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Rio Olympics a ‘dream’ for Canada rugby sevens captain Jen Kish — and her dad



VANCOUVER — Jen Kish says the month of July has been “nothing but happiness” and when you consider everything that’s happened to her in the last fortnight, you can understand her state of bliss.

Last week, she was introduced as the captain of the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team, which heads to the Rio Olympics with gold-medal aspirations. That same week she celebrated her 28th birthday with her teammates, the league of extraordinary women she calls her sisterhood.

Somewhere down the line, there likely will be a tattoo to commemorate these events because Kish, it seems, has been inked up for less significant milestones in her life. She estimates she has 20 tattoos and says “every one tells a story.”

But there’s also a story she has yet to memorialize, maybe because it’s too fresh, maybe because the final version has yet to be written. If July 2016 has seen Kish at her happiest, July 2015 was a different time and a different place. Then, she was competing in the Pan Am Games in Toronto while, a world away, her father Steve was having a massive tumour removed from his stomach in Indonesia.

“This was my first Pan Am Games,” Kish says. “It was my birthday. July was supposed to be a great month for me. And there’s my dad and I didn’t know if he was going to live or die.

“It’s a helpless moment. I asked him, ‘Do I leave what I’m doing and come to you or do I stay here?’ He said, ‘Stay. Do what you’re doing. Focus on your dream. I’m going to fight.’ He always puts his kids before him.”

On Aug. 6, Steve Kish is scheduled to be in Rio when Canada plays its first game of the first ever women’s rugby sevens Olympic tournament. They have been through so much together, the father and daughter, and Kish calls him her inspiration.

On that day, he’ll be all of that and more.

“That’s one of the things I love about Kish,” says John Tait, Canada’s head coach. “When the walls are falling down, she’s able to focus and channel those emotions into performing.”

You don’t have to dig too deeply to understand where she got those qualities.

Kish is now one of the best players in the world and the spiritual leader of a strong Canadian side, but it took some time for rugby to find her. She and her brother were raised in Edmonton by their father in a one-parent household and while Kish didn’t exactly excel at academics, a strong work ethic was drilled into her at an early age.

“(My dad) had to work several job to put food on the table and clothes on our back and give us opportunities,” she says. “He wasn’t around as much as I wanted him to be, but he gave me the life skills to be where I am today. He went from being a trucker to pumping gas to you name it. He did whatever he had to so I had opportunities in my life to be successful.”

She also came from a hockey family and played any number of sports before a high-school coach suggested she try rugby. Suddenly, a lot of things made sense. At 16, she was selected for a test match for Canada, forged her father’s signature on the consent form, then had the Rugby Canada logo tattooed on her right calf.

It wouldn’t be her last appearance for Canada. Nor would it be her last tattoo.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungCanada’s captain Jen Kish dives over to score in Canada’s 55-7 win over USA in the women’s rugby sevens gold medal game at the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto.

Kish began her national-team career in the 15s version of the game and played in the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup. The next year, she migrated to sevens as the national team was centralizing in Langford, just outside Victoria, and she’s been a fixture ever since. In 2013, she played on the silver-medal winning team at the Sevens World Cup in Russia. She’s played on championship sides in the HSBC Sevens World Series, where Canada has finished second (2014-15) or third (2015-16, 2013-14, 2012-13) the past four years.

She also won a gold medal at the Pan Ams in Toronto. She just remembers that tournament for different reasons.

Steve Kish was on holiday in Bali last summer when he experienced stomach pain. Thinking he had an ulcer, he checked into a hospital where he was diagnosed with a tumour.

“The next thing you know he’s on an operating table fighting for his life,” Kish says.

Four months and a round of chemo later, he was still in Indonesia before he was able to fly home to Edmonton. In the interim, Jen flew to Bali for a visit and he enhanced his computer skills to the point he could follow the Canadian team on the Internet and share text messages with his daughter.

“He was never about technology back in the day, but now I have a billion text messages from him,” Kish said in December.

She was asked if an interview could be arranged with her father, who she says has recovered.

“Not now,” she says. “But you’ll see him in Rio. He’ll be hard to miss. He’ll be the one with the video camera in the middle of everything. The Olympics, that’s his thing, that’s our thing. It’s been our dream so I just can’t wait to have him there with me.”

By her side. Where he’s always been.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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