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Pole vault stars set bar high in backyard competition –



French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie hardly treated this like a garden-variety competition.

It was for backyard bragging rights. So he raised his intensity.

Lavillenie and Mondo Duplantis of Sweden shared the gold medal Sunday during a men’s pole vault competition held in their own yards. Advertised as the Ultimate Garden Clash, it was a rare sporting event contested during the coronavirus pandemic.

Duplantis, a world record-holder, and Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion, each cleared a height of five metres (16 feet) 36 times over a span of 30 minutes that was broadcast by World Athletics on its social media channels. Both had one miss. Sam Kendricks of the United States got the bronze by clearing the bar 26 times in a competition featuring three of the event’s biggest names.

It just might have been a preview of the Tokyo Games, which have been postponed to 2021. Lavillenie certainly took his concentration to another level.

“It’s crazy, but even doing this in my garden, I get the same feeling I’d get at a major championships,” Lavillenie said. “It was very exciting and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

They tried to figure out a tiebreaker before electing to share the gold. The 20-year-old Duplantis initially pushed for a three-minute playoffs format that was on the table, while the 33-year-old Lavillenie nixed the plan. He was exhausted.

WATCH | 3 of the world’s top pole vaulters compete remotely:

Pole vault stars Renaud Lavillenie, Mondo Duplantis and Sam Kendricks hold a competition in their own backyards. 5:11

‘I had really missed competing’

Lavillenie did clear his 36th bar seconds before Duplantis, who jumped 6.18 in February to break Lavillenie’s world record. The event was split into two 15-minute sessions with a short halftime.

“I will give you a rematch, Mondo,” he playfully said at the end.

Added Duplantis. “It was really fun being out there competing against those guys. I had really missed competing. I didn’t think it was going to end in a tie, but that’s sports.”

The backyard idea was brought forth by Lavillenie, and the trio collaborated on the unique competition format because adjusting the bar wasn’t practical without officials in place.

Duplantis competed from his base in Lafayette, Louisiana, with his setup next to a garden wall. Kendricks was at his farm in Oxford, Miss., with his landing mat nestled between trees and near a fence where a horse occasionally was caught on the video feed.

Then there was Lavillenie, who took part from Clermont-Ferrand, France. The family’s trampoline was pushed to the side and there was a swingset in the background.

‘Really innovative,’ says World Athletics president

Don’t expect this to be a new pole-vaulting format, though. This was only for show. Still, it made for entertaining theatre.

“The general sense of this competition was just supposed to be fun,” said Kendricks, the two-time world champion. “A way to eat up time on a Sunday and give a chance for everybody to watch.”

WATCH | Lavillenie, Duplantis & Kendricks battle from start to finish:

Pole vault stars Renaud Lavillenie, Mondo Duplantis and Sam Kendricks compete in their own backyards. 1:02:25

Among those watching was World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who gave the competition high marks.

“This is a brilliant initiative, great fun and really innovative,” Coe said in a statement. “My thanks go to them, their families and the World Athletics team for bringing live athletics back during lockdown. I hope we can bring a few more events like this to bring to all athletics fans out there.”

Alysha Newman, who holds the Canadian indoor/outdoor records for women, also tuned in.

“It wasn’t about who could jump the highest but rather who was in the best jumping shape,” she told CBC Sports. “It was the first time we’ve seen cardio introduced to pole vault and it showed how hard it was on them. You could hear them huffing and puffing. The athleticism of the men was tested.

“Pole vaulting has always been about who can compete for two to three hours, jump the highest with wind conditions and [other elements]. It ends up being mental and not physical, whereas today was physical. It was cool to see [pole vaulters] could do both.”

At the moment, nine competitions in the 15-meet Diamond League season have either been postponed, rescheduled or minimized.

The Bislett Games in Oslo on June 11 has been rebranded as the “Impossible Games” and turned into an exhibition event. Organizers have said the meet would still offer prize money from a $50,000 US contribution by World Athletics. It will feature Norwegian 400 hurdles world champion Karsten Warholm attempting a world record in the rarely raced 300 hurdles.

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Wheeler on racism: 'You can't be silent anymore' – TSN



Blake Wheeler says he regrets not speaking up sooner.

After posting a letter to Twitter over the weekend on the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that followed across the United States, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets said on a Tuesday video conference call with reporters that “you can’t be silent anymore.”

Wheeler said the death of Floyd last week, as well as the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year, finally moved him to speak up on the issue of racism.

“I haven’t done a good enough job in the past,” Wheeler said. “I’ve felt this way for a long time.”

The Minnesota native’s weekend post included the phrase “America is not OK” in response to the killing Floyd. The 46-year-old black man died last Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

A number of other prominent NHL players, including San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who is black, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who is Latino-American, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin, and Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, have posted similar messages to social media in recent days.

The NHL, NHL Players’ Association, NHL Coaches’ Association, the vast majority of teams, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have also posted to social media on the topic or shared players’ words from their official accounts.

Derek Chauvin, 44, and three other Minneapolis police officers were fired in the wake of Floyd’s death. Chauvin was subsequently charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Two white men were arrested last month for the February shooting death of Arbery, a black jogger, in Georgia, while the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home in March also attracted national attention in May.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020


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Hall of Famer Unseld dead at 74 – TSN



Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld has died at the age of 74 after a bout of pneumonia, the Washington Wizards announced on Tuesday.

The Louisville native spent all 13 of his NBA seasons with the Baltimore/Washington Bullets franchise.

“He was the rock of our family – an extremely devoted patriarch who reveled in being with his wife, children, friends and teammates,” Unseld’s family said in a statement. “He was our hero and loved playing and working around the game of basketball for the cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C., cities he proudly wore on his chest for so many years.”

Unseld appeared in a Bullets/Wizards franchise record 984 games, averaging 10.8 points and 14.8 rebounds over his career.

Taken with the second pick of the 1968 NBA Draft out of Louisville, Unseld, a five-time All-Star, won both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 1969.

“We all admired Wes as the pillar of this franchise for so long, but it was his work off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy and live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement.

Upon his retirement, Unseld joined the organization’s front office, becoming the team’s vice-president in 1981. In 1988, Unseld became the Bullets head coach, resigning in 1994.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988 and to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Poll: Canadians OK with being benched as NHL playoff venue – Sports –



It looks like hockey fans will be able to cheer on their favourite NHL team this summer but Canadians have issued a collective shrug about whether the Stanley Cup is hoisted on their home ice.

Less than one-quarter of those who took part in a recent survey said it was very important that a Canadian city be host to some of the playoffs.

The web survey, conducted by polling firm Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, found 47 per cent thought it wasn’t important that the puck drop in a Canadian arena.

The NHL plans to resume its 2019-20 season, brought to a halt in March by the COVID-19 pandemic, with games played in two hub cities.

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto are among the 10 possible locations, but Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering the country remains in place and could scuttle the prospect of hockey north of the 49th parallel.

The survey was conducted May 29 to 31 among 1,536 Canadians and 1,002 Americans, 18 or older, who were randomly recruited from an online panel.

The hockey question, limited to Canadian respondents, revealed 24 per cent felt it was very important for a Canadian city to play host, while 20 per cent said it was somewhat important.

Thirty-five per cent said it was not important at all, 12 per cent felt it was somewhat unimportant and nine per cent didn’t know.

The fact the NHL plans to bar spectators from the stands during playoff games due to COVID-19 “probably cooled off a few respondents,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

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