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Basketball's Ayim, rugby's Hirayama to carry Canadian flag into unique Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony – CBC.ca

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When Team Canada enters a near-empty Olympic Stadium to officially kick off Tokyo 2020 on Friday, it will be led by Miranda Ayim and Nathan Hirayama.

The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Monday that Ayim, a basketball player, and Hirayama, a member of the men’s rugby sevens squad, are the country’s flag-bearers for the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony.

The reveal of who would lead Canada into the Games was made Monday morning by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ayim and Hirayama mark Canada’s first duo from different sports to earn the honour after the International Olympic Committee made an amendment in March to allow each country to designate one male and one female. Ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue led Canada into the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

“Seeing two tremendous leaders like Miranda and Nathan now ready to guide the way into the Opening Ceremony for Team Canada is something incredibly special,” Eric Myles, chief sport officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said in a release announcing the flag-bearers.

WATCH | Are Canada’s flag-bearers cursed?: 

Anastasia Bucsis sits down with Catriona Le May Doan to discuss what used to be known as the opening ceremony flag bearer curse, and breaking down who’s debunked it. Catriona also gives her prediction on who will carry for Canada in Tokyo. 5:53

Ayim, 33, is one of three Canadian basketball players set to compete at her third Olympics. The Chatham, Ont., native previously announced plans to retire after Tokyo.

Bring on the cheers

Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.

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“I feel incredibly honoured to lead Team Canada alongside Nathan into the opening ceremony and to be representing not only my fellow athletes of Team Canada, but also the greater Team Canada: our nation,” Ayim said in the COC’s release. “The past year and a half demanded a high level of teamwork and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast demonstrated togetherness, camaraderie and sacrifice — true team spirit.”

Currently ranked fourth in the world by FIBA, Canada fell in the quarter-finals of each of Ayim’s first two Olympics but now seems primed to play for a medal.

“[The podium] has been the objective all along. We went into 2016 wanting to do the same thing and now we’re in a place where we’re expected to do that,” Ayim said recently.

The women’s basketball tournament begins July 26 when Canada takes on Serbia at 4:20 a.m. ET and runs through the gold-medal game on Aug. 8.

WATCH | Breaking down Canada’s women’s basketball roster: 

CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo and Meghan McPeak name some athletes to watch for as Canada Basketball named their roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 2:23

Hirayama, also 33, has played for the national sevens team since debuting as an 18-year-old in 2006. Fifteen years later, the Richmond, B.C., native and team co-captain will make his Olympic debut. The men’s team did not qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016, when sevens was added as an event.

Hirayama’s father, Garry, earned 12 caps for Canada between 1977 and 1982, making them the first father-son duo to play for the national team in rugby.

“I feel hugely honoured to be nominated to be the flag-bearer alongside Miranda,” Hirayama said in the release. “I’ve been watching the Olympics for my entire life and understand the honour and privilege that comes with being the flag-bearer. It’s something that I’ve never even dreamt of.”

Hirayama sits third in career scoring in the rugby sevens World Series. Canada enters the Olympics ranked eighth, but it placed third in its final tournament of 2020 before the pandemic cut the season short.

The sevens team opens its Games with a pair of matches on July 26 against Rio runner-up Britain and champion Fiji. The tournament is a short one, with medals set to be won on July 28.

Opening ceremony like no other

You can watch live coverage of the opening ceremony on CBC-TV and CBCSports.ca beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET. Broadcasts will be provided in eight different Indigenous languages in addition to English, American Sign Language and described video.

There won’t be any fans at the ceremony — spectators are barred from all venues as Tokyo remains in a state of emergency due to COVID-19 — but a crowd of about 10,000 IOC members, government officials and others is expected to be in attendance in the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

It remains unclear whether the number of participants in the ceremony will be limited for the traditional Parade of Nations, which usually features thousands of athletes walking into the stadium. Athletes are only permitted into the Olympic Village five days before their competition, and many who compete in the days immediately following the opening ceremony prioritize rest over pageantry.

Rowing duo Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle were the first Canadian pair to be named flag-bearers when they were awarded the honour at the 1996 closing ceremony in Atlanta. Figure skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were closing flag-bearers in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse led Team Canada to close the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Canada’s first 21 opening ceremony flag-bearers were men before skier Nancy Greene served in the role at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.

Since then, Canada has evenly divided the duty between men and women, with 14 each.

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Nigerian sprinter Okagbare out of Olympics after testing positive for human growth hormone – CBC.ca

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Nigerian sprinter and 2008 Olympics long jump silver medallist Blessing Okagbare on Saturday was provisionally suspended after testing positive for human growth hormone before the Tokyo Olympics, the Athletics Integrity Unit said in a statement.

