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Curlers hoping to find elusive ‘zone’ in Kingston this week

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KINGSTON, Ont. – Being “in the zone” is every athlete’s goal.

It’s a superior level of play where everything slows down, allowing the athlete to reach a higher echelon of performance.

Getting into that state of mind is much easier said than done, especially in a sport like curling where such a high importance is placed on mental focus. You don’t usually last very long in the zone – if you can find it at all. But if you can, success could just be around the corner.

“Generally, if you look at anybody that wins a Canadian championship or world championship, you’ve probably got to have one or two players that have been in the zone for a good part of it,” said Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue. “You look at the Scotties. Kerri Einarson looked like she was in that zone for a lot of it. It’s what it takes. The competition is so good.”

So, what does it feel like? How does it differ from just playing well?

Wild Card skipper Mike McEwen says he was in the zone during the semi-final and final of the 2017 Roar of the Rings Olympics trials in Ottawa. McEwen defeated Gushue in the semis with then-second Matt Wozniak describing McEwen’s performance as the best he’s ever seen from the Winnipeg native. ​

McEwen shot 95 per cent in the gold-medal game, losing to Kevin Koe in a 7-6 heartbreaker. Still, the 39-year-old recalls how he felt different during those contests.

“Zero anxiety, but ultimate focus. I almost felt like I could see things outside of myself. It’s weird to say, but it’s like an out-of-body experience. I felt so calm and relaxed but very focused that it felt a little bit out-of-body, which is very odd for me,” said McEwen. “I’m not traditionally a player who’s had moments like that of being able to play at that high level without a lot of stressors going on, but it happened for me there.”

It wasn’t just a flick of switch to get to that point, says McEwen. It took a lot of work with sports psychologist Kyle Paquette, who is a business partners with Adam Kingsbury, coach for Saskatchewan’s Team Matt Dunstone.

“There were years of work with him [Paquette] and our team,” he said. “We all improved personally as individuals both off and on the ice. That was a three- or four-year journey that added up to being able to play in a moment like that.”

Team Canada skip Koe, who shot 100 per cent in a win over New Brunswick Sunday night, says getting in the zone doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it usually happens at events like the Brier.

“You put in all the work to get here and you’ve had a lot of practice and you’re on good conditions,” said Koe. “In the past we slowly built up our level of play as the week went on, and hopefully this week is no different.

“It’s just a confidence thing when you know you’re throwing it good. You got great conditions that are very predictable. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s pretty special.”

Ben Hebert has played lead for both Koe and Kevin Martin – two of the most decorated curlers in history – winning four Brier titles, two world championships and an Olympic gold medal in the process. The 36-year-old knows first-hand what it means for players of that quality to be in the zone.

“It’s not a secret that it’s a skip’s game out there. When the skip is hot, it takes you to good places. There’s been times when both of them had the draw button weight in their back pocket and the laser beams on task and that’s when magic happens,” said Hebert. “I wish I knew [how they do it] and then maybe I could do that and be a skip.”

Gushue doesn’t know the exact science in finding the zone either, but says it’s a fun time when he has found it in the past. The two-time Canadian champ says he’s reached that level at the 2017 world championship in Edmonton, when his team went 13-0, and the 2018 Brier in Regina.

“Certainly, for me, everything really goes blank. Sometimes I don’t even focus on the shot. It just becomes automatic and you get into a routine,” explained Gushue. “You get into the hack and you throw it and everything looks like it’s on the line it needs to be. It’s a fun time.”

Ontario’s John Epping is skipping the hometown team this week in Kingston, Ont., and has been playing well. He’s shot at least 85 per cent in all three of their wins heading into Thursday night’s game against New Brunswick. The Toronto native says he feels like he might be closing in on that certain coveted state.

“It’s like when you’re putting on the green and all of sudden the golf hole gets so much bigger,” said Epping. “Out there it can feel very big, but other times it can feel really small. Right now it feels really great. I think, maybe, a bit of a zone is happening. I’m not sure. Everything feels really good personally right now and we’ll just keep building on that.”

McEwen and his Wild Card rink are also playing well with an undefeated record so far, but he says it’s too early to know if they’ll be “in the zone” for the playoffs this weekend.

“That seems so far away. Ask me that later. It feels like we’ve here for a week, but we’re only day three here,” he said.

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US Soccer announces both men and women will split the prize money from FIFA

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Atlanta, United States of America (USA)- The US Soccer Federation (USSF) has announced soccer players representing the United States men’s and women’s national teams will receive the same pay and prize money, including at World Cups.

Under the new deals, which run through 2028 and cover the next four World Cups, dozens of top men’s and women’s players have been told in internal presentations that they can expect to collect average annual payouts of about US$450 000 from the USSF and potentially more than double that in successful World Cup years.

The deal also encompasses other areas such as child care, parental leave, short-term disability, mental health impairment, travel and equal quality of venues and field playing surfaces.

“This is a truly historic moment. The first Federation in the world to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money. These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world.

US Soccer and the USWNT (United States Women’s National Soccer Team) and USMNT (United States Men’s National Soccer Team) players have reset their relationship with these new agreements and are leading us forward to an incredibly exciting new phase of mutual growth and collaboration as we continue our mission to become the preeminent sport in the United States,” said USSF president, Cindy Parlow.

This latest development comes after the USSF was ordered to pay US$24 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a group of past and present USWNT stars.

As part of their settlement, the group of women’s players will divide US$22 million, which was around a third of what they had originally hoped to seal, with the extra US$2 million used to establish a fund that helps the players navigate their post-soccer careers and women’s sports to grow.

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Formula 1 sets 22 races for 2022 & 3 sprinting events

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London, England- Formula 1 has confirmed that there will be 22 races for the 2022 calendar and 3 sprinting events.

