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Kenya’s Jepchirchir sets world mark in women’s half marathon



Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya broke her own world record in the women’s-only half marathon Saturday, clocking one hour, five minutes and 16 seconds.

The 27-year-old Jepchirchir improved on her record by 18 seconds on a four-lap course, taking gold at the World Athletics half marathon championships in Gdynia, Poland.

Jepchirchir broke the record for the first time on Sept. 5, when she ran 1:05:34 in Prague.

Six women finished in under 66 minutes in what was a fast course on the streets of Gdynia along the Baltic coast of northern Poland.

Melat Yisak Kejeta of Germany finished second in 1:05:18, followed by Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia at 1:05:19.

For more coverage of the half marathon championships, tune into Road to the Olympic Games at 5 p.m. ET. 

Ealier this week, Athletics Canada withdrew its team from the competition after the organization’s chief medical officer deems travel too risky due to COVID-19 concerns.



Chef de mission McBean tells athletes to keep course in buildup to 2021 Olympics




3-time gold medallist familiar with adversity, says goals remain unchanged

When Marnie McBean heard a knee ligament ‘pop’ just months before the 1992 Summer Olympics, she thought her Games were over.

She overcame the hurdle and went on to win two gold medals in rowing that summer in Barcelona.

McBean brings first-hand experience of conquering challenges to her role as Canadian chef de mission at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. But rather than offering motivational talks for athletes as they train during the COVID-19 pandemic, McBean is encouraging them to focus on what they can do each day.

“The way to overcome challenges is you pick your new path, the goal doesn’t have to change,” she said.

The IOC and Tokyo organizers recently provided a lengthy virtual presentation on the Games for the over 200 chefs de mission around the world. McBean said she was pleased to hear they’re examining how all kinds of events are being run during the pandemic – from well-financed competitions to those with limited funding – and studying what has and hasn’t worked.

Canada’s chef de mission for Tokyo discusses Rule 50, the importance of a COVID-19 vaccine and the logistics of a 2021 Olympics. 8:28

Many Olympic qualifications and test events are on tap this spring.

“We’ll see the counter-measures being tested then,” she told The Canadian Press from Toronto. “That’s when things are going to start moving from the in-pencil page over to the ink page.”

McBean called the IOC/Tokyo update a “massive presentation” with a lot of information. She liked how organizers framed the Games – now scheduled to begin July 23, 2021 – as being “simple, safe and secure.”

“One of the things that we took from this is that we feel really great that everything that was coming out is very much in line with a lot of the plans that we’re anticipating for Team Canada,” McBean said. “There’s a lot going on and there’s still a lot of unknown.”

Many big Olympic questions still remain unanswered. Specifics on how the Games will actually run – with thousands of athletes, officials, media members and broadcasters set to descend on Japan next summer – may not come until next year.

After winning Olympic gold in 1992 and 1996, canadian rower Marnie McBean came back in 2000, before a back injury forced her to withdraw from competition. 2:37

Pandemic developments over the coming months and their impact on sport are tough to predict. In the meantime, athletes are doing their best to maintain their training levels.

McBean has kept busy connecting virtually with hundreds of athletes and notes they’ve been making big gains even though competitions were postponed.

“Many of them were posting personal bests,” she said. “Whether it was in the weight room or in a training-type environment, which I think bodes really well for competition, which they really are keen and eager [for] and they miss. They miss competition, they miss having something in their calendar that’s real.”

McBean wants athletes to “turn up the volume” on the positive things that are happening in their lives. That could mean improved training sessions, getting through injuries, or even just communicating more with family.

“I’ve been telling my stories of my Olympic Games for like 20-plus years and they’re going to be telling this story for 20-plus years,” McBean said. “And so this is their story. Figure out how to be proud of the story that they’re living right now.”

Canada’s chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics believes being even a small part of Olympians’ success means a job well done. 2:00

She compared the situation to using a navigation app that is always recalculating while trying to figure out the best route to a destination.

“Take the next step,” McBean said. “You might not know what 20 steps from now is going to be but you know what the next step is going to be. You know what today is. You know you’re preparing for excellent competition. And the rest of the steps will be determined as we recalculate and figure it out.”