The 32-year old, who has also won world championship medals in the 200-metre and the long jump and is competing in her fourth Olympics, had comfortably won her 100-metre heat on Friday with a time of 11.05 seconds, qualifying for Saturday’s semifinal.

She was also due to compete in the 200, and the 4×100-metre relay.

“The athlete was notified of the adverse analytical finding and of her provisional suspension this morning in Tokyo,” the AIU said.

The unit said she tested positive in an out-of-competition test on July 19 and was informed of her suspension on Saturday.

This is the latest blow for Nigeria’s athletics team after 10 track-and-field athletes were ruled as ineligible for the Tokyo Games three days ago for failing to meet minimum testing requirements.

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Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.

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On the list of banned substances, human growth hormone reduces body fat, increases muscle mass and strength and helps in recovery, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Okagbare’s silver medal from the Beijing Games was a result of her being upgraded in 2017 after the International Olympic Committee disqualified Russian athlete Tatyana Lebedeva due to a doping offence. She had originally finished third in that long jump competition.

WATCH | The 100-metre dash, explained:

The 100m dash is the most electrifying 10 seconds in sports. Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith Joyner have been on top of the world for years, being the earth’s fastest humans. But how fast can humans really run, and have we reached our peak? 7:06

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Canada’s Kylie Masse wins silver in 200m backstroke at Tokyo Olympics – Sportsnet.ca

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TOKYO — Kylie Masse has won her second medal of the Tokyo Olympics with a silver medal in the women’s 200-metre backstroke.

The 25-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., finished in two minutes 5.42 seconds on Saturday — behind Kaylee McKeown (2:04.68) and ahead of Emily Seebohm (2:06.17), both of Australia.

The Canadian women’s swim team has generated five medals in Tokyo, including Masse’s other silver in the 100-metre backstroke on Tuesday.

“I know I have high expectations of myself, but I’m really happy to have gotten on the podium a second time at an Olympic Games,” Masse said.

She has a chance at a third medal as she’s expected to swim the backstroke leg of the women’s medley relay on Sunday.

Masse led at 150 metres in the 200, but was caught at the wall by McKeown.

“I knew it was going to come down to the last bit,” Masse said. “I think maybe from how I felt, my stroke rate maybe slowed down a bit at the end.

“I’ll have to look back on the race and talk to the coaches, but that was a best time for me, a Canadian record, so I have to be pleased with that.”

Masse’s Canadian teammate Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., finished sixth with a time of 2:08.24.

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Blue Jays celebrate homecoming, choose to live for now with Berrios trade – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Amid the maelstrom of excitement, emotion, stress and pressure created by the intersection of the 4 p.m. trade deadline and the first baseball game at Rogers Centre in 670 days, the Toronto Blue Jays made a choice with ramifications for years to come.

Bold trades converting prospect capital like Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson into present value like Jose Berrios were always going to be the next logical progression for the franchise after the mega-contract signing of George Springer last winter.

But the timing of that next step was never certain and getting it right is essential, because cashing in 12 years of two premium but untested talents for 1½ years of elite big-league performance at the wrong time can be perilously detrimental to the entire program.

That’s why the blockbuster GM Ross Atkins pulled off with the Minnesota Twins around noon Friday, hours before a 6-4 homecoming win over the Kansas City Royals, was described by one executive as “a little bit scary – for both sides.”

Berrios, 27, is an increasingly scarce commodity, a front-end starter with a blend of talent, durability and character that are exceedingly difficult to groom and even harder to acquire, either through trade or free agency. The Twins, described earlier in the week by another executive as “hoping a team will do something stupid,” may very well rue his loss.

But Martin, 22, has top percentile bat-to-ball skills and control of the strike zone, although where he fits on the diamond remains a question. And Woods Richardson, the key piece back from the New York Mets in the 2019 Marcus Stroman trade, is only 20, already at double-A and an American Olympian.

So this can go boom or bust for one, or both, and there’s no turning back for the Blue Jays now that they’ve sacrificed high-ceiling potential from their mix in 2023 and beyond to supplement the present with the best starter available not named Max Scherzer.

That this leap came during the best deadline seller’s market in recent memory, when executives suddenly abandoned their prospect hoarding and the teams the Blue Jays are chasing for the post-season all got demonstrably better, too, makes it even more significant.

Inflation struck the trade market. They didn’t flinch at the moment of truth.

“You’re trying not to,” Atkins said when asked if the deals made by others influenced his team’s deliberations. “You’re trying to discipline yourself, because I think any research you do, any studying you do about decision-making, about running a good business or running a good sports team, is about being disciplined and about being patient. In this case, we felt as though we were still doing that and felt as though the value was worth it.

