After dodging COVID-19 for almost half of the NBA season, the Toronto Raptors have been dealt a big blow.
The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
In a shortened NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases and game cancellations, it’s the first game cancellation for the Raptors.
The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available Sunday.
Toronto was missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s 122-111 victory over Houston.
The Raptors-Bulls game is the 30th to be postponed so far this season because of COVID-19 testing or contact tracing but the first time Toronto has had to reschedule.
It was the first postponement this season for Toronto, which is playing its home games in Tampa, Fla., because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto. Chicago has now had four of its games pushed back, all because its opponent for each of those contests was going through a virus-related problem.
The only teams that have not had a game postponed by virus issues so far this season are Brooklyn, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Players, staff tested twice daily
Toronto used 12 players on Friday and had 14 listed as available to play. For Sunday’s game, Siakam was the only player who had been listed on Saturday’s injury report as out because of health and safety protocols, which indicates results returned Saturday either showed more problems, or the contact tracing investigations showed players had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and may have to quarantine.
The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.
WATCH | Lowry leads Nurse, Siakam-less Raps past Rockets:
Toronto defeats Houston 122-111, Nick Nurse and 5 other members of the coaching staff along with Pascal Siakam were not at the game because of health and safety protocols. 1:23
Players and staff are tested twice daily.
The Raptors announced Nurse and most of his staff would miss Friday’s game a few hours before tip-off.
At the time, Toronto general manager Bobby Webster said it wasn’t clear Siakam’s situation was linked to the coaches.
“The NBA is being extremely careful here,” Webster said. “It’s early in what’s going on here, so I think we’re all being conscientious and not taking any risks … We’ll see what tomorrow brings us.”
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob discusses Fred VanVleet’s all-star snub:
Vivek Jacob is joined by Raptors reporter William Lou, to discuss Fred VanVleet not being selected to the 2021 All-Star Game and the Raptors getting back to the .500 mark after a slow 2-8 start to the season. 4:40
The Raptors’ staff was already shorthanded, given Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse’s coaching staff.
About half the league’s teams are allowing a small number of fans into arenas for games, but testing protocols and other rules have been stiffened as the season has gone on in the interest of safety. The league has been able to play about 94 per cent of its scheduled games so far this season, which NBA commissioner Adam Silver and some players have touted as some measure of success to this point.
Scheduled to host Pistons on Tuesday
“Hopefully, going forward, we can continue it,” Miami forward Kelly Olynyk said Sunday. “Obviously, we’d love to see fans back in the arenas, travel, all that kind of stuff be permitted and allowed when it’s safe to do so. But right now, we’re still trying to get the games in as safely as we can.”
The Raptors are scheduled to host Detroit on Tuesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., before wrapping up their first-half schedule on Thursday in Boston.
The NBA released its schedule for the second half of the season last week, and those jam-packed lists — some teams are slotted to play 40 times in a span of 68 days — includes games postponed in the first half because of the virus and the February ice storm that caused a handful of postponements in Texas.
The Raptors were already scheduled to play 35 games in 66 days in the season’s second half, including a gruelling four-game western road trip that sees Toronto play four games in six days at Denver, Utah and Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers.
Rescheduling more games will get even tougher from here, and the notion of not every team playing its full 72-game allotment this season seems like a distinct possibility.
During the season’s second half, which runs from March 10 through May 16, the Raptors and Bulls share 19 days without a game on their schedules. But without moving several other games around, the only possible date they could play without creating a back-to-back-to-back — or even a back-to-back-to-back-to-back — for either team is April 8.
Toronto opens the second half of the season on March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
Florida added 5,539 coronavirus cases and 118 deaths on Sunday. The state has had more than 1.9 million cases since the pandemic’s arrival last March.
For any other young Canadian midfielder trying to make an impact on the national team, hearing they might need ‘seasoning’ could induce some eye rolls.
Julia Grosso, however, accepts that challenge and has found an opportunity to gain experience in the strange year that is 2020. Now, she’s eyeing a spot on the Olympic squad for Tokyo next summer.
The 20-year-old Vancouver native just wrapped up the first half of her junior season at the University of Texas at Austin. Due to varying pandemic restrictions in the U.S., she was one of Canada’s few college-aged national team players able to play meaningful games in the NCAA this fall.
“It’s been different,” she said recently by phone before heading home until her season resumes again in January. “I miss having two games a week. Covid has definitely taken its toll, but I’m still very grateful I have the opportunity to play and train, whatever it looks like.”