Another one of her main messages for athletes is that they are “going to come through this,” so be prepared to soar.

“I’m a rower. Somebody always wins when the conditions are terrible,” she said. “And so you want to make sure that you’re the person who can do that.”


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Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City mayor call for Raptors to make Missouri new home




2019 NBA champions face federal U.S. border restrictions if playing out of Toronto

Some of Kansas City’s most famous residents want to call the Toronto Raptors their home team.

On the heels of reports the NBA season will tip off Dec. 22, and with federal and provincial restrictions around COVID-19 potentially keeping the Raptors out of Scotiabank Arena, there’s been rampant speculation about where the 2019 NBA champions will play.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif took to social media to advocate for the Raptors to play there.

Mahomes, the 2020 Super Bowl MVP, posted on Twitter “Bring them to KC!” with a flexed-arm emoji, to which Mayor Lucas replied: “Working on it.”

On Tuesday morning, the mayor wrote: “Good morning, Kansas City! It’s currently 13 degrees colder here than in Toronto (7 degrees Celsius),” with the hashtag “We the North.”

The Chiefs’ right guard Duvernay-Tardif, a medical school graduate from Quebec who opted out of the NFL season due to concerns around COVID-19, replied: “Merci monsieur! Definitely feels like home,” with a happy face.

The T-Mobile Center in Kansas City has close to 19,000 seats for basketball. The 13-year-old downtown arena has hosted games in the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball championships as well as NBA and NHL pre-season games.

Kansas City, Louisville, Ky., Hartford, Conn., and the New York area have been some of the suggestions as temporary home courts for Toronto.

Raptors spokesperson Jennifer Quinn, however, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday “Our focus is on playing in Toronto.”

After the federal government denied the Toronto Blue Jays permission to play at Rogers Centre this season, the Major League Baseball team played home games in Buffalo, N.Y., after politicians from just across the border pitched the city as a temporary home.

All three Canadian Major League Soccer teams have been playing recent home games in the United States. Toronto FC is in East Hartford, Conn., the Montreal Impact are in Harrison, N.J., and the Vancouver Whitecaps are in Portland.

TFC coach Greg Vanney told reporters Tuesday he’d love to have the Raptors in Connecticut.

“I don’t think our hotel could accommodate both of us at the same time, but it would be great to have them nearby,” Vanney said.

The Connecticut experience has been excellent, the coach said.

“For me… it’s the living situation, and the field,” Vanney said. “Those are the most important things, and so far the place that we’ve been staying has been phenomenal in terms of the living conditions, the food and everything has been great.”

He said some of the fields have been “touch and go” as the weather gets colder.

“[But] in terms of basketball, I assume you find a court and the court is generally the same, so it’s doable.”

Toronto FC’s hotel is across the street from the XL Center in Hartford, a potential home arena for the Raptors. It seats around 16,000 for University of Connecticut basketball games, and is also home to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.

The Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in nearby Storrs, Conn., seats just over 10,000 and also hosts some UConn basketball games.

The Raptors haven’t played a game at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena since Feb. 28, a 99-96 loss to Charlotte. The 2019 NBA champions were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by Boston once the season resumed in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida.


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McMaster University athletics has clear culture of systemic anti-Black racism: report




The newly-released report ‘revealed extremely concerning experiences’ from student-athletes

A report reviewing Black students’ experiences in McMaster University’s athletics department shows “a culture of systemic anti-Black racism has existed and continues to exist.”

The newly-released report “revealed extremely concerning experiences” from student-athletes.

“This culture has been harmful and traumatizing to current and former Black student-athletes, many of whom continue to struggle with the impact of their experience long after graduation, including through reports of long-term mental health impacts,” the report said.

The review comes after John Williams, a former Hamilton Tiger-Cats player, and Fabion Foote, a defensive lineman with the Toronto Argonauts and a former football player at the university, shared their experiences of racism within the department on social media.

The task force overseeing the review included:

Students share experiences of racism

The review included students who attended as early as 2010 and included group interviews with current and former Black student athletes. Other student athletes and staff, like coaches and administrators, were also interviewed.

