult and semipro matches after she finished her bachelor’s degree at St. John Fisher College and worked toward her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.
“It kept me active and I really liked that way of thinking about the game,” she said.
Breakthrough weekend for women soccer officials
She made her professional debut in a National Women’s Soccer League match between Kansas City and Portland on April 13, 2013, and her MLS debut when D.C. United played Columbus on May 2, 2015.
“I have always felt respected there, and there really hasn’t been an example for me that stands out as sexism towards me,” she said. “My first couple of years in the league, I think I was treated the same way a new referee would be treated, as, who is this person and are they going to be any good?”
At the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, Nesbitt worked Norway vs. Nigeria and Sweden vs. Canada game plus three more games as a video official, including the England-Sweden third-place match.
“That was probably one of the most incredible feelings of my entire life — to actually reach a huge milestone for myself and get to experience a World Cup in person,” she said.
On-field officials navigate the additional complication of video review. MLS has used Video Assistant Referees since late 2017, but World Cup qualifying is not aided by technology. Nesbitt has to remind herself not to raise her flag quickly on offside calls in case the VAR decides there was no violation, but be quick to wave off action when electronics are not involved.
“It can be really interesting to switch between doing an MLS game, let’s say, and then going to do a women’s international match that doesn’t necessarily have VAR yet,” she said.
Nesbitt was just the start of a breakthrough weekend for American women and soccer officials, who are selected by CONCACAF and approved by FIFA. Jennifer Garner is scheduled to be an assistant referee and Tori Penso the fourth official for Saturday’s qualifier between Aruba and Suriname in Bradenton, Florida.
Nesbitt is to work as an assistant referee when Anguilla plays the Dominican Republic in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the same day Brooke Mayo is slated to be an assistant referee Sunday, and Penso is the fourth official when Canada hosts the Cayman Islands in Bradenton.
Wendy Toms was the first woman assistant referee in the Premier League from 1997-2005 and Sian Massey-Ellis is perhaps the most well-known woman soccer official worldwide because of viewers seeing her as an assistant referee in the Premier League since 2010. She worked her first Europa League match last October when PSV Eindhoven played Austria’s LASK.
Camaraderie has developed
Nesbitt trained with her for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“That was a really cool experience for me because she is the first,” Nesbitt said. “I had already looked up to her for years before I even got the chance to work in MLS. She’s always been an inspiration for me. She is so consistent and solid.”
The pioneering women have been rated among the sport’s best. They needed to be among the best to break through.
“Unfortunately, women are judged differently instead of being judged as equals in a lot of a professional sports,” Eddy said.
A camaraderie has developed.
“It’s a really unique, select group of women that have had these opportunities, so I think we do share that feeling and that ambition that we all have,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve all probably had a few conversations about it. And when those appointments come out and we find out about the other one getting a really special new type of appointment, we reach out to each other.”
Webb, who refereed both the 2010 Champions League and World Cup finals, hopes the pool of female officials will expand. For a long time, he says, women unfairly had to be “better than their male counterparts to prove that they were worth an opportunity.”
Nesbitt isn’t in the already under-consideration group for the 2022 men’s World Cup, but there’s always the 2026 tournament co-hosted by the United States. Webb envisions a woman taking the whistle for a men’s World Cup match, with hundreds of millions of people around the globe tuned in.
“I think it is only a matter of time before it will happen,” he said.
If you’ve been jonesing for a PlayStation 5 and unable to find one, there’s a good explanation for it: insane demand. We’ve known for a while that Sony’s PS5 was selling well, but a new report from the NPD suggests it’s actually the fastest-selling platform in US history.
NPD’s results for the month show a huge surge in game sales and overall spending. February revenue hit $ 4.6 billion, up 35 percent from a year ago. YTD spending is already $ 9.3B, 39 percent higher than the same period last year. Video game hardware sales hit $ 406M. That’s the highest in a decade (February 2011 hit $ 468M). Hardware spending to-date is $ 725 million, up 130 percent from this time last year.
US NPD HW – PlayStation 5 ranked as the 2nd best-selling hardware platform in February in both unit and dollar sales. PlayStation 5 is currently the fastest selling hardware platform in U.S. history (total dollar sales after 4 months in market).