While she may not have played as many games and there isn’t a Canadian national team camp anytime soon, Grosso has been focusing on what she can control — working on her strength and conditioning, watching footage and working on the little things to help boost her chances of being named to the 18-player roster for Tokyo.
“The Olympics are an amazing opportunity, but a part of me is a little bit glad,” she said of the Games’ delay.
“Obviously I wanted to go, but development-wise, it just gives me another year, especially being one of the younger players. Even a year can help you a lot.”
Navigating a strange year
The 2020 calendar year started off well for Grosso.
At the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers in January and February in Texas, of Canada’s five matches, Grosso started one game and was a substitute in another as they booked their ticket to Tokyo.
In March, there was more progress for Grosso at the Tournoi de France, seeing more playing time against top 10 countries. She was a second-half substitute in a 1-0 loss to the hosts and a 0-0 draw against the Netherlands. She picked up her eighth start in a 2-2 result against Brazil.
Then came the pandemic. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed. Kenneth Heiner-Moller stepped down as coach. Bev Priestman was only named his replacement in late October.
The Canadian women’s team haven’t been together for eight months. Planned camps and friendlies for October and November were cancelled on advice from federal health authorities.
Many of the side’s top players have kept active in professional environments in North America or Europe, but for those who are still amateurs like Grosso, staying sharp in these circumstances has been trickier.
Guiding Grosso’s day-to-day development is Texas Longhorns coach Angela Kelly. The native of Brantford, Ont., played a decade as a midfielder for the national team in the 1990s and is a member of the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
Kelly was excited about Grosso after one of her first recruiting trips to the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy about five years ago.
“She was talented on the ball. She had a lot of gifts,” said Kelly, who also has two other Canadian youth internationals and Whitecaps alumni in Emma Regan (Vancouver) and Teni Akindoju (Halifax) on the Longhorns roster. Another, Holly Ward (Vancouver), will join next year.
“She’s figuring out all the little nuances that are really going to help her when her time comes in the Canadian uniform to be one of the go-to players. You don’t just automatically come into age and you’re the go-to player, you have to train for it.”
Grosso has been in the national fold since 2014 when she suited up for Canada’s under-15 team, coached by Priestman. From there, she represented Canada at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Her biggest accomplishment to date was being named to the 2019 World Cup team.
She was just 18 in France and though she didn’t get to play, she soaked up the experience.
“I got to be on the bench, watch every game, warm up and still be part of the team. It was an opportunity to see how the older players carried themselves game after game and how professionals do it,” she said. “And I created bonds.”
‘She plays with no fear’
One of those bonds has been with veteran midfielder, Desiree Scott. Nicknamed ‘The Destroyer,’ Scott is considered one of the top holding midfielders in the world, the same position Grosso plays when she sees time with the national team.
“[Scott] always gives me positive feedback or if I need constructive criticism on the field. She’ll start the game and play a lot, so if I happen to go in toward the end of the game, she really motivates me and she’s my No. 1 supporter on the sideline,” Grosso said.
Scott, like many of the veterans on the Canadian side, has tried to take the younger players under her wing and was flattered that Grosso considers her a mentor.
“Julia is such a technical player, she plays with no fear, the way she gets involved in the attack as a holding midfielder is exciting,” Scott said. “She’s just an incredible player, such a bright future for her.”
The dynamic duo strikes! <a href=”https://twitter.com/haley_berg23?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@haley_berg23</a> to <a href=”https://twitter.com/GrossoJulia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@GrossoJulia</a>!<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RunWithTexas?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RunWithTexas</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RAMPED?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RAMPED</a> <a href=”https://t.co/9XDuEKACNB”>pic.twitter.com/9XDuEKACNB</a>
In terms of positions, Canada’s midfield is the most experienced and perhaps the hardest to crack.
Diana Matheson is the most-tenured national team member outside Christine Sinclair with 206 appearances for Canada. Then there’s fellow two-time Olympic bronze medallists Sophie Schmidt (199) and Desiree Scott (157), who are also in their 30s.
The “younger” midfielders on the squad, 22-year-old Jessie Fleming and 25-year-old Ashley Lawrence are closing in on 100 appearances, with 77 and 91 caps respectively.
In Grosso’s 21 caps with the national team, she’s mostly played as a substitute in that holding midfield/defensive midfield role, but Kelly says she also has versatility in the middle of the pitch.