Black football players and non-Black football players had their own group interviews.

Seventy-two people participated in the review, 70 per cent of whom were current students or staff.

Some of the examples of racism included a “jail-break” themed party where “white players dressed up as ‘criminals’ with cornrow braids in their hair. Others described being called racial slurs and being the subject of derogatory comments.

“My coach once called me King Kong or Donkey Kong. I kind of laughed it off because I didn’t know how to react, but when I got home, I cried about it because I felt like an animal. It hurt a lot because I felt weak, and I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it because this is my coach. This is the person that determines whether or not I play,” read a participant’s comment.

More examples include involvement with police. In one instance, administration allowed police access to a student-athlete for a crime investigation they weren’t linked to.

Another instance includes campus staff and police breaking up a pick-up basketball game organized by an NBA star because they asked for 20 minutes of extra court time.

Black-student athletes added they didn’t get the same quality treatment or opportunities as white athletes. They also emphasized an absence of mental health supports aimed at Black student-athletes and the issues they face.

Athletes have been ‘harmed and traumatized’

The report says the department’s culture has “harmed and traumatized” student-athletes.

“This culture is evident in explicit and implicit examples of anti-Black racism. It is also evident in a widespread lack of awareness, education, understanding, empathy and of an all-important systemic view of issues related to race and inclusivity that impact the experience of Black student-athletes.”

“And, while systemic anti-Black racism is an endemic problem in McMaster’s Athletics Department, there seems to have been very little done to change the culture, and many missed opportunities and refusals to address it as this culture still exists today.”

Some of the primary gaps include:

School president apologizes

Staff and coaches in the report acknowledged more needs to be done.

President David Farrar issued an apology in a letter to students.

“On behalf of the University I apologize for the anti-Black racism you experienced. I am deeply sorry that effective action was not taken to prevent this; there are no excuses for the behaviour you endured,” read his note.

“I assure you that we are listening and that action is already being taken to implement the report’s recommendations and to begin the work with the Department and the broader university community to help us eliminate systemic racism.”

McMaster has five-point plan to address issues

The school has an action plan to address the issues.

The pillars of the plan include:

  1. Increasing representation through talent development and hiring processes.
  2. Creating a culture of accountability through updating policies and forming a Black Student-Athlete Council.
  3. Targeted supports and scholarships by creating a Black Student Services Advisor role and providing them an office.
  4. Advocacy roles and mechanisms.
  5. Training and education.


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World 100m champ Christian Coleman to miss Tokyo Olympics after ban for missing doping tests




U.S. sprinter was provisionally suspended in June for missing 3 doping tests

World 100-metre champion Christian Coleman will miss next year’s Tokyo Olympics after being banned for two years for breaching whereabouts rules, the Athletics Integrity Unit said Tuesday.

The American sprinter had claimed at the time that anti-doping officials had not followed procedure when he missed them after going Christmas shopping on Dec. 9, 2019 at a time when he had said he would be at home.

“We impose on the athlete a period of ineligibility of two years, which will end on May 13, 2022” the AIU said in a statement on its website. “The decision may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

Three failures to properly file whereabouts information or being absent during the hour stated in a 12-month period can result in a one- or two-year suspension.

Coleman, also a silver medallist in the 100 and 4×100 relay at the 2017 worlds, escaped suspension last year when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), after receiving guidance from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on how to calculate the 12-month window for three missed tests, withdrew the charge.

The sprinter later demanded an apology from USADA, but two of those misses have now combined with the latest failure to result in a ban.

American Christian Coleman ran a world leading time of 9.79 seconds, to win the men’s 100m race at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, Belgium. 3:05


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Ottawa cyclist Michael Woods wins 7th stage of Spanish Vuelte race




Moves to 48th overall after 2nd 1st-place finish of this year’s event

Ottawa cyclist Michael Woods won the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Tuesday, finishing the hilly 159.7-kilometre route from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Valdegovia in three hours 48 minutes 16 seconds.

Woods, who finished second in Sunday’s sixth stage, improved to 48th overall with the win.

