Tag Archives: sport

Olympic champion Kingsbury calls for urgent action to allow sport in Quebec schools

Quebec mogul king Mikael Kingsbury is calling for the return of sport in schools.

In an open letter on Wednesday to Quebec Premier François Legault, the reigning Olympic and world moguls champion says urgent action is needed amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am worried about the situation of young athletes,” wrote the 28-year-old freestyle skiing star. “The health of thousands of young people is at risk.”

Inspired in part by his own experiences growing up, Kingsbury is lending his voice to the efforts of a 16-year-old high school student, Isaac Pépin, who has been urging the provincial government to show flexibility in its approach to sport in schools.

WATCH | Kingsbury writes open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault:

Days before the world championship, the moguls skier writes an open letter to Quebec Premier urging the government to get kids out of their houses. 5:49

Kingsbury told CBC Sports in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the plea is something he understands all too well.

“Having grown up skiing and playing baseball with my friends, sport is a motivator. A source of meaning,” he said, adding that sport was a big part of what helped keep him coming back to class.

For the 28-year-old native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., it’s also a question of mental as well as physical health.

“I am worried that young people are lost. That they are abandoning sport in favour of screens,” Kingsbury wrote in his letter to Legault.

This is why Kingsbury supports Pépin’s calls for the resumption of supervised sport.

‘I got dizzy’

“I stopped this week and wondered what I would do if I was this young man deprived of sport for a year in a period of a pandemic,” Kingsbury wrote.

“I got dizzy! I wouldn’t have had the capacity to survive a full year without my passion. I tell you very simply: I would be adrift. I am convinced that sports clubs, sports organizations and federations have the capacities, the means, but above all the determination necessary to protect young people and their families. Before, during and after sports practice.”

And Kingsbury feels the time to act is now.

“It’s been a year where people across Canada, but especially in Quebec, have not been able to play collective sports,” he told CBC Sports. “It’s like a year the kids are losing and will never get back again.”

WATCH | Kingsbury reflects on consecutive World Cup victories:

A day after winning his 1st event in Deer Valley, reigning Olympic and world moguls champion Mikael Kingsbury from Deux-Montagnes, Que., earns his 2nd straight victory with a win in dual moguls. 1:35

Legault said he understands the frustration, but also the importance of sport on mental health during a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

“People who know me know that I do a lot of sports,” Legault said. “Sports is important. There’s nothing better to decrease stress levels, and it’s important for mental heath. But we all agree that certain sports, at the very least, we might get too close and bring about contagion.”

While discussions with sports federations are still ongoing, Legault will offer more of an update next week and acknowledged that “as of March 15th, everywhere in Quebec will be able to start outside school activities.”

Meanwhile, Kingsbury — who only recently returned to action in February after fracturing his T4 and T5 vertebrate in November prior to the opening of the freestyle ski season — is in Kazakhstan gearing up for freestyle skiing world championships in Almaty.

He says the passion that Pépin and fellow organizers have exhibited for sport has given him extra motivation to win. 

“[They] are only asking for one thing: to breathe new life into young people by allowing them to reconnect with their passion.”

Kingsbury won’t be able to stand with protestors at a planned rally in front of the provincial parliament on Sunday, but remains hopeful activities will open up when he returns to his home province.

“On behalf of all athletes in Quebec, amateurs and professionals, I hope that when I return home in mid-March, sport will find its rightful place.”

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Lenovo’s New Legion Gaming Laptops Sport Latest AMD, Nvidia Hardware

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There’s no in-person CES this year, but companies are still rolling out new products for the virtual event. Among them is Lenovo, which has unveiled a complete revamp of its Legion gaming laptops. The new machines combine AMD’s latest CPUs with Nvidia’s new mobile GPUs. The price tags won’t be in the budget range, but they’re much lower than some competing gaming laptops. 

The Lenovo Legion 7 (above) is at the top of Lenovo’s new lineup. This computer has a 16-inch display with a less-common 16:10 ratio. That gives you a little more vertical space compared with 16:9 displays. The IPS panel is 2560 x 1600 with a 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, 500 nits of brightness, HDR 400 with Dolby Vision, and Nvidia G-Sync. 

The display alone puts it in the upper echelon of gaming laptops, but the Legion 7 doesn’t stop there. It will also have the latest 5000-series AMD Ryzen mobile processors. On the GPU side, the laptop will have RTX 3000 cards, but Lenovo hasn’t specified which models. The Legion 7 comes with up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of NVMe storage. Lenovo expects to launch the Legion 7 in June with a starting price of $ 1,699.99. That’s an expensive laptop, but we regularly see gaming laptops that cost much more. 

If you’re looking to keep your mobile gaming machine a little more mobile, there’s the Legion Slim 7. This laptop will weigh just 4.2 pounds, making it the thinnest and lightest Legion laptop ever. This laptop will have both 4K and 1080p display options, but the 165Hz refresh rate is only available on the 1080p model. Again, this laptop will have the latest AMD and Nvidia parts. However, we don’t have a price or release date yet. 