“I like her in that supporting midfield role. She has an explosive first step, she’s deceivingly fast and her technical speed — when she has the ball at her feet — she almost looks faster. That’s unusual. Players like Mia Hamm have that ability,” said Kelly, who played with the American legend at North Carolina.
Kelly knows from her days on the national team that as a central player, you need to cover a large range. It’s not just about going box-to-box, it’s also going touchline-to-touchline.
Now on a break from her sports management studies, Grosso is eager to get back together with her Canadian teammates, whenever that might be.
She’s also looking forward to a reunion with her old youth coach, Priestman.
“She loves keeping the ball. My type of style,” Grosso said. “Technique, keeping the ball well, switching the point of play, which is totally what I love to do, so I’m excited to see that again and get to play with that. I loved her as a coach.”
It’s expected the Canadian team will see some turnover after Tokyo with a few of the veterans stepping away.
But does that mean Grosso will become a go-to player?
“I think Julia is going to step into that holding midfielder role. Now, I’m not announcing my retirement yet,” laughed Scott. “But I think she’s going to hold that position down, allow it to grow into something and make it her own in the centre of the pitch.”
The Olympic women’s football tournament is scheduled to begin July 22.
There is no “Plan B” for the Olympics if they need to be postponed again because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo organizers said Tuesday.
Masa Takaya, the spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics, said organizers are proceeding under the assumption the Olympics will open on July 23, 2021. The Paralympics follow on Aug. 24.
Those dates were set last month by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese officials after the coronavirus pandemic made it clear the Tokyo Games could not be held as scheduled this year.
“We are working toward the new goal,” Takaya said, speaking in English on a teleconference call with journalists. “We don’t have a B Plan.”
The severity of the pandemic and the death toll has raised questions if it will even be feasible to hold the Olympics in just over 15 months.
“All I can tell you today is that the new games’ dates for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been just set up,” Takaya said. “In that respect, Tokyo 2020 and all concerned parties now are doing their very best effort to deliver the games next year.”
IOC President Thomas Bach was asked about the possibility of a postponement in an interview published in the German newspaper Die Welt on Sunday.
He did not answer the question directly, but said later that Japanese organizers and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated they “could not manage a postponement beyond next summer at the latest.”
Travel has been frozen
The Olympics draw 11,000 athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes and large support staffs from 206 national Olympic committees.
There are also questions about frozen travel, rebooking hotels, cramming fans into stadiums and arenas, securing venues and the massive costs of rescheduling, which is estimated in Japan at $ 2 billion-$ 6 billion.
Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto addressed the issue in a news conference on Friday. He is likely to be asked about it again on Thursday when local organizers and the IOC hold a teleconference with media in Japan.
The other major question is the cost of the delay, and who pays.
Bach said in the Sunday interview that the IOC would incur “several hundred million dollars” in added costs. Under the so-called Host City Agreement, Japan is liable for the vast majority of the expenses.
“This is impossible to say for now,” Takaya said. “It is not very easy to estimate the exact amount of the games’ additional costs, which have been impacted by the postponement.”
Tokyo says it is spending $ 12.6 billion to organize the Olympics. But a Japanese government audit published last year says the costs are twice that much. Of the total spending, $ 5.6 billion is private money. The rest is from Japanese governments.
The postponement of the Tokyo Games has forced many Canadian athletes to rethink the carefully structured training regimes they were following to prepare for the Olympics.
Pushing the Olympics back a year due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic has also blown up the plans many older athletes made for after the Games.
Rugby sevens player Karen Paquin had planned to move back to Quebec from Langford, B.C., after the Olympics and live in the house she and her husband recently purchased.
“My whole plan got basically thrown down the garbage,” said Paquin, 32, a member of the Canadian team that won a bronze medal four years ago in Rio. “I had a few discussions with my partner. We decided that we are going to make it work one way or the other.”
WATCH | Some Canadian athletes’ future in doubt due to Tokyo 2020 postponement:
CBC Sports’ Scott Russell says the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics could jeopardize careers of some of Canada’s older athletes. 5:57
Rosie MacLennan, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in trampoline, was going to give herself some “time and space” after the Games to decide if she would continue competing or maybe retire, begin a career or possibly start a family.
MacLennan now will have those decisions made prior to the Olympics opening on July 23, 2021.
“For me, I think it really just reorganizes when I do what,” said MacLennan, who turns 32 in August. “So rather than putting off everything for another year, I do want to try put something in place for after Tokyo. Exactly what that might be, I’m not entirely sure.