If you’re wondering what launched in January and February 2011 (because I was), it was one of the better months in game history. Mass Effect 2, LittleBigPlanet 2, and Dead Space 2 all launched that January.
The Switch moved the most units and earned the most dollars in February since the Wii in 2009. Lifetime sales of the Switch now exceed the DS (in the United States). The Switch is also the 7th best-selling hardware platform in US history.
The Xbox Is Apparently Supply Constrained
Last year, a number of prominent stories suggested Sony, not Microsoft, was the company facing supply constraints. According to NPD, Microsoft is facing some supply issues that are holding it back:
Completely sold out and facing severe supply constraints.
Now, to be clear: The entire semiconductor market is supply-constrained at the moment, including Sony. “Severe,” in this context, implies that things are pretty bad. Microsoft has previously said that supplies could remain constrained through the entirety of 2021, but that’s scarcely unique to Microsoft.
All indications are that both companies are selling every platform they can ship as fast as they can ship them. Sony just seems to be getting a lot more systems than Microsoft is. Microsoft is laser-focused on growing Xbox Game Pass subscriptions rather than just trying to tie people into the Xbox ecosystem, but selling consoles is a really easy way to tie those goals together.
If nothing else, the semiconductor shortage has given us an interesting look at how difficult it is to un-snarl the silicon industry when demand rises during supply disruptions. All of this is going to make for an absolutely fascinating macroeconomic case study someday (if you’re that kind of nerd). It’s just not going to be a lot of fun to live through if you were hoping to score a PlayStation 5 this year.
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The revelations just kept coming Sunday night as Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave Oprah Winfrey — and a worldwide television audience — their view on why they had to leave the upper echelons of the Royal Family.
The reasons were many, but amid all they had to say, there was one statement that stood out and seems particularly serious for the House of Windsor: Meghan’s declaration that a senior member of the Royal Family had worries about the colour of the skin of their first child before he was born.
In an interview Monday on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said Harry told her neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Philip were part of conversations about Archie’s skin colour.
“I think it’s very damaging — the idea that a senior member of the Royal Family had expressed concern about what Archie might look like,” Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian, said in an interview late Sunday night.
Meghan told Winfrey the concern had been relayed to her by Harry, and when questioned further on it, Harry refused to offer more specifics, saying it’s a “conversation I’m never going to share.”
And that, Harris suggests, speaks to the seriousness of the matter.
“It’s very clear that Harry didn’t want to go into details feeling that it would be too damaging for the monarchy.”
WATCH | Royal Family expressed concerns about son’s skin colour, Meghan tells Oprah:
Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that the Royal Family didn’t want her and Prince Harry’s son to be made a prince or receive security partly over concerns over how dark the baby’s skin would be. 0:15
It will take time to digest the impact of all that Harry and Meghan had to say to Winfrey. But some early comments in the British media this morning suggest Harry and Meghan’s account will have a profound impact.
“They have revealed the terrible strains inside the palace. They have drawn a picture of unfeeling individuals lost in an uncaring institution. They have spoken of racism within the Royal Family. This was a devastating interview,” the BBC’s royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, wrote in an online analysis.
“But Harry describing his brother and father as ‘trapped,’ and Meghan revealing that she repeatedly sought help within the palace only to be rebuffed is a body blow to the institution.”
‘A damning allegation’
The Guardian reported that Harry and Meghan telling Winfrey of conversations in the Royal Family about Archie’s skin colour is “a damning allegation that will send shockwaves through the institution and send relations with the palace to a new low.”
Many themes and issues developed over the two-hour broadcast, which sprinkled lighter moments — they’re expecting a girl, they have rescue chickens and Archie, age almost two, has taken to telling people to “drive safe” — with much more serious concerns, including the lack of support they say they received, particularly as Meghan had suicidal thoughts.
WATCH | Meghan had suicidal thoughts during royal life:
The Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that she had asked for help from the Royal Family for her mental health, but received none. 0:22
“A theme that emerges again and again, and it’s something that Harry explicitly states in the interview, is the Royal Family being concerned with the opinion of the tabloid press,” said Harris. “This may very well have influenced decisions not to speak out about the way Meghan was being treated and that may have influenced some other decisions as well.”