The Legion 5 Pro.

The next step down is the Legion 5, which comes in three variants: A 16-inch Legion 5 Pro, a 17-inch Legion 5, and a 16-inch Legion 5. The Legion 5 Pro will start at just $ 1,000 with a 16-inch 165Hz LCD at 2560 x 1600 (another 16:10 ratio). This computer will max out with a Ryzen 7 CPU (instead of Ryzen 9 in the Legion 7) and 16GB of RAM, but it’ll still have an RTX 3000 GPU. 

The non-pro versions of the Legion 5 will start at just $ 770, but the cost will depend on which of numerous screen and CPU configs you choose. The displays are stuck at 1080p, but you can get a super-fast refresh rate. All these devices will have next-gen Ryzen CPUs and Nvidia 3000-series GPUs as well. That could make even the base model an appealing gaming machine.

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Hammon’s head coaching night caps memorable year for women in sport

There was no celebration when Becky Hammon took over as San Antonio Spurs head coach on Wednesday night.

When Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter, he simply pointed at Hammon and said “You got ’em.”

Social media, however, erupted.

Golden State guard Steph Curry tweeted: “Big Time.”

Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies wrote: “Salute Becky Hammon.”

Tennis superstar and breaker of glass ceilings Billie Jean King posted: “See it. Be it.”

Hammon became not only the first female head coach in an NBA game, but also the first female head coach in the history of four biggest North American pro leagues (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB).

The 43-year-old’s night capped a year unlike few others for women’s sports, with some breathtaking highs. There’ve been some notable hirings, including Kim Ng as GM of the Miami Marlins and Bev Priestman, head coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team.

Viewership for the National Women’s Soccer League, which was the first North American pro league to return after the pandemic began, grew by a whopping 498 per cent, while the WNBA saw a 68 per-cent increase while battling the other major sports, including the NBA.

WATCH | What were the biggest women’s sport stories of 2020?:

CBC Sports teamed up with The GIST to review what was a huge year for women’s sports. Here’s the stories and headlines that made our list, from the NWSL leading the way and setting the bubble standard to the WNBA leading the way in the fight against racial injustice. 11:15

Hammon said she would have preferred a win Tuesday night — the Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. But what she called “a substantial moment” wasn’t lost on the six-time WNBA all-star, who’s been a Spurs assistant since 2014.

“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” she told reporters after the game.

Lakes star LeBron James was among the players who applauded the historic moment.

“It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets. She’s very passionate about the game. Congrats to her and congrats for our league,” James said.

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray said Hammon was “setting an example for every woman out there.”

COVID-19 ‘was potentially devastating for women’s sports’

But the year saw minuses as well. Already facing an uphill battle for equal opportunities in sport, COVID-19 halted major momentum, including women preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a stage on which Canadian women traditionally shine.

“The disruption of COVID was potentially devastating for women’s sports, because they went into the pandemic at such a big disadvantage, less visibility, less investment, less power at decision-making tables, and ultimately just facing so many hurdles to be seen and to be valued and respected,” said Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, the CEO of Canadian Women & Sport. “And so COVID has had and still has the potential to really set women’s sport back.”

Sport participation numbers for girls, Sandmeyer-Graves pointed out, are bleak, and she fears the pandemic has only widened the gap.

The Rally Report, released in June, found that participation levels for Canadian girls are much lower than boys, with a dramatic dropout rate of one in three girls leaving sport late in adolescence — a number that has barely budged since a similar report in 2016.

By comparison, the number for boys in the same age group is only one in 10.

Despite the high-profile hirings, women-in-coaching numbers also remain grim.

Amy Stuart is one of four female head coaches — out of 600 teams — in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, the world’s largest youth competitive hockey league.

WNBA played major role in 2020

“I encountered one (other woman) in a training session. And another one found me over email,” said Stuart, a mom of three boys — she coaches her 11-year-old son Joey. “But I’ve never encountered one like out in the wild. I’ve never coached against, or seen another woman on the bench.

“It is kind of shocking, we’re 50 per cent of the population, and many of whom are athletes or hockey players, coaches with lots of great experience.”

She estimated that at least 80 per cent of games, unless the officials know her, they’ll speak to her male assistant before games, thinking he’s the head coach.

One positive is that Stuart has noticed significantly more conversation around getting women involved in the GTHL, and credited executive director Scott Oakman for reaching out to her several times.

On the business side, the WNBA’s orange hoodie was a beacon of hope, named the Sports Business Journal’s fashion statement of the year.