“I’ve looked into different options and have some ideas. But we’ll take the time now to kind of explore and research those different ideas and kind of work backwards from where I want to get to and kind of put the steps in place to create a path there.”
Delaying the Games means swimmer Brent Hayden will spend another year living with his mother-in-law in New Westminster, B.C.
Hayden, 36, and his wife had rented out their Vancouver home last year prior to travelling to Lebanon. It was during that trip the 100-metre bronze medallist at the 2012 London Games decided to come out of retirement.
“We were planning after Tokyo that we would move back in,” said Hayden, “But now, with everything going on, we probably need to extend that lease for our tenants and continue living with my mother-in-law.”
Hayden has swam a time of 49.46 seconds in the 50-m freestyle, good enough to earn him a spot at Swimming Canada’s Olympic trials. He believes an extra year of training will help him lower that time and sharpen his racing skills.
“I’m just going to use it to my advantage,” he said. “I’m not worried about being a year older because, as far as I can tell, I’m getting better at my age.”
Paquin will spend the winter doing renovations on her home with her husband before returning to B.C. to train. After the Olympics she hopes to join the women’s 15 team and play at the women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand which begins Sept. 18, 2021.
“Hopefully I’ll be selected,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go with such a short amount of time [after] the Olympics.”
The Olympic delay may have some athletes considering retirement, but Frank van den Berg, the lead mental performance professional at the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary cautioned against “jumping to a conclusion.”
“There may be a time in the next month or two months in which that is a much better time to see what the reality is at that point before you make those decisions,” he said.
Lying on the pitch with a ruptured right Achilles tendon, Mark Pearson feared he wouldn’t be able to represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics.
The veteran midfielder was injured six minutes into the men’s field hockey gold-medal game at the Pan Am Games in Peru last August, an eventual 5-2 loss to Argentina that left Pearson and his teammates with one path to qualify for the Games originally scheduled for this July.
But the IOC’s decision to postpone the Olympics — with new dates of July 23-Aug. 8 2021 announced Monday morning — offers an opportunity for Pearson and other Canadian athletes who found themselves in a similar predicament.
“I planted my right leg and tried to turn at the same time and felt (the Achilles) go. Honestly, I feared my career was over,” said Vancouver’s Pearson, who at 32 was eyeing a third tour of duty after competing at the 2008 and 2016 Olympics. “There was no guarantee we were going to win the back door qualifying game (against Ireland). It was probably, at best, a 50-50 chance.”
But on Oct. 27, Adam Froese clinched an Olympic spot for Canada as the seventh shooter in sudden-death shots while Pearson, staring at months of rehab following surgery, cheered from the sidelines in West Vancouver.
WATCH | Canadian athletes on Tokyo 2020 postponement:
Now that the IOC has pushed the start of the Games, athletes took to social media to respond 1:00
“I would have said I had probably an 85, 90 per cent chance of being back healthy and feeling 100 per cent in time for the Games (in late July),” Pearson says, “but there was a bit of an unknown because I didn’t know how (the heel) was going to hold up (once I began full training).
“I’m still only at the jogging phase. My trajectory was to run in April, sprint in May and in June be back training.”
Pearson was about six weeks into his running and jogging rehab on an underwater treadmill under the guidance of Dr. Wilbour Kelsick in Port Moody, B.C., before local facilities were closed because of the virus.
Getting creative with home workouts
“That’s how I was pushing myself running-wise,” said Pearson, who sits on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s athletes commission. “I’m trying to be as creative as possible (at home) with balance and resistance band exercises along with heel lifts to regain leg strength.”
Pearson, who has reduced workouts to 60 to 90 minutes per day from two hours since the postponement, also spends 10-15 minutes a day climbing 10 stairs in front of his house to build strength in his right calf muscle.
During surgery, Pearson also had a Haglund’s deformity, or bony enlargement on the back of his right heel, repaired after dealing with a heel spur for five or six years.
“I’ve got a couple of screws in the bottom of my heel that pin the Achilles in place and they’ll stay in forever,” said Pearson, who has 274 caps since joining the senior national team in 2005. “It’s about rebuilding the right calf, getting the muscles back and firing. I’m not a shoo-in for the team and need to prove I’m healthy.
“I’m just happy I have a second chance to get back on the field one more time with the Canadian team because I didn’t want that injury to be the way my career ended.”
The 31-year-old middle-distance runner from Eganville, Ont., said she plans to run the women’s 800 metres next year in Tokyo despite cutting short her 2019 season because of a small Achilles tear.