The EF Pro Cycling rider accelerated in the final climb of the day and outraced Spanish cyclists Omar Fraile (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to take his second La Vuelta stage win.

Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz held on to the overall leader’s red jersey. He leads Britain’s Hugh John Carthy by 18 seconds.

Woods also won a stage in the 2018 edition of the race, when he joined Ryder Hesjedal as the only Canadians to claim a stage in the Vuelta, traditionally the third Grand Tour race on the calendar.

An emotional Woods outlasted the field in a demanding 157-kilometre Stage 17 of the 2018 Vuelta, dedicating the win to his stillborn son, who died earlier in the year when his wife was 37 weeks pregnant. They have since celebrated the birth of daughter Max (Maxine).


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Masters Par 3 contest cancelled at spectator-free November tourney




ESPN’s GameDay college football pre-game show added to attract new audience

The Par 3 Contest is out at the spectator-free Masters in November.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” is in.

Augusta National announced Tuesday more changes to a Masters tournament that will be unlike any of the previous 83. The most unusual of all is ESPN’s popular college football pre-game show taking place on a stage that overlooks Ike’s Pond and the ninth green of the Par 3 course.

“When exploring ways to showcase a fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting ‘College GameDay’ at Augusta National to introduce the tournament to a new audience and provide even more anticipation and excitement to the event,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said.

It helps that ESPN is a broadcast partner of the Masters and will televise the opening two rounds.

The coverage typically begins on Wednesday with the Par 3 Contest, a showcase of past champions and current players before an enormous gallery that rarely lacks for big roars, such as the time Jack Nicklaus had his grandson play a shot and he made a hole-in-one.

Weekday rounds in threesomes

The Par 3 Contest dates to 1960 and is a big part of the tradition at Augusta National, mainly the jinx that no one has ever won the Par 3 and the Masters in the same year.

“We know that experience could not have been replicated without guests and patrons at Augusta National,” Ridley said.

So much about this Masters is different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down golf on March 13 and led Augusta National to postpone the Masters until Nov. 12-15, without spectators for the first time.

Because of the fall date and shorter daylight hours, the club said the weekday rounds would be played in threesomes off the first and 10th tees in morning and afternoon waves. The field remains set at 96 players who were eligible in April. Those who have qualified since then, such as PGA Tour winners Daniel Berger and Jim Herman, will not play until 2021.

“College GameDay” will certainly get a venue unlike any other. It typically travels to a college stadium that features a marquee matchup — Alabama has hosted it the most times since it began in 1993 — though it has gone off campus.

The most notable was in 2017 when “College GameDay” was held in Times Square. It also was held on the USS San Diego in 2012 as part of a salute to veterans.

Players allowed to bring spouse or family member

ESPN said host Rece Davis will be joined at Augusta National by analyst Kirk Herbstreit, former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard and former Georgia star David Pollack, among others.

“Any time ‘College GameDay’ travels to a new destination it’s special, and the opportunity to be on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters is extraordinary,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and Sports Content.

Because of the pandemic, no spectators have been on site for the program. For the Masters, players are allowed to bring a spouse or family member, while Augusta National members also are allowed on the grounds.

The ESPN show on Saturday will be from 9 a.m. to noon, ending an hour before the CBS coverage starts of the third round.

One tradition won’t change. The Masters said six-time champion Jack Nicklaus and three-time champion Gary Player will hit the ceremonial first tee shot. Starting times have not been announced, but they will be early.

The club already has announced that those who bought tickets through Augusta National will be able to shop for merchandise online (two purchases). It also has a free email newsletter from the Masters that it will send to all fans.


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Player’s Own Voice podcast: Karina LeBlanc and soccer’s future




Ex-national team goalie discusses the next generation of soccer stars

As goaltender for the national soccer team, Karina LeBlanc was part of the generation that put the Canadian game on the map. Between Olympic medals and high World cup expectations, the sky is now the limit.

But for LeBlanc and her cohorts, it was never just about what happened on the pitch.

Even in the big wins, the team aimed beyond the game of the day. The truly big play was to make women’s soccer a force for global change. Helping young women get the chance to participate in the world’s game, more often than not, also helped the national team players reassess themselves in positive ways. 