One of those might be the question of security, something that was of considerable concern to the couple when they learned royal support for it would be withdrawn.
“The Royal Family has frequently in the past received bad press regarding minor members … receiving security,”said Harris.
“There were a lot of negative headlines regarding Beatrice and Eugenie continuing to receive security and their father’s [Prince Andrew’s] insistence they receive security despite being comparatively minor members of the Royal Family who do not undertake public engagements representing the Queen.”
There was also a sense out of Sunday’s interview that issues that troubled the Royal Family in the past may still be a worry now.
“Even in the 21st century after all of the problems that the Royal Family encountered in the 1990s with the breakdowns in the marriages of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew … there still doesn’t seem to be a consistent means of mentoring new members of the Royal Family,” said Harris.
Meghan said she had to Google the lyrics for God Save the Queen, and was filled in at the last minute about having to curtsy to Elizabeth just before meeting her for the first time.
Throughout the interview, Harry and Meghan repeatedly expressed respect and admiration for the Queen, if not for how the Royal Family as an institution operates.
But there is considerable murkiness around just who may be responsible for some of the more serious issues they raised.
“We know they respect the Queen and have a good personal relationship with the Queen. We know that Meghan had a conflict with Kate but says Kate apologized and Meghan forgave her and she doesn’t think Kate’s a bad person,” said Harris.
Lacking ‘specific details’
“But when it comes to who made racist comments about Archie’s appearance or who was dismissive directly of Meghan’s mental health, [on] that we don’t have specific details.”
High-profile royal interviews such as this — particularly one by Harry’s mother Diana, in 1995 — have a track record of not turning out as the royal interviewees may have intended, and it remains to be seen the lasting impact of this one.
Harris sees parallels with Diana’s interview, as she “spoke frankly” about a lack of support from the family, and felt that she had been let down by Prince Charles.
Harry talked of hoping to repair his relationship with his father — “I will always love him but there’s a lot of hurt that happened” — but said he felt really let down, and noted a time when his father wasn’t taking his calls.
Harris expects the interview will prompt further critical scrutiny of Charles, and Harry’s older brother Prince William.
The relationship with William has already been under intense scrutiny, and is clearly still a delicate matter for Harry, who hesitated noticeably before responding as Winfrey pressed him on it.
“Time heals all things, hopefully,” Harry said.
How Buckingham Palace responds to all this remains to be seen. Generally, the public approach in matters such as this is silence, and a determination to be seen as carrying on with regular duties.
Whether a member of the family might make a more informal comment — say in response to a question from someone at a public event — also remains to be seen.
WATCH | Meghan says Royal Family failed to protect her and Prince Harry:
The Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that things started to worsen with the Royal Family after she and Harry were married. 0:23
But from what did emerge Sunday evening, there is a sense that whatever efforts the House of Windsor has made to put a more modern face on the monarchy, they appear not to have yielded the fruit that might have been hoped.
“There’s been some elements of modernization, but it’s very clear that the institution has difficulty adapting to the needs of individuals who marry into the Royal Family,” said Harris. “It’s clear that Meghan came away from her experiences feeling that she was not supported or mentored in her new role.”
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Before Brayana Taylor went into labour with her now 16-month-old daughter, she read up and carefully planned for the day. While much of it was a blur, she says she remembers her time at the hospital as traumatic, and that her concerns and feelings were dismissed.
“I just feel like, during the most vulnerable and crucial moments of my entire life, my care was mishandled.”
She rarely talks about what happened to her in detail, but after speaking to another Black mother, Taylor soon found out that she wasn’t alone in her experience. It’s something that she says has hurt her trust in the health-care system, and it has also affected how Taylor feels about the COVID-19 vaccine.
While health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Taylor is one of those who attribute their vaccine hesitancy to eroded trust in the health-care system as a whole for its treatment of Black and Indigenous people.
Taylor runs an Instagram page called Black Motherhood Collective. In response to pushback she and others have received for being vaccine-hesitant, she put out a post outlining statistics about Black maternal health as an answer to why some Black women feel skeptical about the medical system.
