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Einarson, Homan, Jones clinch playoff spots in Tournament of Hearts

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MOOSE JAW, SASK. —
Manitoba, Ontario and the Jennifer Jones wild-card team secured playoff berths at the Canadian women’s curling championship Thursday.

Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson, Ontario’s Rachel Homan and six-time champion Jones separated themselves from the pack with two wins apiece on the first day of the championship round to get to 8-1.

The trio will jockey Friday for seedings in Saturday’s Page playoff. Einarson faces both Jones and Homan.

“Those two teams are playing really well also, so we’ll have to keep doing all the good things we’re doing,” Einarson said.

Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville (6-3), Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle and Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt (5-4) and defending champion Chelsea Carey and B.C.’s Corryn Brown (4-5) will scramble for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Three-time national champion Homan faces Silvernagle Friday afternoon and Einarson at night.

A top-two ranking at the end of play Friday is an advantage.

First and second meet in the Page playoff between the top two seeds with the winner advancing directly to Sunday’s final.

The loser drops to the semifinal to face the winner of the third and fourth seed in Sunday’s semifinal.

“We wouldn’t be happy just coming out and not playing well and limping into the three-four (playoff),” Homan said.

“That’s not what we want. We want to make sure we’re coming out and giving it our all and trying to win those games.”

Jones meets Einarson in an all-Manitoba matchup Friday afternoon and caps the championship round against McCarville.

Her rested wild-card team downed a depleted Silvernagle 8-3 on Thursday.

Homan doubled Carey 8-4, Einarson downed Birt 9-4 and McCarville edged Brown 7-6 in an extra end.

Silvernagle and B.C.’s Brown won morning tiebreakers Thursday to avoid elimination and then played back-to-back draws in the championship round.

Including the previous evening’s loss to Northern Ontario, the host province played in four straight draws.

“Your third game of the day, you’re definitely going to have both mental and physical fatigue,” Silvernagle said. “Especially when last night was maybe a five-hour sleep. We’re running on very little sleep.”

Jones shook hands after eight ends in an afternoon 10-5 win over Carey and again at night against the host province.

“We couldn’t ask to be in a better position than we are right now,” the skip said. “All in all feeling pretty good, but we’re playing some really tough teams, so we have to feel really good.”

Her team was stingy without last-rock advantage Friday, allowing the opposition to score two with the hammer in just three ends.

“It’s just trying to control the front of the house and the front of the tee line,” Jones said. “We’ve been making a lot of really good draws around some guards and making them make some really hard shots, which is the key to success really.

“You want them making harder shots than you.”

The championship round was incorporated into the format of the national women’s and men’s curling championship in 2018.

Instead of a straight round-robin in which each team plays all others, 16 teams are divided into two seven-game pools with eight emerging for the championship round.

Silvernagle beat New Brunswick’s Andrea Crawford 9-7 in a morning Pool A tiebreaker.

Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B with a 5-4 tiebreaker win over Nova Scotia’s Mary-Anne Arsenault.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

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Ottawa Race Weekend cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Ottawa Race Weekend is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Organizers announced Monday they’re calling off the annual race, scheduled this year to take place May 23-24, over fears it would be impossible to maintain a safe distance between runners of the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K or children’s event.

It’s the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 1975.

But before you hang up your Vaporflys and hit the couch, Run Ottawa, the organization behind Race Weekend, is offering an alternative that will allow runners to compete while still following the physical distancing guidelines set out by Ottawa Public Health.

Competitors will be offered a spot in a virtual race, where they’ll determine their own route and run or walk their chosen distance through their own neighbourhood. The virtual race will start as early as May 23, but will be spread out over the spring and summer months, until August 31. They’ll receive a race kit, including medal, T-shirt, and even a photograph of them crossing a virtual finishing line.

A runner holds a rubber chicken as he begins the half-marathon in Ottawa on Sunday, May 27, 2018. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press )

“Part of having a long runway to complete the event is that maybe things will be a little bit different further into the summer, and will allow people to run in groups of two or three,” said Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa.

Run Ottawa said it will partner with the international race timing company Sportstats to create a virtual finish line, using “e-bibs.” Participants will be able to share their results with friends and family, and compare their times with other runners once the final results are published.

The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.– Ian Fraser, Run Ottawa

Registration, which was halted two weeks ago with around 18,000 runners signed up, will be reopened to allow for more people to join up for the virtual races. 

“There’s a great spirit in the running community that I think is going to see this as something they can celebrate, to push something positive forward in difficult times,” Fraser said.

Run Ottawa had been expecting some 33,000 runners this year.  

The virtual race won’t be a sanctioned event, and the results will not qualify runners for major marathons elsewhere, such as Boston. 

No refunds

There will be no refunds, according to Fraser.

“Pretty much all of the registration money that we take in is spent quite a ways before you actually get to the start line,” he said. “The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.”

Instead, people who have already registered will be given a 50 per cent discount on next year’s race, which is scheduled for May 28-29.

