Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way serving notice they are driven to be a world powerhouse in their sport.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams created a picturesque atmosphere as they connected for three touchdown passes on a snow-covered Lambeau Field.
The Green Bay Packers teammates would love the opportunity to produce plenty of similar scenes next month by staying home throughout the NFC playoffs.
Rodgers threw four touchdown passes as the Packers trounced the Tennessee Titans 40-14 for their fifth consecutive victory Sunday night.
“It’s tough to play in the cold,” said Rodgers, who went 21 of 25 for 231 yards with an interception. “It’s tough to play at Lambeau. I think we proved that tonight.”
Playing in the cold at Green Bay is tough for road teams, anyway. The Packers showed they can thrive on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
The Packers (12-3) already have clinched the NFC North title and can earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs if they win at Chicago (8-7) or Seattle (11-4) loses at San Francisco (6-9) next week.
This game showcased why the Packers want to make sure the playoffs go through Lambeau after losing on the road in three of the last six NFC championship games. With snow falling throughout the first half and continuing to cover much of the field the rest of the game, Green Bay moved the ball at will all night.
“People definitely don’t want to play in the cold,” Adams said. “It’s tough, man. It’s tough. It makes you a little bit less physical. It takes your speed away. If you don’t get to practice in this and get used to the temperature, the snow and all of that stuff, as you’ve seen, it can obviously take a toll. I think that team (Tennessee) is a really, really solid team that played with a lot less speed than they typically do.”
Green Bay ran wild behind 124 yards and two touchdowns from A.J. Dillon and 94 yards from Aaron Jones. Dillon, a second-round pick from Boston College, had run for just 115 yards all season during a rookie year in which he spent over a month on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Tennessee (10-5) squandered an opportunity to clinch its first AFC South championship since 2008. The Titans still can clinch a division title by winning at Houston (4-11) next week.
Adams’ three touchdown catches gave him 17 this season, one off the Packers’ single-season record that Sterling Sharpe set in 1994. Adams, who caught 11 passes for 142 yards Sunday, leads the NFL in touchdown receptions despite missing two games with a hamstring injury.
The Packers’ defence also played well while picking off two passes from Ryan Tannehill, who went 11 of 24 for 121 yards. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries, ending his streak of nine consecutive road games in which he’d run for at least 100 yards.
Green Bay pulled ahead 19-0 when Rodgers threw touchdown passes on each of their first three possessions. Mason Crosby missed an extra-point attempt after the first touchdown and the Packers failed on a two-point conversion attempt after the second one.
Adams capped Green Bay’s first drive by catching a pass behind the line of scrimmage, slipping out of Adoree Jackson’s grasp and diving into the right corner of the end zone.
Green Bay’s second series resulted in Equanimeous St. Brown’s first career touchdown on a 21-yard pass.
After Darnell Savage picked off Tannehill’s pass to give the Packers the ball in Green Bay territory, Adams beat Jackson again on a 7-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
“I don’t think you can do that against anybody, with the mistakes that we made and the start that we had,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “(It’s) just not going to be good enough and just too inconsistent.”
Tennessee got back in the game by scoring two touchdowns in a 3 1/2-minute span midway through the game
Tannehill’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith with 43 seconds left in the second quarter made it 19-7. On the opening series of the second half, Tannehill faked a handoff and raced 45 yards untouched to cut Tennessee’s lead to 19-14.
The Packers then capitalized on good fortune.
Aaron Jones bounced off someone around the line of scrimmage and then raced down the left sideline for a 59-yard gain that set up Rodgers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Adams. The Packers snapped the ball just after a replay showed Jones stepped out of bounds during that run and gained well over 30 yards afterward.
“By the time the ball was snapped, that was the first view that we got as it was coming down,” Vrabel said. “That was unfortunate. I wish we’d been able to tackle him and set the edge when we had him in the backfield.”
The Packers played without running back Jamaal Williams due to an injured quadriceps. Offensive tackle Rick Wagner suffered a knee injury.
The Titans are at Houston.
The Packers are at Chicago.
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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.
Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.
Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.
The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.
The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.
“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.
“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”
Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.
“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.
“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”
The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.
But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.
“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.
“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.
“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”
Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.
Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.
“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”
Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.
“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.
“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”
Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.
Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way serving notice they are driven to be a world powerhouse in their sport.
Anchored by yet another brilliant swim from 2016 superstar Penny Oleksiak, the 4 x 100-metre relay team claimed their country’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday night, finishing second in the final.
It was a buoyant performance on the first medal night of the meet, immediately backing up the breakout six-medal heist the Canadian women extracted out of the pool in Brazil. The silver medals the four Canadian women placed around each other’s necks during the post-race ceremony were a shiny update from the bronze they captured in Brazil.
And the legend of Oleksiak continued as she won a fifth Olympic medal, tying middle-distance runner Phil Edwards and rowing coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie for the most summer Olympic medals among Canadian athletes.
Based on the form the foursome flashed, Saturday’s effort set the tone for more success to come in the nine-day meet. Medal opportunities could come almost nightly and the confidence created from the opening silver could be huge for the Canadians who had far less racing opportunities than most of their competitors.
First-time Olympian Kayla Sanchez swam the opening leg of Saturday’s event, held at a spectator-free Tokyo Aquatic Centre. Sanchez was followed by Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith. Those three kept the medal pursuit alive, even if the favoured Australians were sprinting away to a runaway gold.