One of them is an alarming stat from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that reveals 84 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2018 were Black women. There’s limited race-based medical research data available in Canada, but a 2015 McGill study found that Black women have significantly higher preterm births than white women.
“I think to a lot of people, it’s just hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want a vaccine, you know, because the pandemic has been around for what seems like forever at this point,” Taylor said.
“But in practice, we have to understand that there [are] a lot of kinks in our institutions and in our systems that really do obstruct a lot of progress when it comes to our communities.”
Black people have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up 9 per cent of Toronto’s population, a quarter of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.
It’s something Cheryl Prescod, the executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre in North York, Ont., is working hard to address as part of the effort to vaccinate all Canadians and stop the spread of the virus.
Prescod notes that the predominantly Black and brown neighbourhood is home to many essential workers living in precarious conditions. Social distancing is made harder when they shuttle to work in crowded buses and come home to densely populated, high-rise apartment buildings.
“This has been a hotspot since the beginning of COVID. We have a high number of positive cases, and we also have a low testing rate,” Prescod said.
Prescod adds that while the vaccine isn’t yet available to most of the general public, the work to address their questions and inform them about it needs to happen now.
In a recent virtual information session, the Black Creek Community Health Centre put together a panel of health professionals and community members to take questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Attendees weighed in with questions ranging from how the COVID-19 vaccine works differently than the flu vaccine, to whether or not there was a microchip in it being used to track people, particularly low-income people of colour. Prescod has heard a lot of it before.
“Can we trust that substance? Can we trust what’s happening? There’s still that mistrust around that science, around the development of the vaccine, around the fact that certain populations might be used as guinea pigs,” Prescod said.
One of the historical examples Prescod hears patients refer to is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where 600 Black men in Alabama were experimented on without being told what for. In Canada, Indigenous children in residential schools were also experimented on to learn about the effects of malnutrition.
Dr. Upton Allen, head of infectious diseases at Sick Kids Hospital, has been meeting with the Ontario government, urging it to factor the need to repair relationships with vulnerable communities into the province’s vaccine rollout plan.
“It’s really important to ensure that the Black community is engaged in discussions and decision-making, and that the community can feel that they are part of the process,” Dr. Allen said.
“It’s important to ensure that the messaging relating to vaccine prioritization is appropriate, and is very transparent and very clear, so that there’s no misinterpretation of intent.”
Dr. Allen says he received his first dose of the vaccine a few weeks ago, and that he is confident recommending it to others in the Black community.
He also emphasizes the importance of Black people being involved and considered at every level of health care. Dr. Allen leads a team of researchers at Sick Kids looking at the rates of COVID-19 infection among Black Canadians and the factors behind them, as well as pushing for their participation in antibody testing. He says the lack of diversity in medical research can contribute to inequities in the system.
“One needs to make sure that all the major groups are included so that one can generalize across several groups, not just in terms of racial groups, but also in terms of age groups,” Dr. Allen said. “And so moving forward, it’s important that vaccine related studies — and there will be more — will include Black representatives, Black participants.”
In a statement to CBC News, Nosa Ero-Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, says that the province is talking to community health groups about how these concerns can be addressed through the Communities at Risk COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Sub-Group.
“We will be working with partners to develop culturally relevant and responsive outreach strategies for each community as part of our Vaccine Distribution Plan, so that all Ontarians can access and understand the facts they need to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated,” the statement said.
The Ministry of Health says it is allocating $ 12.5 million in funding towards community health agencies in 15 high-risk communities for community outreach and increased testing. It adds that at-risk areas will be prioritized in Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out.
This week, the City of Toronto announced a new Black Community COVID-19 Response Plan, allocating $ 6.8 million in funding towards 12 Black-led and Black-serving organizations to provide additional support, from food delivery to vaccine education.
The Black Health Alliance has been advocating for investment in grassroots organizations that are trusted in the communities they serve.
The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight.– Paul Bailey, Black Health Alliance
“The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight,” said Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance. “The agencies or the organizations that have to engage with certain parts of the population will be able to build trust over time.”
It’s the kind of commitment Taylor says she’s been looking for from those in power.
“Make the effort and let us know that this is something that you’re very serious about, and you’re adamant about repairing the relationship, and making sure that there is a level of trust between the Black community and health-care professionals so that we can have confidence moving forward,” Taylor said.