I feel more like myself again. During indoors, I was back at times in practice that I was pre-pregnancy.— Middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop Nriagu on her recovery from a small Achilles tear
Bishop, who finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, was fewer than two seconds shy of the Tokyo standard of one minute 59.50 seconds in 2019 with a season-best 2:01.10, and had shown well indoors this spring with a top run of 2:00.98.
In July 2017, Bishop clocked 1:57.01 before sitting out the 2018 campaign to give birth to daughter Corinne. The changing structure of her body upon her return a year ago, she notes, led to several injuries, including a hamstring issue.
“Last year was a tough year coming back. I was extremely fit but my physical body couldn’t hold up with the demand I needed to put on it,” Bishop-Nriagu said. “If COVID-19 wasn’t present, then I truly believe I would’ve been ready for Tokyo (this July). But given what we’re in right now, another year can only help me.
“I feel more like myself again. During indoors, I was back to times in practice that I was pre-pregnancy. The fitness and strength is really coming together.”
WATCH | Melissa Bishop-Nriagu reflects on Olympic experience in Rio:
Thinking about her fourth-place finish in the women’s 800 metres at the Rio Olympics still brings Canadian runner Melissa Bishop to tears. “It’s like a pain in your side that won’t go away,” she says. 3:41
Like Bishop-Nriagu, the Canadian judoka hasn’t secured an Olympic spot after working his way back from arthroscopic surgery in July 2019 to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
“I was told the recovery could range from six to nine months,” said Bouchard, who dislocated the same shoulder in a late 2017 match. “My left shoulder is not as strong as my right and I probably could have used an extra month to do more strengthening.”
The 25-year-old returned to full-time training on the mat at the beginning of January and fought at Grand Slam tournaments in Paris and Germany in February, but is in a tough battle for the one and only available spot in the men’s 73-kilogram division. Bouchard ranks 30th in the world, 21 spots lower than fellow Montreal resident Arthur Margelidon.
As Bouchard waits for Olympic qualifying events to be rescheduled, the two-time Pan Am champion is hopeful for a chance to reach the podium in Tokyo after placing fifth at the 2016 Games in Rio.
“Qualifying for Rio in itself was an achievement, but that feeling of getting close to (winning a medal) that almost nobody expected has motivated me to train harder,” he said.
The two-time Olympian is back competing on vault, uneven bars, floor exercise and balance beam, a move the 24-year-old gymnast from Halifax wasn’t prepared to make until she was fully recovered from right ankle surgery.
“My recovery’s been real good,” said Black, who suffered ligament damage on a landing in vault last October at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany. “That first competition on all four events (in late February) went well and was a confidence boost to get through some easier routines with less (than ideal) preparation.”
WATCH | Ellie Black suffers ligament damage in ankle at worlds:
Canadian gymnast Ellie Black injured herself during her vault attempt in the gymnastics world championships women’s all-around final, but her performance was good enough to earn fourth place overall. 2:13
Two months before the injury, Black won five medals at the Pan Am Games in Peru and was the first woman in the event’s history to win back-to-back gold medals in the individual all-around.
“I was working through a floor routine and was looking at Pan Ams as a test trial for the world championships,” she said. “My body was feeling good and I still felt good at worlds and was very consistent.”
While Canada’s women’s team has already qualified for Tokyo, Black will still have to earn a spot on the squad.
Other Canadians working through injuries:
Bianca Andreescu — The tennis star from Mississauga, Ont., who has reached a Canadian record No. 4 in the world rankings, hasn’t played a competitive match since injuring her left knee in late October at the WTA Finals in China. Tokyo would be the 19-year-old’s Olympic debut.
WATCH | Bianca Andreescu exits WTA Finals with knee injury:
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., injured her left knee while returning a serve in her WTA Finals match against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Andreescu would later retire from the match. 1:50
Diana Matheson/Erin McLeod — Veteran teammates with the national women’s soccer team, they missed last year’s World Cup with injuries. Midfielder Matheson rejoined the club in February after a one-year injury absence following toe surgery while goalkeeper McLeod has recovered after dealing with foot pain due to plantar fasciitis.
Matheson, 35, is expected to be a player this season for Utah Royals FC of the National Women’s Soccer League while the 37-year-old McLeod is preparing for her debut with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.
Dayna Pidhoresky/Kinsey Middleton — The two distance runners withdrew days before the cancellation of the New York City Half Marathon, scheduled for March 15.