The WNBA also impacted the U.S. election. After Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler criticized players for their support of Black Lives Matter, they threw their support behind Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat running against Loeffler for a U.S. Senate seat

“We’ve had so many great on and off the field of play accomplishments in sport,” said Cheri Bradish, founder of the Ryerson University’s Future of Sport Lab, and director of sport business initiatives for the Ted Rogers School of Management.

“I still believe . . . there is still very much work to be done in building the business and economic case for women.”

Among some “really great” business moves, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) received a sponsorship of $ 1 million recently by the deodorant company Secret, and Canadian basketball star Kia Nurse signed with Jordan Brand late in 2019.

“I tend to err on all of this is great if we see the money starts to follow,” Bradish said.

2021 holds plenty of promise, including the Olympic and Paralympics in Tokyo, plus the much-awaited return of Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu, among others.

Sandmeyer-Graves hopes the momentum of 2020 will continue to build.

“There’s some great storytelling ahead of us in the Olympics and Paralympics,” Sandmeyer-Graves said. “And I think that’s what we need more of, frankly.

“I do have some optimism in the sense that all the major pro leagues were up and running at the same time, and women were getting record ratings. I would really love to believe, and I do believe, that there is some capacity being built there. There’s an audience that was built over this year that I think we will still see into next year as well.”

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‘Change the Game’ panel dissects progress of women’s leadership in sport

A lack of representation for women in sport and leadership roles wasn’t going to stop Carmelina Moscato.

The former Canadian national soccer team star and Olympic bronze medallist has led the charge to build the professional game for Canadian women.

Among many leadership roles within Canada Soccer, Moscato serves as commissioner of the League1 Ontario Women’s Division and aims to be responsible for creating pro opportunities for female players within the league.

“I never felt intimidated by the opportunities and I always felt there was something to prove,” said Moscato, who joined the ‘Change the Game’ panel hosted by CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo. “To show I definitely can and women can.

“If somebody is talking about soccer in the men’s game, it’s soccer and you’re not going to outsmart me in that. This has to normalize, [women] can’t be the minority in a room.”

WATCH | Panel discusses importance of women’s leadership in sport:

CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo is joined by Canadian athletes of all levels to discuss why we need to Change the Game. 57:31

Canadian national soccer team member Desiree Scott, Canadian Olympic track and field athlete Khamica Bingham, and play-by-play broadcaster Meghan McPeak completed the panel group discussing supportive leadership in sport for women.

ESPN analyst Doris Burke made history this summer becoming the first woman to call NBA conference finals and NBA finals games.

Although another milestone was made for professional women in sport this year, McPeak believes that shouldn’t be the case.

“It’s 2020, we should not be making firsts,” said McPeak, who calls games for both the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Capital City Gogo, the G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards.

“Knowing my job and what I do with the NBA umbrella, we still don’t have a full-time female play-by-play announcer, which is crazy to me.”

Elevating women into leadership roles

For Scott, a two-time soccer bronze medallist, awareness is a key issue for promoting current athletes into leadership roles.

“We need to educate more on what’s available,” Scott said. “We’re just as capable of filling those roles and just as passionate. It’s about encouragement and the knowledge of seeing it.

“You start to think about the potential for you as a woman.”

Only 28 per cent of women fill athletic director roles in post-secondary institutions in Canada. At the U Sports level, just three per cent of women have coaching roles on the men’s side as compared to 26 per cent on the women’s.

‘It also falls on media coverage’

Bingham, who represented Canada in track and field at the Rio 2016 Games, believes having a larger number of women in leadership roles affects more than just today’s current generation of athlete.

“I think if we have more women in positions of power you get different perspectives,” Bingham said. “You’re going to have a lot more athletes who are more comfortable and happy in an environment, who are going to stay there.

“We can increase the participation for female athletes.”

The 26-year-old believes increased media attention on women’s athletics could be consequential in achieving balance.

“It also falls on media coverage — we need more coverage in women’s sports,” the sprinter said. “In track and field we’re so quick to know who the fastest man in the world is. When it comes to the female side it isn’t the same. If we have more people understand our stories and be role models to young girls, it could make a difference.”

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‘Lots of work to do’ as Curling Canada aims to eliminate dominant whiteness of sport

About a decade ago, Rayad Husain was interviewed for a story in one of Canada’s national newspapers about why curling was still lacking diversity.

The story came on the heels of a study released in January 2011 in which University of Waterloo professor Heather Mair took a close look at issues of diversity in Toronto’s curling clubs — the paper found curling officials needed to make it easier for newcomers to find out about the sport.

Husain, 35, is of Guyanese descent and was born and raised in Toronto. He said then it was no secret curling was a white person’s sport.

CBC Sports contacted Husain recently to see what’s changed over the years.

“I don’t know what to say. Across the board it’s still pretty dire. Not much has changed at all,” Husain said.

Husain has been curling out of the Chinguacousy Curling Club in Brampton, Ont., for nearly two decades. He said he saw the sport for the first time when he was 11 years old while his dad was flipping through the TV channels.