Dr. Allen remains cautiously optimistic that the advocacy work he and others are doing is leading to change.
“I think that the issues are being heard, steps are being taken, but it’s early in the game to see whether or not these steps are going to be sustainable and appropriately resourced.”
Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
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.
For more than three decades Canadian speed skaters from across the country have made their way to the Olympic Oval in Calgary, the mecca of the sport in this country. It’s a place laced with history, prestige and legacy.
A place that signified you’d made it in the sport in Canada, where Olympic records and gold medals rose from what many call the best ice on the planet.
Larger than life banners hang from the ceiling, highlighting past giants who have etched themselves into Canadian speed skating lore. Cindy Klassen, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Catriona Le May Doan, Clara Hughes, Kevin Crockett and Susan Auch look down on the ice, a constant reminder of the greatness that has existed in the speed skating program.
Now, with just one year to go until the Beijing Olympics, the current crop of Canadian speed skaters are hoping to become part of that same elite company, motivated, inspired and pushing themselves to extremes on the backs of those greats who have come before them.
“Cindy has always been someone I’ve aspired to be. She’s always been someone I’ve looked up to in speed skating,” Ivanie Blondin told CBC Sports. “The history here.”
Blondin talks about Klassen in the most glowing ways. How could she not? Klassen skated to five medals for Canada at the 2006 Olympics — one gold, two silver and two bronze — making her one of only nine Winter Olympians worldwide, and the only Canadian in either summer or winter sport, to win five medals at a single edition of the Games.
Blondin wants that for herself. She’s a leader on the team now, ready to carry that weight into the next Games.
Klassen’s unforgettable performance 15 years ago fuels Blondin’s training today. The 30-year-old from Ottawa is a high-powered superstar in the sport who is targeting greatness in Beijing.
Blondin was not happy with her performance at the last Olympics, where she failed to win a medal. And so since then she’s been pushing herself harder than ever to ensure it doesn’t happen again on that big stage.
But what happens when a pandemic hits and to make matters worse, the ice-making machinery at the Calgary Oval breaks down? That’s exactly what happened this past September. Blondin’s training place, along with the rest of the team trying to build for Beijing, shut down.
“It’s [lousy] we didn’t have the ice in Calgary. We lost access to all our facilities,” she said. “I guess we should just be grateful this isn’t the Olympic season.”
The Olympics are coming, faster than many of the athletes want to think about.The speed skaters aren’t the only ones scrambling to continue preparations. In the early days of the pandemic, many of the winter athletes felt as though they’d escape its grip with Beijing almost two years away. That grip has tightened and the athletes are feeling the squeeze now, pressured to come up with ways just to keep training.
“We had no weight room. No track. Every week there was something new,” Blondin said. “The main issue was not having ice.”
So the team had to get back to their humble beginnings.
The story of Canada’s most prolific speed skaters, including Blondin, all have similar and simple starting points — icy, sometimes bumpy, outdoor ovals in cities dotting the frozen tundra.
Canadian Olympic speed skating heroes would battle the elements in their formative years, zipping around in skinsuits hoping to avoid getting blown over by swirling wind gusts or getting frostbite, striding counter-clockwise in an attempt to cross the line first.
WATCH | Blondin captures gold in mass start:
The Canadian two-time world champion brought her best to Heerenven and came away with World Cup silver. 2:05
Learning how to battle the elements, be creative and persevere was as much a part of the competition when they first started as learning how to be powerful striders.
“Skating outdoors in a skinsuit in the winter, as small as I am, the wind was pushing me around,” Blondin said, recalling her early days in Ottawa.
It wasn’t until they had mastered their sport outdoors they could take their skill and strength indoors, to the oval in Calgary, to begin their pursuit of greatness.
Canada’s long track speed skating program is steeped in history — 37 Olympic medals tallied over the course of all the Games, more than any other Canadian winter sport program. The current team is coming off one of the program’s strongest seasons to date. With 31 World Cup medals, momentum and confidence was at an all-time high. And as they looked ahead to this year, an important year in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, the goals for what they could achieve seemed limitless.
