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Canada’s Melissa Bishop strides confidently into Olympic 800-metre final



RIO DE JANEIRO — She may be headed to her first Olympic final, but Canada’s Melissa Bishop isn’t intimidated by the stage.

Nor will the Eganville, Ont., native be bothered by the presence of South Africa’s Caster Semenya, the clear favourite in Saturday’s 800-metre final.

Bishop is clearly on her game now, the reigning silver medallist from last year’s world championships in Beijing and an impressive runner-up in her Olympic semifinal on Thursday.

Bishop had the sixth fastest time of all qualifiers at Olympic Stadium, stopping the clock in 1:59.05. But the time only told part of the story.

With an impressive kick in the last 150 metres, Bishop showed how formidable she can be in the stretch, then eased up for the final 20 metres with her spot in the final secure.

Bishop, who was also the gold medallist at the Pan Am Games in Toronto last summer, had the fastest time in preliminary heats on Wednesday. And now the University of Windsor grad believes she has put herself in position to contend for a medal.

“I think everyone here at the Olympic Games is going for the podium,” Bishop said. “Everyone wants a win. I’m certainly going to aim to be the best athlete and the best version of myself I can be on that day. If I leave everything out on the track, then I’ll know I’ve done my job.”

In Thursday’s race, Bishop eventually shook free from a crowded bunch to make a clear run down the stretch.

“When there’s eight of us trying to run in one lane, it gets pretty tight,” Bishop said of a couple of bumping incidents. “I think it’s just making yourself aware. You know how long your stride is. You just have to gauge it off what everyone else’s is. It’s tough.

“I’m really excited. This is my first Olympic final, but certainly not my first final. So I think if I can rest up and recover well and come here on the day with everything at 100 per cent, I’ll be okay.”

While certainly in medal contention, gold may be a reach given the dominance of Semenya, not that Bishop is fazed by that challenge, either.

“Every competitor is beatable,” Bishop said. “I’m lining up on the line with these girls, so of course I want to think I can beat anybody. Why not? The sky is the limit here.

“At the end of the day, she’s a competitor like the rest of us. I just have to focus on what I can do. It’s the only thing I can control.”


With the continuing world-class exploits of lead man Andre de Grasse, the spotlight on Canadian sprinters is higher now than it has been in decades.

Before the 21-year-old from Markham, Ont. won bronze medals in the men’s 100-metre dash at both last year’s world championships and earlier in these Olympics, however, it had been a long wait for an individual star in the marquee event of the Games.

That said, Canadian men have been a story in the 4×100-metre relays for several years now, though not always for all the right reasons. And it’s something the team is focused on rectifying in the Olympic final Friday night.

Canadians know all too well the agony of medals lost in the event, for lane infractions or botched baton exchanges.

The 2012 London Olympics. The 2014 Commonwealth Games. The 2015 Pan Am Games. The 2015 World Relays championship. Four major events with four untimely and heartbreaking disqualifications.

“These guys know the rules of the race,” Canadian relay coach Glenroy Gilbert said. “They know what they’re supposed to do. But at the end of the day, they’re still human beings and they go out there, and they have meltdowns. They go out there, and they have miscues. And that’s what happens with people.”

On Thursday, the Canadian foursome qualified fourth overall in 37.89, the second fastest in Canadian history. And they did it without De Grasse, who was resting and preparing for the 200-metre final later Thursday.

Lead runner Akeem Haynes handed the baton to Brendon Rodney, who passed it to Aaron Brown. Mobolade Ajomale manned the anchor leg, but is expected to relinquish it to De Grasse with a medal on the line on Friday.

“We had four guys who could step up and hold it down for the team,” said Brown, another of Canada’s emerging sprint stars, although he failed to qualify for either the 100- or 200-metre finals.

“We ran a phenomenal time from lane two, it wasn’t even a perfect race. We have a chance to medal. There’s a special performance coming, look out for that.”


Advancing to the final of the 4×100-metre relay at major international meets has been old hat for Canada’s male sprinters. It’s been a different story for the women — at least until a breakthrough performance in Rio on Thursday afternoon.

Finishing fourth in their heat, the foursome of Khamica Bingham, Farah Jacques, Crystal Emmanuel and Phylicia George earned the right to run for a medal on Thursday.

“It’s amazing to come out here and make the final with these girls,” Emmanuel said of the Canadian team, which posted the eighth fastest time overall at 42.70. “We’re very confident. We sleep dreaming about these exchanges. We’re going to go out there and run a fast time in the final.”

Catching the Chinese for fourth in Thursday’s heat was critical, given the controversy that arose in the second group (see below).

“Phylicia brought it in nice and strong and I had to finish strong to catch the Chinese,” Bingham said. “We’re happy and ready for the final.”


The women’s 4×100 heats turned out to be a long day for the favoured U.S. team and one that resulted in a bizarre scene for the opening event of the Thursday night session at Olympic Stadium.

After being disqualified for dropping their baton in the preliminary run, the Americans filed a protest, claiming interference by a Brazilian runner in the second exchange between Allyson Felix and English Gardner.

The appeal was successful and the American women were given the opportunity for a re-run alone in the evening — essentially racing against the clock.

The time to beat was 42.70, shared by China and Canada, and the U.S. cruised to a time of 41.76, bumping the Chinese team from the final. Canada was 1/100th of a second faster than the Chinese. The U.S. takes the fastest time into Friday’s medal race.

“I think I got propelled at about 20 miles an hour,” Felix said of the bump. “When a foreign object comes in front of you, it’s going to mess up the momentum and the handover.”


It was a disappointing day for Canadian shot putter Tim Nedow, of Brockville, Ont., who was considered to have an outside shot at a medal. Nedow, who was tied for fifth place in Diamond League rankings this summer and won a silver medal at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto, was 16th in qualifying on Thursday and did not advance.

“Warm up didn’t feel that great, my first throw I just tightened up like crazy,” said the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Nedow. “That’s one of the disadvantages of being tall, if I tighten up it’s pretty much over.


She gets nowhere near the love of compatriot Usain Bolt, but it was quite the feat for Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson when she won the women’s 200 metres late on Wednesday. Thompson became the first woman in 28 years to complete the sprint double. Earlier in the week, she won the 100 metres, matching Bolt’s output from the previous two Olympics … American sprinter Justin Gatlin was the latest prominent athlete to get booed by the less-than-friendly Brazilian fans. When asked if it was difficult for his family, who is here to watch him in his last Olympics, Gatlin said: “It is, but if you know my mom, she is a lioness. My mother and my father are my rocks. They’ve been to every Olympics I’ve competed in and they’re in their 70s.”

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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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