Guyanese national curler Rayad Husain, right, says “not much has changed” since 2011 study found curling officials weren’t succeeding at making the game visible enough for newcomers. (Alina Pavlyuchik/World Curling Federation)

He also said Rudy Ramcharan, a Trinidadian curler who won a Brier with Kevin Martin in 1997, played a big role in growing his interest in curling.

“Rudy was all over our Caribbean newspapers,” Husain said. “That spurred a lot of conversation. It’s a matter of seeing your own playing it.”

Husain now represents Guyana at world curling events. He hopes his being on the ice will help others like him to want to take up the sport.

Aiming for inclusion

Curling Canada is also trying to figure out ways to attract newcomers and people of different ethnicity to curling.

“I’m motivated to do something probably more so now than ever,” Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson told CBC Sports.

Henderson took over as CEO in 2016 and has been a driving force in creating change within Curling Canada. She achieved pay equalization between the Brier and Scotties last season and now has her sights set on attracting more diversity to curling.

She knows it won’t be easy and says she’s in a listening and researching mode right now trying to understand how to better serve ethnic communities.

“What we want is a sports system in which everyone is welcome and where all perspectives are honoured,” she said. “We have a long history about being inclusive but we need to be more intentional about reaching out.”

Henderson points to curling’s roots in Canada beginning in farming and rural communities and that the sport is deeply entrenched in tradition and legacy. She says even the language used around curling can be isolating to many groups.

“Curling is highly overdeveloped in Canada but very overdeveloped in rural farming communities,” she said. “I think even simple things like calling curling centres ‘clubs.’ This is a centre where people curl. Getting away from words like members and clubs.”

Welcoming an immigrant audience

As attendance at curling events over the last decade in Canada has dropped and diversity continues to be an issue, Henderson says it’s the immigrant population in the country that will not only save the sport but take it to a new plateau.

“I am absolutely convinced of that, that immigrants will take curling to a different level in Canada,” Henderson said. “Immigration is really important to us as a country and it’s going to be really important to us as a sport.”

Henderson is optimistic the work they’re doing now through programs like Rocks and Rings, which exposes up to a quarter million children to curling in schools every year, will pay dividends in the years to come.

“What we’ve been doing over the last number of years, especially since I’ve been here, is really doubling down and spending a lot of money to make sure any kid that wants to curl, can do so,” she said.

The Rocks and Rings program brings curling to elementary schools and exposes the Olympic sport to upwards of a quarter million children each year. (rocksandringscurling/Instagram)

While it all sounds good, Richard Norman remains skeptical.

“Curling Canada has its work cut out for it,” he said.

“Curling Canada needs to take action. It can’t just be, ‘we need to save the sport by having new immigrants.’ What are they really doing to encourage connections with those communities and understanding what they need?”

Also from the University of Waterloo, Norman recently completed his doctoral thesis deconstructing curling cultures, focusing on race, whiteness and colonialism.

“When you start to look at curling, those things start to jump out quite plainly,” he said.

Victorian values, Scottish paraphernalia

Norman says from bagpipes to Victorian values to Scottish paraphernalia hanging in curling clubs, there are a number of deeply ingrained traditions white people don’t even consider when they think about the sport but can be a barrier to people who are racialized.

“It’s not to say bagpipes in and of themselves are oppressive, but what that represents to somebody who is not Scottish — doesn’t have any European background — looking at this and saying, ‘This is now one of the traditions I have to participate in,’ is not reflective of my background at all,” Norman said.

“We have to take a look at how the dominant whiteness within Canada is still prevalent today. It’s not to say we’re carrying this forward in curling in a specific way. It’s really to say it’s deeply entrenched in Canada and there’s a certain level of privilege that happens within it.”

Norman says while the curling community has been having conversations around diversity, it’s challenged by how to address it.

Norman adds discussing race brings a level of defensiveness, but says that’s where the conversation needs to start.

“For example, as a Black man, if I’m sitting in a curling club and having a conversation with someone and they say, ‘I don’t care what colour you are,’ they don’t realize it has a racial overtone that they don’t intend. You can’t just say these things. There’s lots of work to do.”

Curling and the people who love the sport are having to look inward at inclusivity and systemic racism — and while Norman says the language and optics of curling have always centred around welcoming everyone, it hasn’t lived up to that mission.

“Are you really doing it for the benefit of those communities or are you doing it for the benefit of the sport?” Norman asks.

“It’s about listening, respecting and honouring those communities and their needs.”

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Federal government to provide $72 million to Canada’s sport sector

The federal government will provide $ 72 million in relief funding to the country’s sport sector that has seen myriad events cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault made the announcement Friday, three days after CBC Sports revealed a dire financial situation facing dozens of Canada’s national sport organizations.