“The opportunity to acquire Berrios was exciting for us and a very difficult decision, not something that we just walked into. Austin Martin will be a great player. Simeon Woods Richardson is going to be a great pitcher and we’re going to be pulling for them. This was just an opportunity that we wanted to take.”

The action Friday, and in the days leading up to the 4 p.m. cutoff, was dizzying and the returns in many deals staggering. Front and centre in that regard was the Chicago White Sox sending impressive but injured infielder Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer for a season and a half of Craig Kimbrel.

The Los Angeles Dodgers gave up their two best prospects plus two others to get Scherzer for the next two months plus shortstop Trea Turner through 2022, while the New York Mets gave up their first-round pick last year, Pete Crow-Armstrong, to rent Javy Baez.

The New York Yankees gave up six prospects ranked between 12 and 24 in their top 30 by Baseball America for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, and then traded two others for Andrew Heaney.

Even a middle-tier rental like Brad Hand, acquired by the Blue Jays from the Washington Nationals on Thursday, cost Riley Adams, a triple-A catcher with a chance to be a backup, while prying reliever Joakim Soria away from Arizona required two players to be named later.

Compared to the returns from recent summers, it was like baseball turned into the irrational Toronto real-estate market.

“As we were going through it, we felt as though the asks were very high compared to what we were accustomed to. And then as we saw moves occurring, it appeared that those asks were being met,” Atkins said. “It’s a hard thing to really pin down and say one reason why. There are subjective reasons with that excitement and energy around being, for us the first time back on our own home field, but throughout the game, people are just so excited to be playing baseball in front of fans again. That probably has some impact.

“But everything is a bit cyclical in the world and in business and maybe we’re seeing a bit of a shift here. It really is exciting to see this deadline. It was one of the more invigorating deadlines that I can recall in a while and that’s ultimately good for baseball.”

Another driving factor is that middle-tier contenders like the Blue Jays, who began the day with FanGraphs calculating their playoffs odds at 26 per cent, all decided to push in. Cincinnati, Atlanta and Philadelphia, each with playoff odds of 20 per cent or less, all made add trades, as well, when they could have justifiably gone the other way, adding pressure on the market.

Teams like Cleveland (the Blue Jays made a run at Jose Ramirez but it’s unclear how far that got), Miami, the Angels and even Minnesota could have sold far more aggressively and didn’t, providing more leverage for the Cubs, Nationals and Rangers, who reset their bases with massive hauls.

The frenzy counterintuitively turned the Blue Jays’ early strikes for Adam Cimber and Corey Dickerson from the Marlins and Trevor Richards from Milwaukee into relative bargains, as teams didn’t have to back off their asks as the clock ticked down. That allowed them to stay in the market for Gallo and come close on a handful of other potential deals.

Take the six new pieces and add the looming return of Nate Pearson to the Blue Jays relief corps – he is “already full steam ahead in a bullpen, electric stuff again,” said Atkins – and perhaps Julian Merryweather, a desert oasis or mirage, depending on your outlook, and the roster got a sizable bump.

That all of it came just in time for the team’s homecoming only added to a uniquely memorable day. During the emotional pre-game ceremonies, the Blue Jays took the field via the centre-field fall, ran through two columns of intensive-care unit workers from Toronto General Hospital and lined the infield as a series of videos tugged at heartstrings.

It didn’t take long for fans to serenade players with the first “Let’s Go, Blue Jays” chants in the building since 2019, and for the first time this year the crowd was not only decisively behind them, but also vehemently against their opponents.

“Really emotional,” Bo Bichette said of the entry to the field. “I was looking at Vladdy (Guerrero Jr.), looking at Teo (Hernandez), everybody’s looking at each other like, man, I got the chills, I’m holding back tears, stuff like that. It’s hard to explain the feeling.

“We’ve just kind of been trying to pretend like we had a home and it’s difficult to do for two years. So when we finally came back here, it feels like definitely a big weight off our shoulders. Just super excited to be here.”

A crowd of 13,446, considered a sellout with a maximum of 15,000 people allowed in the building, kept at it all game long and the type of night the Blue Jays envisioned when they poured $150 million into Springer back in January came to life before them.

“Today, honestly, was one of my best days in baseball,” said manager Charlie Montoyo, who later added: “We felt love.”

The goal is to repeat that feeling, over and over, which is why the Berrios symbolized so much on a day of renewal at Rogers Centre. Yes, the price was high, and yes, so is the risk, but as baseball returned to Toronto, the Blue Jays decided to live for here and now.

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