I actually really, really enjoyed skating outside. It was cold sometimes but I grew up skating outside in Ottawa. It felt like home to me.– Isabelle Weidemann
Then the pandemic hit. And everything stopped. So they went back outside, taking to the outdoor oval in Red Deer, Alta. as well as Gap Lake, near Calgary, just to get some valuable ice time during the course of a seemingly incessant pandemic.
“I actually really, really enjoyed skating outside. It was cold sometimes but I grew up skating outside in Ottawa. It felt like home to me,” Isabelle Weidemann said. “We never race outside anymore. So I can take those aspects and then come inside and in some ways it’s making it feel really easy because I’ve been doing this harder work outside.”
WATCH | Training on Gap Lake
Tyson Langelaar posted this video of Team Canada’s training session out at Alberta’s picturesque Gap Lake in late November after maintenance and COVID restrictions put a stop to ice time in Calgary. 0:24
Weidemann, 25, is hoping to make it to her second Olympics. She was one of the younger members of the team in PyeongChang, also disappointed by her performance in 2018.
“I have some unresolved goals from the last Games. I don’t feel I skated to my potential,” she said. “I want to perform at my best and show Canada what I’ve been working on. All the hard training.”
The skaters are sick and tired of training — don’t get it wrong, they understand the value of it, but it’s all they’ve had over the last number of months. Now they want to put it to test. They’re leaning on each other more than ever to get through what has been nothing short of a horrible year.
“It’s been really frustrating for me not to be skating,” Ted-Jan Bloemen said. “For me, the periods where I’m not skating, I bridge those periods knowing I will skate again.”
Nothing that resembled normalcy
But for the last number of months Bloemen and the rest of the Canadian skaters haven’t known when they might skate again. Outside of a two-week stint on the Fort St. John’s oval this past fall, there’s been nothing that’s resembled any normalcy.
“I’ve been through some really difficult times this winter. I’m doing much better now but there were dark times. And I’m not the only one,” Bloemen said.
It’s been quite the journey for Bloemen. If there’s anyone on the Canadian team who fully understands the prestige and history of speed skating, it’s him. Bloemen was born and raised in the Netherlands, the birthplace of the sport. He’s back there right now with other members of the team, competing in a bubble in Heerenveen about 90 minutes from where he grew up, in Leiderdorp.
The deep roots of ice skating date back more than 1,000 years to the waterways of Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In those days people laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen lakes and rivers. To be a prolific speed skater adorned in the traditional bright orange Dutch colours is what everyone in Holland dreams of, in the same way many young children in Canada dream of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Bloemen wanted to be one of those great skaters for his home country but was never able to break through. The pressure to make the team was suffocating. He never felt he got a fair chance in their program.
I didn’t want to be a Dutch guy skating for another country. I’m a Canadian and I’m really proud to be representing this country.– Ted-Jan Bloemen
So in 2014, Bloemen made the biggest move of his life. His father is Canadian, born in New Brunswick, which allowed Bloemen to obtain dual citizenship, move to Calgary and start skating for a country that for years was only known as his competition.
“I didn’t want to be a Dutch guy skating for another country. I’m a Canadian and I’m really proud to be representing this country,” he said.
The move was the turning point he needed. Four years later, aged 31 and at his first Olympics, he skated to silver in the men’s 5,000 metres. It was Canada’s first Olympic medal in the men’s event since Willy Logan won bronze in Lake Placid in 1932.
The best, though, was yet to come. Days after that performance, Bloemen won Canada’s first gold in the men’s 10,000 metres. And he did it in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes 39.77 seconds, well ahead of his Dutch rival Sven Kramer.
“I’m just really proud and really lucky. I feel like it’s a really big honour to be the one representing Canada now and being in the spotlight and executing the race,” he said. “I’m very grateful for that. And I know I’m just a link in this great team.”
Young star Graeme Fish
With just one year to go to another Olympics, Bloemen is stressing the importance of team at more than any other time in his career. It’s taken him years to understand that despite the naturally individualistic nature of speed skating, he’s only been able to ascend to greatness because of those who are around him.
One of the young stars pushing Bloemen is Moose Jaw, Sask., speed skater Graeme Fish. At 23 years old, he’s tracking to be one of the best male skaters this country has ever produced.