The move follows Formula 1’s decision to permanently cancel Russia’s race at Sochi in the wake of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

Formula 1 organizers cancelled the event shortly after Russia’s military operations in February leaving the original slot open as they worked through various replacement options to fit with the original schedule.

Following the cancellation, Formula 1 received plenty of interest from host venues but had to work out if any addition would prove beneficial to the schedule rather than increase costs in terms of logistics.

With the original 23-race number set to be a record for a Formula 1 season, the event organizers then decided the most efficient approach was to simply drop the race that was originally slated for September 25 and leave two weeks between the previous three-straight slate in Europe and the following back-to-back weekends in Singapore and Japan.

Meanwhile, the number of sprint qualifying events that had been expected to be doubled to six this year will remain at three.

However, according to McLaren’s CEO, Zak Brown, Formula 1 teams are in favour of more sprints, “We tried to get six sprint races off last year, which obviously didn’t happen for this year. I think all the teams voted in favour of six sprint races now we have seen the data which tells us it creates more fan awareness, and that’s what I think is most important in growing the sport, how do our fans respond when we try new activities?”

Revised 2022 Formula 1 Calendar:

 

  1. Bahrain GP (Sakhir) March 20

 

  1. Saudi Arabian GP (Jeddah) March 27

 

  1. Australian GP (Melbourne) April 10

 

  1. Emilia Romagna GP (Imola) April 24

 

  1. Miami GP (Miami) May 8

 

  1. Spanish GP (Barcelona) May 22

 

  1. Monaco GP (Monaco) May 29

 

  1. Azerbaijan GP (Baku) June 12

 

  1. Canadian GP (Montreal) June 19

 

  1. British GP (Silverstone) July 3

 

  1. Austrian GP (Spielberg) July 10

 

  1. French GP (Paul Ricard) July 24

 

  1. Hungarian GP (Budapest) July 31

 

  1. Belgian GP (Spa) August 28

 

  1. Dutch GP (Zandvoort) September 4

 

  1. Italian GP (Monza) September 11

 

  1. Singapore GP (Marina Bay) October 2

 

  1. Japanese GP (Suzuka) October 9

 

  1. United States GP (Austin) October 23

 

  1. Mexico City GP (Mexico City) October 30

 

  1. Sao Paulo GP (Interlagos) November 13

 

  1. Abu Dhabi GP (Yas Marina) November 20

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CFL strike ends after league, players reach tentative agreement on new CBA – TSN

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The first Canadian Football League strike in nearly 40 years ended Wednesday night, opening the door for the full resumption of training camps and the first on-time start to the regular season since 2019.

The CFL and the CFL Players’ Association reached a tentative seven-year deal on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) Wednesday, less than 96 hours after the strike began when talks broke off.

Monday’s preseason game in Saskatchewan between the Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers is being rescheduled – an announcement is expected on Thursday – but in terms of actual casualties because of this labour stoppage, that’s it.

The end result is a deal – which still has to be ratified by the league’s board of governors and CFLPA members – that produces measureable gains for the players in several areas including health and safety, revenue sharing, salary cap, and guaranteed contracts.

There are tangible measures to slow player turnover, which has long been a CFL problem ignored in collective bargaining.

The big question mark economically is how meaningful the revenue sharing formula will prove to be for the players, and whether they will truly be able to share in any league prosperity.

There is always much debate about the state of the business in Canadian football, but this deal suggests that not all is doom and gloom. Coming off two years in which the league suffered massive losses from a lost 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and significant ones off a reduced 14-game schedule in 2021, the CFL did not bargain like a league that was on its last legs.

It provided minimum annual increases to the salary cap that are double those prescribed in the last CBA. And the league signed a deal that provides far more than what’s been given in recent memory. All of which suggests there must be some optimism about what lies ahead, barely a year after the CFL parted ways with the idea of merging with the XFL.

So if there was so much ‘give’ from the owners side on this deal, what did they owners ‘get’ in return?

Essentially, besides the term of the deal, the league gained flexibility for its teams in how the league’s ratio of Canadians is applied. The CFL ratio is always the most hotly debated, misunderstood and controversial aspect of Canadian football – people tend to love it or hate it.

The league itself tends to love it … well, sort of.

There’s never been an intent to eliminate the league’s quota for 21 Canadian players on every roster, seven of whom have to be starters.

But reduce it? Sure, the league’s always been open to that and the players’ association has always opposed it.

The uncomfortable truth in all of this is reducing the ratio improves the quality of the game, and improving the quality of the game is something with which the league has become acutely concerned about of late. That’s not a knock on Canadians. It’s just a recognition that the numbers of players in the United States far, far, far outnumber those north of the border.

The sides came up with a solution that preserves the seven Canadian starters but provides for more flexibility for coaches to use American players than they would have been able to in the past. Specifically, veteran American players, those who’ve spent at least three years with their team or five in the league, will be allowed to play as Canadians in some circumstances.

That not only is going to put more of the best players on the field, it’s going to give additional value to American veterans, which slows roster turnover, another key issue this agreement effectively addresses.

Players have a strong incentive to re-sign with their teams, since that allows up to 50 per cent of the final years of their contracts to be guaranteed.

Overall, both the movement of players from team-to-team and out of the league should slow, which is a true win-win for players, fans and general managers.

It’s hard to imagine what the world of Canadian football will be like in 2029, when the new CBA expires.

No doubt much will have changed.

The league is marching into that future with a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses many longstanding issues in the CFL.

Who wins on the business side is hard to say, given all the uncertainties that lie ahead.

But right now all that matters to most is that collective bargaining has been put to bed and the CFL is finally ready to embark on a full season of football.

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