In addition to the money for sports, arts and culture will receive $ 198.3 million through existing programs, $ 115.8 million is going to the to support the Canadian audiovisual sector and $ 53 million will be provided to the heritage sector via the emergency component of the Museums Assistance Program.

National sport organizations and institutes will receive $ 34.5 million, provinces and territories $ 32.5 million and the Athlete Assistance Program $ 5 million.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker clarifies the funding is not intended for professional sports.

“This is funding specifically devoted to what we’ve termed ‘amateur sport’ over the years, but amateur and Olympic sport,” Shoemaker told CBC Sports on Friday. “National sports organizations, multi-sport service organizations and sports institutes in Canada. That’s a main point to focus as emergency funding, to make sure that they stay viable. They are an important part of the fabric of this country.”

WATCH | How will newfound money be utilized?

The Canadian Olympic Committee CEO talks about state of Canadian sport during COVID-19 and how funding will help keep sport organizations afloat. 3:20

Shoemaker says the federal sports budget is expected to be distributed based on need.

“The principle in play is need,” Shoemaker said. “So, whether it’s a national sports organization or a local sport club within a province or territory or an athlete who’s under the assistance program of the federal government, it’s about making a case for need.

“That why the pandemic and in the situation where we’re all at home and businesses and sports are not running, why that has caused economic impact.”

Athletes whose Sport Canada assistance cheques are impacted by both the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and the pandemic will also receive financial assistance.

“We will try to save all our organizations and to help everybody,” Guilbeault told The Canadian Press on Friday. “We may not be able to, but we will try.

“What we’re hoping to achieve out of this is once we’ve gone through that first phase of the crisis, our sports ecosystem is still intact.”

Many sources close to Canadian sporting landscape called the measure a good first step, but still have questions about how the funds will be distributed.

‘Significant revenue loss’

“This is great news for the sport community,” Terry Dillon, CEO for Rowing Canada, said Friday. “Many NSOs, like Rowing Canada, have experienced significant revenue loss and some are at risk of going under.

“Sport is a big part of what makes Canada, Canada. It will be a critical part of the recovery and what will re-energize our communities. It is good to see our government recognize this and provide us with meaningful support. It will make a difference.” 

Both the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said they are “sincerely grateful” to the government for the investment to support the Canadian sport system.

“National sport organizations are facing significant obstacles, including limited cash flows, layoffs and uncertainty,” the organizations said in a joint statement on Friday. “Along with this funding package, the COC and CPC will fully support the NSOs and broader sport community. We remain committed to playing our role in COVID-19 relief and recovery in concert with our partners at the government of Canada.

There are more than 60 summer and winter NSOs in Canada which govern all aspects of a sport in the country. They manage the high-performance programs, including national teams, sanction competitions and tournaments and provide development for coaches and officials.

Early this week CBC Sports contacted dozens of the Canada’s NSOs and while many of the organizations said it was still too early to tell how much they’re going to be impacted by the shutdown of sports, many admitted it was getting dire.  

Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi had painted a bleak picture when it comes to the situation facing most sport organizations in Canada right now.

“I think there’s a chance some NSOs might not survive. There’s also a greater possibility NSOs will look very different after this,” he said.

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Canada’s sport organizations fear funding shortfall caused by pandemic disruption

As professional sports leagues across North America continue to come up with hypothetical scenarios regarding how to return to play in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s national sport organizations (NSOs) are trying to find ways just to survive.

“There has already been a significant financial impact on the organization and if we lose the entire season the impact will never be recoverable without increased investment by our public and private partners,” said David Bedford, CEO of Athletics Canada.

While Athletics Canada is considered one of the juggernauts in Canada’s sport system, smaller organizations such as boxing are facing closure should they not get necessary funding.

“Our usual funding is in place for 2020-2021 but it is not enough to survive under the present situation,” Boxing Canada said in an email to CBC Sports.

A similar pinch is being felt by Rowing Canada.

“Should this government funding be reduced, to create economic stimulus or to alleviate debt created by the pandemic, we would not be able to operate in our current form,” CEO Terry Dillon said.

CBC Sports contacted dozens of of the Canada’s NSOs and while many of the organizations say it’s still too early to tell how much they’re going to be impacted by the shutdown of sports, some admit it’s getting dire.

“Gymnastics Canada will survive this downturn, but it will be a hard road to travel to survive it,” CEO Ian Moss said. “We are presuming that the impact of the new funding initiatives will not be significant, so we are planning on the assumption that no new money is coming in from external funding sources.”

Swimming Canada has cancelled all of its events until December. (Associated Press)

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has said help is on the way, committing $ 500 million to arts, sports and culture. But NSO officials say they need more details regarding when that money is coming and how much is going to be available to them.

“We have no idea yet on when this money will flow, how much of that will be for sport, and how we apply (or they allocate), and for what,” Bedford said.  