Last February, Fish set the 10,000m world record and captured the world championship title. It’s a nearly unfathomable result considering Fish didn’t move to Calgary to take up speed skating seriously until he was 18. In four years he went from being lapped by Bloemen in that same race distance, to passing him and setting the world record.
WATCH | Graeme Fish sets world record:
The 22-year-old becomes world champion and new record holder after skating a time of 12:33.867 in Utah. 1:13
“He destroyed me. It was unbelievable,” Fish recalled, remembering a 2017 race. “And then when Ted won in 2018 I was in awe. Now I’m training with him.”
He’s been emulating everything Bloemen has been doing on the ice ever since. And then just three short years later set the world record — a direct reflection of being able to skate with someone who was pushing him every day.
“We all support each other and every time we step on the ice we want to beat each other. We learn from each other. I’m skating with the Olympic champion,” Fish said.
Add Jordan Belchos to this mix, and this trio of speed skating Canadians becomes scary in a hurry as they continue to push each other to the edge.
It’s a dynamic two-time Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan knows all about. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Le May Doan also started her career on an outdoor oval. In the early 1990s she burst onto the speed skating scene and was trending toward a medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
In the lead up to those Olympics, Le May Doan recalls how much skating partner Susan Auch pushed her.
“We were a tight-knit team. They were all like my family. We used to spend 10 weeks at a time in Europe. We helped each other. We pushed each other,” said Le May Doan, who will serve as Canada’s chef de mission in Beijing, 20 years after winning her second career gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
But in 1994, in her specialty race, Le May Doan fell in the 500m. Auch placed second. That silver medal was Canada’s only medal in speed skating during those Games.
Le May Doan was not going to let that fall define her. And as a team, the Canadian speed skaters spent the next four years relentlessly training, vowing to grab more medals in Nagano.
They lived up to their promise. The Canadians put on a memorable show during those 1998 Olympics in Japan, racking up five medals on the long track, the largest single medal haul at the Games to that point.
Le May Doan won gold in the 500m, doing so with an Olympic record time. She also got bronze in the 1000m. Auch once again got silver in the 500m. Jeremy Wotherspoon and Kevin Overland also brought home medals for Canada.
Everybody needs to want each other to succeed. You push each other. That’s what we had and that’s what this current team has.– Catriona Le May Doan
“The team needs to believe. You need to believe. You have to get perspective,” Le May Doan said. “Everybody needs to want each other to succeed. You push each other. That’s what we had and that’s what this current team has.”
When Canadian speed skaters have leaned into the weight of all they are collectively, they can be one of the most powerful teams on the planet.
Take for instance that historic 2006 medal haul in Italy. The Canadians skated to eight medals during those Turin Games, thanks largely to the unforgettable performance of Cindy Klassen.
But she was pushed to that greatness because of teammates like Kristina Groves and Clara Hughes — during those same Games Hughes grabbed gold in the 5000m and Groves silver behind Klassen in the 1500m. There was a high level of competition between them and also an understanding they were making each other better.
A somewhat similar team followed up that performance with five more Olympic medals in 2010 on home soil in Vancouver. But since those two Games in which speed skaters from Canada produced 13 medals, there has been a steep decline.
There have been just four medals between the Games in Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympics. And it was Denny Morrison and Bloemen who were responsible for them.
Many skaters on those teams have talked about how siloed and segregated they were. Because here’s the thing about long track speed skating: there are sprinters. There are the longer distance skaters. There are obviously men’s skaters and women’s skaters. When you start to splinter these groups, things quickly become isolating. And that’s what had happened.
“You were in groups and there were rivalries. The team didn’t mesh together. But last year, I don’t know what it was. All the groups started meshing together,” Blondin said. “The team was just like a family. It was fun to be around your teammates. We really grew last year as a team and I think that showed in the performances.”
‘Team is so crucial’
They’ve gotten back to those glory days when it was one unified group all wanting the best for one another.
“Team is so crucial. And last season was the perfect example of that,” Blondin said. “You need your team around you to motivate you.”
This past week, in the Dutch bubble, in her first competitive race in more than 10 months, Blondin alongside Weidemann and Valérie Maltais captured gold in the team pursuit. She followed it up with a silver in the mass start event. And on Friday, the trio took gold and set a track record in the women’s team pursuit.