Since becoming Head of CONCACAF Women’s Football, LeBlanc has had the privilege and pleasure to see it happen again and again in the 41 countries that represent the FIFA  association: a shy girl comes to the pitch for the first time,  and within a few hours sees herself as a player, with all the confidence, enthusiasm and strength that goes with that.

Player’s Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis leads Karina LeBlanc through a refreshingly optimistic conversation about a career in sports that still feels like the best is yet to come — even now.

Earlier this year, Karina wrote a powerful letter to her newborn daughter for CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, which, like the POV podcast, lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.

The ‘read’ and ‘listen’ versions of POV are now joined by a new way for athletes to share opinions and expertise about issues in Canadian sports: Player’s Own Voice in Studio brings digital video to the POV approach

To listen to all three seasons of Player’s Own Voice, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts. 


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Paralympian Brittany Hudak helping others through social work during pandemic




2018 bronze medallist splits time between training, helping at residential group home

Brittany Hudak woke up with jangled nerves and gold in her sights on the first day of the 2020 World Para-Nordic Ski Championships.

Then came the knock at her hotel room door that changed everything.

In the middle of the night, organizers had cancelled the event. The Canadian team needed to fly home immediately due to the rising threat of COVID-19 in Europe.

“I thought it was a joke,” says Hudak, a bronze medallist in biathlon at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “I was super excited and felt so confident in my fitness. We train all season long to be at our best on that day in March. I couldn’t believe that it came to such a disappointing end.”

On the flight home, a despondent Hudak took stock and pledged to find her own silver lining in the midst of the pandemic.

One year earlier, she had finished her degree in social work at the University of Regina, but dedicated herself to competing instead of working in her chosen field.

So she dusted off her resume and set out to find work as a helper.

Helping others triumph

These days, she splits her time between training at the winter paradise that is the Canmore Nordic Centre and her job at a Calgary-area residential group home for teenagers.

Some of the clients are battling addictions. Some are in trouble with the law. Some are dealing with crippling financial insecurity.

“I knew social work was not going to be easy,” she says. “You see a lot in a day, and you hear a lot in a day.

“It’s about meeting the individual where they’re at and understanding their situation. I really love learning about people’s struggles and trying to help them triumph over those adversities.”

24-year-old Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native Brittany Hudak won bronze, her first-career Paralympic medal, in the women’s biathlon 12.5 km standing race. 6:28

Hudak, 27, understands what it’s like to struggle.

“Growing up missing part of my arm, I always knew I was in a minority group,” she says. “I know certain groups in society are oppressed and have things go against them. My background with a disability I think really helps me in social work.”

The Prince Albert, Sask., product discovered biathlon at age 18 thanks to a chance encounter with Colette Bourgonje, a 10-time Paralympic medallist.

Hudak was working at a Canadian Tire store in Prince Albert, and Bourgonje struck up a conversation, urging her to try out cross-country skiing.

“We have Colette to thank for finding Brittany,” says Robin McKeever, head coach of the Canadian para-Nordic team. “Our focus is on Beijing in 2022 and I’m hoping for Brittany to repeat the medal she won in Pyeongchang or go for a couple more medals. We have a great team around her, and she’s getting to the perfect age as a skier and an endurance sport athlete.”

Like most elite winter athletes, Hudak has no idea when she’ll race again on the World Cup circuit. She hopes the Beijing Olympics will happen, but realizes there’s no guarantee given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

“It would be so easy to spend a lot of focus and energy wondering what is going to happen,” she says. “I’m trying to reserve my energy and focus on what’s in my control.”

To that end, she is building her fitness to be in the best shape of her life for 2022.

And, at the same time, she’s trying to help a group of teenagers in crisis find their way through their own personal storms.

“I think it’s really important to have balance,” she says. “If I didn’t ski as well as I would have liked to in an interval session, it can seem like such a big deal when I’m only focused on sports.

“When I leave and go to work, sometimes it’s a refreshing thing for me to have the mental switch. I realize a bad day for someone else is 1,000 times worse than a bad day for me on skis.”


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