Run Ottawa considered postponing the event until fall, but worried about the crowded running calendar, and the possibility of ongoing mitigation efforts over COVID-19.

“We’re also not certain that the world’s going to be in a better place by then, and we were really mindful to not double disappoint our participants,” Fraser said.

The decision to proceed with a virtual event is meant to encourage runners to keep going with their fundraising efforts for local charities. In years past, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. 

Fraser said he understands people will be disappointed.

“I’ve been a runner since I was eight years old,” Fraser said. “I understand the hard work that goes into preparing for one of our events. But the journey to get to the finish line is every bit as important as the actual event itself…. I think using running as a way of coping with what we’re going through is really important. I think there are more people running now than I’ve ever seen before.”

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Belarus defiantly keeps playing while the rest of the sports world goes on hiatus – The Globe and Mail

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Fans react during the Belarus Championship soccer match between Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino and Belshina Bobruisk in the town of Zhodino, Belarus, on March 27, 2020.

Sergei Grits/The Associated Press

With most sports around the world shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic, longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is proudly keeping soccer and hockey arenas open.

The Eastern European nation of nearly 9.5 million even started a whole new soccer season this month as coronavirus cases rose.

The move has the full support of Lukashenko, who took to the ice in an amateur hockey tournament on Saturday with a few hundred spectators in the stands.

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“It’s better to die standing that to live on your knees,” he said, defending Belarus’ refusal to introduce isolation measures and border restrictions like its neighbours, such as Russia.

Soccer fans in need of their weekly fix are turning to Belarus, home to one of the few professional leagues that is still playing. Reuters

With foreign sports networks having little to show and few other options for sports betting, Lukashenko says the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to put the country’s soccer league on display.

“I look at Russia and some people there are winning a lot on bets, because beforehand they didn’t really know our teams,” Lukashenko said. “Someone’s losing, someone’s winning. It’s all useful.”

Fans entering the stadiums in Belarus are given antiseptic hand gel and some have their temperatures monitored by medics. Few wear masks because they’re not considered necessary for open-air events, Belarus soccer federation spokesman Alexander Aleinik said.

Belarus doesn’t publish daily figures on the spread of the virus. On Friday, the last day for which statistics are available, the country recorded 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths.

The Belarusian league isn’t usually an international attraction. Crowds this season barely average 1,200 and UEFA ranks it the continent’s 25th strongest, just below Norway, Israel and Kazakhstan.

But Russian TV has given its games prominent slots on state sports channels and betting firms around Western Europe are streaming them for customers.

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British fans on social media have picked teams to follow and thrown themselves into a new fandom, elevating obscure players to hero status and berating coaches for supposedly negative tactics.

There isn’t much competition, with betting sites offering little more than Nicaraguan soccer, Tajikistan basketball and Russian table tennis as rivals.

Sergei Melnikov is one of those hoping to make an impression on the mostly empty global sports stage. He is the director of the Isloch club, which beat Smolevichi 1-0 on Sunday to keep pace with the leaders on points.

“The whole world is watching our soccer right now,” Melnikov said. “That means we have to show the best that we’ve got.”

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

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CFL postpones the start of Training Camp – CFL.ca

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TORONTO — The Canadian Football League issued a statement Monday morning saying it will be postponing the start of 2020 Training Camps due to the ongoing global pandemic.

The statement, attributed to Commissioner Randy Ambrosie, reads as follows:

“As of today, the opening of CFL training camps will be postponed. The ongoing global pandemic and the resulting directives issued by various governments make it unsafe to proceed with plans to gather our athletes and coaches together as scheduled. (Until today, full CFL training camps had been scheduled to open on May 17, and rookie camps had been scheduled to open as early as May 11.)

As for our future plans, we are in the hands of our public health officials, the advice they are providing governments, and the directives those governments are issuing to us all, and we acknowledge their timetable will be dictated by the virus itself . We will make further decisions when we can and share them with our fans and the public as soon as possible.

The CFL and its member clubs would like to take this opportunity to thank our fans, partners, players, prospects, coaches and staff, for their dedication and patience as we face this challenge. We are facing it together, even if we have to be physically apart. An additional thank you to everyone doing their part to fight the virus. Please wash your hands, stay home and practice social distancing. The sooner we stop the spread, the sooner we can get back to normal – and back to football.

Finally, but most importantly, we want to express our gratitude to the people on the front lines of healthcare and the supply chain. Your hard and courageous work – to inform us, feed us and care for us, our communities and our loved ones – makes you our champions.

We at the CFL are pragmatic optimists. Our pragmatism dictates that, unfortunately, training camps cannot go forward as scheduled. But our optimism remains strong. We continue to look forward to a CFL season and the Grey Cup.”

The postponement of the start of Training Camp is the latest in a handful of necessary responses from the CFL to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. Last week, the league announced it was postponing its Global Draft until the start of camps. The week before, the league cancelled its remaining Combines for the 2020 season.

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