Pidhoresky, who automatically qualified for her first Olympics as the top Canadian women’s finisher at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, is waiting to see how her right soleus tendon, which is inflamed where it attaches to the tibia, or shin bone, responds to medication. Husband and coach Josh Seifarth tweeted out a progress report on the weekend.
Look out world, <a href=”https://twitter.com/DaynaPidhoresky?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DaynaPidhoresky</a> rocked a brick workout today… 1h15 bike (w/ a new FTP set) into 6 km run. That whole swimming thing though…
Middleton, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho who holds dual citizenship as her mother was born in Guelph, Ont., experienced tendinitis in one of her shins during a hill workout in early March. The 27-year-old has yet to qualify for Tokyo in either the 10,000 metres or marathon.
Andre De Grasse now has the chance to be a major part of the sprint show at the Tokyo Games.
For that, he’s breathing a little easier.
A day ago, Canada’s fastest man wasn’t sure he would be allowed to take to the starting line, even if he wanted to. His country decided to not send a team to the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic unless the games were delayed a year.
They were, and now he’s back on course.
On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee postponed the Olympics until 2021. The announcement was recognition of the reality that training and qualifying schedules have been completely disrupted as the coronavirus spreads.
WATCH | Canadian IOC member discusses Tokyo 2020 postponement:
Canadian IOC member Dick Pound tells the CBC the Tokyo 2020 postponement will have a big impact on the international sports calendar. 8:50
This was supposed to be De Grasse’s year — his first chance for Olympic gold without Usain Bolt looming a few steps away. Only a new crop of talent has arrived on the scene in Americans Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles.
It’s shaping up to be quite a showdown, one that De Grasse certainly wanted in on and now can be given the IOC decision not to start the games on July 24 as scheduled.
Next on the agenda for the IOC and organizers is picking a date when it might be safe again to hold such a big event. They’ll also have to rearrange the 2021 global sports calendar.
De Grasse is, by most measures, Canada’s highest-profile summer sports star. The country brought 314 athletes to the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. It captured 22 medals, with De Grasse bringing home three.
Although De Grasse wasn’t contacted individually by Team Canada in regard to its decision not to send athletes to Tokyo before the IOC decision to postpone, he did receive a survey.
He didn’t fill it out.
WATCH | Postponement calls Olympians’ careers into question:
CBC Sports’ Scott Russell says the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics could jeopardize careers of some of Canada’s older athletes. 5:57
“I didn’t know how I felt about the situation at the time,” explained De Grasse, who has seven Olympic and world championship medals to his credit. “I was letting it go and playing it by ear day by day and seeing if this things got better.
“They’re trying to protect us. We’re humans first and athletes second. We’ll get through this.”
These days, he’s in Florida with his girlfriend, American hurdler Nia Ali. Now that cities and states are closing gyms and urging social distancing, his workouts have been reduced to running on a soccer field and chasing around their daughter, Yuri, who turns 2 in June. Ali also has a son, Titus.
“I’m with the kids, at home, a lot,” De Grasse cracked. “I feel like I’m active because I’m chasing them around. We go swimming in the backyard.”
De Grasse didn’t take the most conventional route into the world of sprinting. In fact, he thought his path to glory was as a point guard in basketball.
That changed when he bumped into a friend on the bus in high school. He boasted he could beat him in a race.
Wearing baggy basketball shorts and borrowed spikes, De Grasse started from a standing position instead of uncoiling from the blocks.
A coach, Tony Sharpe, happened to see him from the stands, took him under his wing and helped fine-tune that raw speed.
De Grasse burst on the scene in 2015, when he tied for the 100-metre bronze medal at the world championships in Beijing. Back then, he was just a role player in the showdown between Bolt and American rival Justin Gatlin.
A year later at the Rio Games, De Grasse took centre stage and clowned around with Bolt, though it wasn’t all fun and games. Bolt was looking for the world record, possibly to even break the 19-second barrier in the 200. He fell short, and among the reasons he cited was De Grasse’s decision to push him the night before in the semifinals.
De Grasse ended up earning silver during the 200 in Brazil, along with bronze medals in the 100 and as part of the 4×100 relay team.
He occasionally watches his Olympic races — for inspiration.
“There’s a lot of motivation to say to myself, ‘I can be one of the fastest men in the world,”‘ De Grasse recounted. “When I watch, it fuels that and makes me hungry to win again and have that feeling that I felt in Rio.”
He’s healthy again, too.