In an email to CBC Sports on Tuesday, the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage said it is finalizing details regarding the rollout of the funds.

Bleak picture

“An announcement should be made in the upcoming days. The process will be streamlined and will mostly use existing programs to disburse the funds as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson wrote.

Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi is painting a bleak picture when it comes to the situation facing most sport organizations in Canada right now.

“I think there’s a chance some NSOs might not survive. There’s also a greater possibility NSOs will look very different after this,” he said.

The organizations govern all aspects of a sport in the country, including managing the high-performance programs, including national teams, sanctioning competitions and tournaments and providing development for coaches and officials.

Canada’s sports funding framework is complicated and difficult to navigate — even the people closest to the process have difficulty explaining the streams of cash eventually making its way to the NSOs.

There are a variety of government funding initiatives to prop up the NSOs, totalling more than $ 230 million per year. They include:

  • Core funding, which is essentially a lump sum of cash split between the nearly 70 sport organizations. That money is not equally shared with some NSOs getting more cash than others.
  • Own the Podium money, which is based on an organization’s performance and probability of success and is not equally distributed. 
  • NextGen fund for up-and-coming athletes.
  • Gender equity funding which was announced last year.

NSOs are usually pitted against one another in many cases, fighting for every penny of government funding. But the funding crisis has forced them to rethink the approach.

In a conference call two weeks ago, about 70 NSO leaders gathered to discuss the current state of funding and issues facing them.

There is a common understanding that not all NSOs are equal and that it’s possible some might get more money than others.– Ahmed El-Awadi, CEO of Swimming Canada

During that call, CBC Sports has learned, it was agreed that when the Heritage funding becomes available NSOs will attempt to distribute cash in a way to ensure all organizations survive.

“There is a common understanding that not all NSOs are equal and that it’s possible some might get more money than others,” El-Awadi said. “Each NSO is going to be looked at individually to see where we are. It may not be a one size fits all for each NSO. If one is in more dire straits than another, as a system we have to be healthy and not just individual sports.”

Higher profile sport organizations face a somewhat double-edged sword scenario when it comes to their revenue streams – when times are good and they’re able to host world championships, the money is flowing. But when those world championships don’t happen, the hit hurts that much more.

Sports such as curling, figure skating and hockey were preparing for big paydays by hosting world championships in March and April.

Curling Canada was set to host the women’s world championship in Prince George, followed by the mixed doubles and senior worlds in Kelowna in April. Montreal was the host site for the world figure skating championship in March. And the women’s world hockey championship was set for Halifax in March.

Switzerland’s celebrates its win at the 2019 women’s world curling championship. Curling Canada was to host this year’s event before it was cancelled because of the pandemic. (The Associated Press)

All of these events would typically take in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the respective sport organizations.

Then everything was cancelled.

“A worlds is a huge part of our revenue stream. It’s everything from ticket sales, sponsorship,” said Katherine Henderson, CEO of Curling Canada CEO. “This will be pretty devastating for us.”

For Skate Canada, the loss of the world championships is not only impacting programming and finances now but will also impact decisions far into the future.

“It’s a significant opportunity lost as the event is typically awarded to us on a five- to seven-year basis and provides an opportunity to create a financial legacy to support strategic initiatives for several years in the future,” a spokesperson said via email.

Then there’s the case of Tennis Canada, which has recently cut dozens of staff after the cancellation of the women’s Rogers Cup event in Montreal in August. The men’s event, held simultaneously in Toronto, is still scheduled. Both generate millions of dollars of revenue for the sport organization.

Bianca Andreescu of Canada hugs the championship trophy after winning the Rogers Cup last summer. The tournament is a major source of revenue for Tennis Canada. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Swimming Canada took notice of Tennis Canada’s layoffs and its CEO admits it sent a shockwave through the sporting landscape.

“It’s resonated through the NSO world and has scared a lot of staff. It’s something we’ve had to address,” El Awadi said.

Swimming Canada had to cancel its Olympic and Paralympic qualifiers that were set to take place at the beginning of April. The sport organization has now cancelled every event until December.

“It’s caused havoc. Absolutely no doubt,” El-Awadi said.

Most importantly, NSOs are asking the federal government to have more control over how they spend their money. Currently there are a number of funding restrictions regarding what NSOs spend money on.

Athletes are going to be the hardest hit by this and with two Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled seven months apart starting summer 2021 and winter 2022, NSO CEOs are hoping the federal government gives them more autonomy over their funding.

Massive hit

Some of Canada’s brightest athletics stars are the track and field athletes. Athletics Canada’s Bedford said they’re taking a massive hit right now.

“The biggest impact has been on our athletes,” he said. “The disappointment at not being able to compete in Tokyo this summer is big, even though they all know Canada did the right thing in leading the world in pulling out of Tokyo 2020.”

“We need to recover losses, but more important is providing maximum flexibility with our funding so as to manage our resources most efficiently.”