And then it was Oleksiak – the four-time medallist from 2016 – who brought it home, sending an early indication that she’s returned to top form by doing what she does best. The 21-year-old once again showed her pure racing prowess, a trait that earned her gold in the 100-metre freestyle event at Rio.
“If you are going to want someone racing the 100 free or anchoring your relay, you probably want it to be Penny,” Sanchez said in an interview prior to the Games. “She knows how to finish those last 50 metres. She knows how to do anything in her power to touch that wall first.”
Favoured Australia took gold, as expected and set a world record in the process while U.S. with Simone Manuel anchoring took bronze.
Gunning for Canada’s first medal of the Games, the Swimming Canada braintrust juggled the lineup from the heats to the final, a strategy it has employed in the past for big event relays. Taylor Ruck, who like Oleksiak was part of the 4 x 100 bronze medal relay squad in Rio, was replaced by Mac Neil for Saturday’s final and inserted in the second spot, following leadoff swimmer Sanchez.
“I’m so proud to be part of this team,” Sanchez said. “We did what we needed to do. We’ve been saying all afternoon: ‘it’s Game 1 and Canada has so much more to go.”
It was the first Olympic medal for Sanchez, Mac Neil and Smith, who are all making their Games debut.
Despite limited racing opportunities over the past four years, the Canadians have kept their competitive drive engaged, something Oleksiak unleashed yet again on Saturday.
“Honestly, we are already one of the most dominant countries in the world in swimming and all the girls are working so hard every single day,” Oleksiak said. “I’m really excited to see these specific girls make a mark on the world again.
“Hopefully we can get a few more going.”
And in every event they have been called upon to leave the blocks.
The focus on strong relay teams is a huge part of the Canadian program under head coach John Atkinson. With an emphasis on depth, Canadian women showed their strength in that area at the 2016 Rio Olympics where they captured a pair of medals.
The emphasis for most swimmers such as freestyle ace Oleksiak, backstroker Kylie Masse and butterfly speedster Mac Neil is their individual events. But Atkinson is determined to parlay that talent into relay success.
“It’s a nine-day competition in the pool,” Atkinson said. “We have selected a team that can compete in six relays and be competitive through all nine days, in individual events as well as relays.”
TOKYO (AP) — Naomi Osaka is back playing, still winning, and also talking to the media again.
The Japanese superstar who lit the Olympic cauldron defeated 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday in her first match in nearly two months.
Osaka hadn’t played since she withdrew from the French Open in May to take a mental health break, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.
Osaka stopped to talk with reporters afterward, having said in Paris that she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and that she would be skipping news conferences.
“More than anything else I’m just focused on playing tennis,” Osaka said. “The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and I’m happy again.”
She added that she was “happy” that reporters were asking her questions, then added: “I feel a little bit out of my body right now.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my body, I just felt really nervous,” Osaka said. “I haven’t played since France so there were definitely some things that I did a bit wrong but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”
The second-ranked Osaka was sharp from the start, serving an ace down the T on the opening point of the match and and racing out to a 5-0 lead.
Wearing a bright red dress and a red visor and with her hair styled in red-and-white braids to match the colors of the Japanese flag stitched onto the left side of her chest, Osaka served six aces in all and produced 25 winners to Zheng’s 10.
Osaka’s match was originally scheduled to open the tournament on Saturday but then was pushed back a day before her starring role in Friday’s opening ceremony.
“I feel very very proud,” Osaka said, revealing that Olympic organizers asked her to handle the cauldron honors back in March.
“When I lit the flame I was super honored,” she added. “I think that’s a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it so for me when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honored and I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo.”
Osaka will next face 50th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.
For other top players in the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Games, it wasn’t so straightforward.
Top-ranked Ash Barty was upset by 48th-ranked Spanish opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-3 and two-time defending gold medalist Andy Murray withdrew from singles because of a right quad strain.
Both still remain in the doubles competition.
Barty won with Australian partner Storm Sanders on Saturday while Murray and British partner Joe Salisbury beat the second-seeded French team of Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.
Barty’s singles defeat came 15 days after she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
She struggled with a whopping 55 unforced errors to Sorribes Tormo’s 13 and got in only 54% of her first serves compared to her opponent’s 83%.
Murray pulled out shortly ahead of his scheduled opener against ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada on Center Court.
“I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events, so I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the singles and focus on playing doubles with Joe,” Murray said.
It’s the latest setback for the 34-year-old Murray after only recently returning to the tour from a three-month absence because of a groin problem. He has also had serious issues with a bad hip that wound up requiring two operations.
Murray has a total of three Olympic medals. He also won a silver in mixed doubles at the 2012 London Games with Laura Robson.
Max Purcell of Australia was to play Auger-Aliassime instead.
Heat and humidity were issues again with the temperature rising to 91 degrees F (33 degrees C) and the sun baking the hard courts at Ariake Tennis Park.
Also advancing was Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who beat Alize Cornet of France 6-1, 6-3, while third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus eliminated Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-1.
Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard who plans to retire this year, beat Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-1 for her first victory since recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Camila Giorgi of Italy eliminated Jennifer Brady, the American who was this year’s Australian Open finalist, 6-3, 6-2.
Among the men advancing were fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany, seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov of ROC.
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