Bothered by hamstring injuries in 2017 and in ’18, he flashed his familiar — and fast — form at the world championships last fall in Doha, Qatar. De Grasse took bronze in the 100 behind Coleman and Gatlin. Later, he picked up silver in the 200 behind Lyles.
USA Track and Field, the governing body of American athletics, on Saturday called for a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
The federation, in a letter to United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee chief executive Sarah Hirshland, asked the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games which are scheduled to run from July 24-Aug. 9.
“We certainly understand the ramifications of this request, and the realities of trying to coordinate the logistics of a postponed Olympic Games around the schedules of other athletes, sport federations, key stakeholders etc., but the alternative of moving forward in light of the current global situation would not be in the best interest of our athletes [as difficult as that decision might be],” USATF chief executive Max Siegel said in the letter.
The U.S. track and field federation joined another leading U.S. Olympic sport, USA Swimming, in seeking a delay to the Games.
Swimming Canada says it supports a call by USA Swimming to postpone this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In a letter sent Friday to Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said the outbreak of the coronavirus has caused “unimaginable disruptions” which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field just months before the Olympics.
“It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by one year,” Hinchey wrote.
Later Friday, Swimming Canada said it was “very much aligned” with the points Hinchey raised.
“Telling athletes to prepare for an Olympic Games during a global pandemic raises serious issues,” Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi said in a statement. “We hold the opinions of our brothers and sisters at USA Swimming in high regard and share many of the same concerns around health and safety. That includes the safety and well-being of our athletes — both physically and mentally — and the safety of the community at large.
“Each day that goes by without a decision creates more stress and anxiety for our athletes, who are worried not only about themselves but about their communities.”
USA Swimming respectfully requests that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. <a href=”https://t.co/q5bhUwi05q”>pic.twitter.com/q5bhUwi05q</a>
Susanne Lyons, chair of the USOPC, agreed with the position of the International Olympic Committee that its too early for drastic decisions related to the Tokyo Games.
“We’d concur with them to say we need more expert advice than we have today,” Lyons said during a conference call. “And we don’t have to make a decision. The games are four months from now.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee also reiterated its support of the IOC’s decision to wait before making any decisions.
Eugene Liang, high-performance director for Triathlon Canada, said the current global situation has created “an environment of haves and have-nots” when it comes to athlete training.
“Sooner than later is probably the number one thing that everyone is trying to push for,” Liang said on the urgency to make a decision.
Nic Coward, the chairman of UK Athletics in Britain, told BBC Sport that leaving the Olympic starting date unchanged “is creating so much pressure in the system. It now has to be addressed.”
In theory, no national Olympic federation has more power to alter the shape of an Olympics than the USOPC, which brings 550 athletes and its billion-dollar broadcaster, NBC, to the show every two years. But after a long day of board meetings, the committee showed no appetite for using that leverage to push for more certainty, even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike in the United States.
Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland said a lot of what has already been said from IOC president Thomas Bach, whose most recent interview in The New York Times reiterated that plans are going forward for a Tokyo Games, whether they start July 24 or some other time.
After the USA Swimming news, Hirshland and Lyons put out a joint statement, emphasizing the multiple moving parts that are influencing any decision from the IOC, and looking ahead to an important IOC meeting next week, at which leaders will receive feedback from countries.
“Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them,” the statement said.
While they press forward with plans, leaders in Italy, where the coronavirus has accounted for more than 3,400 fatalities, have pleaded with the IOC to change its stance.
Olympic committees in Latin America said athletes should be given the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics right until the Games begin on July 24.
The presidents of Olympic committees in Argentina, Mexico and Paraguay told Reuters discussions with the IOC were ongoing about holding the qualifiers in May and June as well as using athletes’ previous competition results.
“The qualifiers are a concern and in that sense it was agreed to analyze other types of qualifiers, such as using the Pan American Games in Lima,” said Camilo Perez, president of the Paraguayan committee, referring to the 2019 tournament in Peru.
“And extending deadlines that would reach almost the date of the Games.”
Athletes also urging postponement
A growing number of athletes are calling for more decisive action from Olympic leaders: “The most infuriating part of this whole thing is it feels like the IOC is going to do what they want, regardless of what the athletes think,” U.S. Olympic silver-medal pole vaulter Sandi Morris tweeted late Thursday.
But there is also a contingent of less vocal athletes who are not speaking up as loudly on social media and “for whom this feels like their opportunity, their only opportunity,” Hirshland said.
“It adds to the complication factor” in making a decision, Hirshland said.
Han Xiao, the chair of the athletes’ advisory council, confirmed that and said it’s why his group has not made any definitive statements encouraging a postponement.