If there’s a silver lining, some organizations say the challenge to survive has united the country’s high-performance sport framework.

‘Stronger relationships’

“The challenging circumstances have allowed us to forge stronger relationships with parts of our community that we had less contact with prior to COVID-19,” said Penny Joyce, CEO of Diving Canada. “With everyone facing a common adversary, it has enhanced our sense of community and unity.”

It’s forcing sport organizations to ask bigger picture questions about what sport brings to the lives of their athletes and the community as a whole.

“Let’s not let the only legacy of COVID-19 be that we all stand further apart in the grocery queue,” said Terry Dillon, Rowing Canada CEO.

“We believe it is important to look beyond just recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an opportunity to have a genuinely big conversation about the role that sport and activity can play in addressing the downward spiral of mental health issues in our society and the ever escalating costs of caring for an aging population.”

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Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport temporarily halts doping testing program

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) has placed its doping control testing program on hold until further notice.

The CCES announced its decision Friday in a statement posted to its website.

The organization said putting its program on hold is “in response to updated government directives intended to minimize the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

“Athletes should know that most other countries around the world are also adjusting their anti-doping programs in accordance with their national responses to deal with COVID-19,” the statement said. “The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is actively monitoring these adjustments. The CCES will continue to update WADA on the adjustments we are taking in Canada.”

The CCES said athletes will continue to be subject to the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP).

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With sport, medicine worlds colliding, Hayley Wickenheiser spoke her truth to IOC

In what she calls “the final straw” moment, Hayley Wickenheiser had to clear her conscience and say something.

Confronted with two vastly differing scenarios playing out at exactly the same time, Wickenheiser found her two worlds — sport and medicine — colliding.

It’s her unique position of being a six-time Olympian, member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission and doctor-in-training that allowed Wickenheiser to speak her truth with conviction and start a global movement, one she could have never imagined.

Since the beginning of January, Wickenheiser, an aspiring emergency room physician in her final year of medical school at the University of Calgary, has been inside Greater Toronto Area emergency rooms, seeing first-hand the escalation and severity of COVID-19.

It was in one of those hospitals, about two weeks ago, when she had a moment that moved her so profoundly.

“Being involved in a situation where a young airline pilot was severely hypoxic and had to be intubated,” Wickenheiser told CBC Sports, describing the process of a breathing tube being inserted in the patient’s throat.

“I just watched the anxiety of a lot of my supervising doctors try to grapple with how to keep themselves safe while having to deal with these patients coming in. I’m not treating these patients but I’m watching what’s happening. I feel like I’ve watched this pandemic from the front lines a little bit.”

She could feel the stress and fear rising within the hospitals she was training in — “a free-floating anxiety” in the words of a friend of Wickenheiser who has been an emergency doctor for 20 years.

WATCH | Hayley Wickenheiser explains why she had to speak out:

Canadian hockey great and current medical student Hayley Wickenheiser, wants Canadians to stick together, and be proud of the work being done to fight COVID-19. 1:30

The next morning after that very real and unsettling experience of being in the emergency room with the pilot, Wickenheiser read the International Olympic Committee headlines, insisting the Games in Tokyo would be going ahead as scheduled in July.

She couldn’t believe what she was reading.

“It was so incredibly tone-deaf. It wasn’t about the health and safety of the athletes. It was about everything else,” Wickenheiser said.

“The conflict that I had wasn’t about speaking up. It was how to do it in the lens that I sit, which was a foot in medicine and a foot in sport and what I had seen in the last few months and what I heard from my friends.”

Wickenheiser reached out to Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith, as well as Olympic champions Mark Tewksbury and Beckie Scott, both who have extensive experience with the IOC.

“I called Beckie. At the IOC level I always ask myself what would Beckie do when it comes time for conflict? I told her that,” Wickenheiser said. “I couldn’t have lived with myself if I let this go by another day. This was wrong. We talked about it and after I got off the phone, I knew exactly what I had to do.”

In what has become a now famous and movement-starting tweet, Wickenheiser sent out a message on her Twitter account.

“I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months,” she said.

In the hours and days that followed, the message traveled around the world. Wickenheiser quickly heard from IOC officials.

“They were not happy. They felt I needed to get approval from them before I spoke out. I countered with I didn’t know free speech had to go through the IOC,” Wickenheiser said.

“I wasn’t elected by athletes of the world to be told what to say. I think I have a very unique lens on this situation and felt quite confident I knew what I was talking about.”

Wickenheiser says it was remarkable to watch how the Canadian sport system rallied in the wake of her message, ultimately landing on pulling Team Canada from competing in the summer should the Games go ahead as scheduled.

Two days after the COC’s decision, the IOC announced it was postponing the Olympics until 2021.

“I’m so proud. I’m so proud of Canada,” she said.