Even Blondin was surprised by the performance, having told CBC Sports prior to the race that no one should expect podium finishes having been away from the ice for such a long time.
It was hard during the summer because in a way we went back to our old ways. You couldn’t train together. As soon as we got back together that all went away– Ivanie Blondin
She brought it back to the team dynamic again.
“It was hard during the summer because in a way we went back to our old ways. You couldn’t train together,” she said. “As soon as we got back together that all went away.”
A team that was ripped apart by the pandemic. That comfort and support had been taken away from the speed skaters, spending the summer and fall months mostly training alone.
Most of the team is all together again, cooped up in a Dutch hotel preparing for a number of World Cup and world championship races. It’s familiar. Their own speed skating bubble.
And while they may not have the performances they’d expect under normal circumstances right now, there’s something calming and reassuring about all being in the same place at the same time together again.
As a team, they’re trusting the process. And they know they’ll be ready when Beijing arrives — with a reminder from their most recent Olympic champion.
“I still have that feeling,” Bloemen said. “What’s important is to make the best of what we got. And be confident we can execute at the Olympics.”
U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris broke the barrier Wednesday that has kept men at the top ranks of American power for more than two centuries when she took the oath to hold the nation’s second-highest office.
Harris was sworn in as the first female vice-president — and the first Black person and person of South Asian descent to hold the position — in front of the U.S. Capitol by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The moment was steeped in history and significance in more ways than one. She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who single-handedly took on a mob of Trump supporters as they tried to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol insurrection that sought to overturn the election results. Harris was wearing clothes from two young, emerging Black designers — a deep purple dress and coat.
After taking the oath of office, a beaming Harris hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President Joe Biden a first bump.
Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary falls away, expanding the idea of what’s possible in American politics. But it’s particularly meaningful because Harris is taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities.
Those close to Harris say she’ll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the new administration.
“In many folks’ lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States,” said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world.”
WATCH | Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. vice-president:
History has been made in the United States with the swearing-in of Kamala Harris as vice-president. She is the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to ever hold the job. 1:14
Child of immigrants
Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard,” said Simon.
Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first came to Washington as a senator from California, where she’d served as attorney general and as San Francisco’s district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump’s victory quickly scrambled the nation’s capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars.
After Harris’ own presidential bid fizzled, her rise continued when Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer.
The inauguration activities included nods to her history-making role and her personal story.
Sorority marks the day
Harris used two Bibles to take the oath, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, joined the presidential escort.
To mark the occasion, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the nation’s oldest sorority for Black women, which Harris joined at Howard University, declared Wednesday as Soror Kamala D. Harris Day.
“This event will certainly be a momentous occasion that will go down in the annals of our archives as one of the greatest days the founders’ of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have envisioned,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, the sorority’s international president and chief executive office.
She’ll address the nation later in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War.
Biden, in his inaugural address, reflected on the 1913 march for women’s suffrage the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, during which some marchers were heckled and attacked.
“Today, we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said.
Raised not to hear ‘no’
Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity.
“I was raised to not hear `no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'” she recalled during a CBS Sunday Morning interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.”
Harris’ swearing-in holds more symbolic weight than that of any vice president in modern times.
She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All.
People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school, Jones said. They will have to understand Harris’ traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali.
“Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said.
Her election to the vice-presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election.
“We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said.
Becky Hammon became the first woman to direct a team in NBA history, taking over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers following Gregg Popovich’s ejection in the first half.
Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a non-call on DeMar DeRozan’s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks. Popovich was applauded as he exited the court by several of the team’s family members that were in attendance at the AT&T Center.
Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.
Tim Duncan took over last season when Popovich was ejected against Portland on Nov. 16, 2019. The Hall of Famer opted not to return as assistant this season.
A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014.
WATCH | Keeping girls in sport during the pandemic:
Scott Russell is joined by Chandra Crawford, Stephanie Dixon and Ainka Jess to chat about how the pandemic has only worsened the issue of young girls in this country dropping out of sports and what needs to be done about it. This is the second panel in a five-part series of discussions on the state of sport in Canada. 19:13