“We are specifically asking for more transparency around the decision-making process, more information about what measures and conditions are being discussed, and less public emphasis on training and `business as usual,’ which is putting athletes in a bad position,” Han said.
Many athletes’ training regimens have, in fact, disintegrated, as gyms and communal workout spaces around the country have been closed. The USOPC has closed its Olympic training centres to all but the 180 or so who live at them — and many in those groups have chosen to leave campus.
Hirshland said it needed to be clear to every elite and recreational athlete out there that “as Americans, the No. 1 priority needs to be health and safety,” and not training.
Qualification altered beyond recognition
The USOPC has increased availability of mental and emotional counselling, as anxiety builds over what comes next. Around 190 of 550 spots on the U.S. team are scheduled to be handed out at for gymnastics, swimming and track at Olympic trials in June — all of which are in jeopardy.
Both Bach and the USOPC leadership have acknowledged the realities of a qualification process that is being altered beyond recognition. Hirshland says the federation is working with individual sports, both at the national and international levels, to adapt in the event the Olympics take place without a traditional qualifying structure.
She also said that unless the IOC makes some announcement changing the July 24 start date, it has to keep pushing forward as safely as it can with operational and logistical plans to stage the games for its athletes.
“Our priority and our obligation is to the athletes we serve,” she said. “If the opportunity is available to them (to compete in the Olympics), we’re not going to be the reason they don’t have that opportunity. We will be there and we will be ready.”
St. Louis defenceman Jay Bouwmeester was conscious and alert after suffering a cardiac episode and collapsing on the bench during the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.
The 36-year-old Bouwmeester crumpled over after a long shift and during a break in play. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Bouwmeester was awake, alert and moving his arms and legs as he was transported to a hospital. He remained in the hospital overnight and was undergoing further tests.
The Blues were supposed to fly to Las Vegas, where they are scheduled to play Thursday, but remained in Southern California. The team is expected to provide an update on Bouwmeester’s condition Wednesday.
“Thankfully, with the quick response of our medical trainers, Anaheim medical trainers and their team physicians, they were able to stabilize Jay,” Armstrong said.
WATCH | Bouwmeester collapses on bench:
The Blues’ defenceman left the bench on a stretcher after collapsing during a break in play in the first period. 0:50
St. Louis’ radio announcer Chris Kerber said during an interview with the team’s flagship station that a defibrillator was used.
Teammates Vince Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo immediately called for help after Bouwmeester slumped over with 7:50 left in the first period. After a couple of minutes, Bouwmeester was taken out on a stretcher through a tunnel next to the Blues bench and transported to a hospital.
Bouwmeester appeared to be grabbing a drink of water when he began to slowly fall. Emergency medical personnel rushed to the Blues bench.
Bouwmeester’s father was at the game as part of the team’s annual Dads Trip. He went with his son to the hospital while teammates and their fathers remained at the arena awaiting updates.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/stlblues?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#stlblues</a> statement re: Jay Bouwmeester <a href=”https://t.co/wdV46y394u”>pic.twitter.com/wdV46y394u</a>
Ducks and Blues players gathered to see what was wrong before Bouwmeester was taken away. Both teams then went to their dressing rooms, and the game was called off a few minutes later tied at 1.
Players from both teams met for hugs and well-wishes after changing out of their gear. The game will be made up at a later date.
Known for skating, conditioning
Bouwmeester is in his 17th NHL season and has for that time been known for his strong skating and conditioning. He helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup last season and won an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014.
Bouwmeester was skating in his 57th game this season, the 1,241st of his NHL career. He skated 1:20 in his last shift before collapsing and logged 5:34 of ice time in the game.
The Blues signed the veteran defenceman to a $ 3.25 million US, one-year deal for this season.
Bouwmeester held one of the longest ironman streaks in NHL history with 737 consecutive regular season games played until a lower-body injury in 2014. He missed time in 2015-16 with a concussion, and a hip injury ended his 2017-18 season.
He played all but four games last year and hasn’t missed a game this season.
The last player to collapse on an NHL bench was Dallas forward Rich Peverley in 2014. Peverley had an irregular heartbeat, and the quick response of emergency officials made sure he was OK.
The NHL has pages of emergency medical standards that spell out in specific detail that at least two doctors must be in attendance for every game and one must be within 50 feet of the bench. A defibrillator, which was used when Detroit’s Jiri Fischer collapsed in 2005, must be available, along with a triage room and ambulances.