“I will say it’s not the first time Canada took the lead. During the Russian doping scandal, it was Canada that led the charge there. I feel like many times Canada on the international stage is not afraid to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.”

On 276 occasions over her career Wickenheiser led Team Canada into battle on the ice — on the frontline for 23 years alongside her teammates, draped in the maple leaf. She recorded 168 goals and 211 assists during that time, earning her a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame this past fall.

While all her golden moments bring great pride to the Shaunavon, Sask., native, it’s perhaps in this moment Wickenheiser finds herself most proud about what’s unfolding in her home country.

“As much as I was on a hockey team for my whole life, I feel like truly all of Canada, we are a team right now. We have to be caring for each other and pulling for each other,” she said.

“It’s personal to me. I love Canada and I feel there’s no other country in the world I would want to be going through this in. I’m just really proud our politicians to the grocery clerks who are trying their best. I really believe that.”

They were not happy. They felt I needed to get approval from them before I spoke out. I countered with ‘I didn’t know free speech had to go through the IOC.– Hayley Wickenheiser on IOC’s response to her tweet

Wickenheiser is doing everything she can to get the best information to her family, friends and even people she hardly knows during grocery store encounters.

“I was at the grocery store the other day and I walked in and there were these young girls at the cashier I see all the time. They looked at me and they had gloves on and they said, ‘are we going to be safe?'” Wickenheiser said.

The captain saw it as a teaching moment and right there in the middle of the grocery store gave a 10 minute tutorial on how to safely put the gloves on and take them off to protect themselves.

“I started crying in the grocery store. And then I went back two days ago and they had plexiglass up and they were wearing masks and gloves,” Wickenheiser said. “We all clapped our hands and had a cheer. The manager of the store was there too. They took extra measures.”

Wickenheiser says she’ll continue to be relentless in sharing important information and hope with as many people as she can during this global pandemic.

From instructing her parents, who two weeks ago returned from Hawaii to self-isolate, to her son who is safe and immersed in his university studies in Vancouver, to her friends and really anyone who will listen, Wickenheiser is once again taking up the call to lead a team.

“It’s incredibly emotional for me maybe because it is so personal. I have spent hundreds of hours in the emergency rooms with these people who are on the front lines, now putting their lives and families at risk to save other people’s lives,” Wickenheiser said.

And she’s doing all this while spending every waking moment outside of phone calls and messages to continue studying medicine, aware that at any moment she might be shoulder-tapped, this time without a stick but personal protective gear, to suit up and take up a frontline battle for Canada once again.

“I’m trying to learn medicine because who knows how long this is going to go on and when someone like me as a trainee might be called upon,” Wickenheiser said.

‘Obligation to be ready’

“Like what’s happening in Italy where they put 10,000 doctors out there without finishing their final exam. So I feel it’s an obligation to study every day and stay on top of everything just in case there’s a place I can be more useful.”

In the meantime, Wickenheiser says she continues to be so grateful for all the work being done by her friends and colleagues in the medical field who are working around the clock to save lives while protecting themselves.

“I have such respect. I know how much they care. Those frontline responders are the people I know. And that’s the life I have lived other than sport,” Wickenheiser said.

“If everybody truly heeds the advice of our medical people and wash their hands, I know we’re going to see the light.”

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Italian sport to take place without fans until April 3 due to virus outbreak

All sporting events in Italy will take place without fans present for at least the next month due to the virus outbreak in the country, the Italian government announced on Wednesday.

That will likely see Italian soccer league resume in full this weekend after the calendar was pushed back a week.

Italy is the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected with COVID-19.

The Italian government issued a new decree on Wednesday evening, with measures it hopes will help contain the spread of the virus.

Premier Giuseppe Conte posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page, reassuring people and saying that the decree was a way of assuring “responsible behaviour.”

He said banning crowds at sporting events would help “prevent further opportunities of infection.”

All sporting events throughout the country must take place behind closed doors until April 3. Schools and universities have been ordered to close until March 15.

4 Serie A matches played last weekend with fans

That also calls into question Italy’s Six Nations rugby match against England in Rome on March 14. That match will either have to go ahead behind closed doors or be postponed. Italy’s match against Ireland, which was scheduled for March 7, had already been postponed.

In tennis, Italy is set to play South Korea in a Davis Cup qualifier this weekend in Cagliari, Sardinia.

The Italian soccer league’s governing body has yet to release a revised schedule but reports say the six Serie A soccer matches that were postponed last week will now be played this weekend. That includes one of the biggest matches of the season — the Juventus-Inter game, known as the “Derby d’Italia” or Italy’s derby.

Four Serie A matches went ahead last weekend with fans present as they were taking place in areas that had not been affected by measures to control the outbreak.

A decree on Sunday extended the suspension of all sporting events in Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna until March 8.

The region of Lombardy is the epicentre of Italy’s outbreak and there are further clusters in the other two northern regions.

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