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Swiatek’s psychologist say “Everyone must work on creating safe mental environment for players”

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All tennis stakeholders should work on creating a safe environment for players whose mental health is at risk, the sports psychologist of French Open champion Iga Swiatek said on Thursday.

Four-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka said on Wednesday she would not take questions from the press at the French Open, saying the nature of news conferences puts an undue burden on players’ mental health.

Daria Abramowicz, who is in Paris to assist the 19-year-old Swiatek at the French Open which starts on Sunday, told Reuters that the demands on players affect their mental health and well-being.

“I absolutely understand the (Osaka’s) decision in terms of when a player loses a match, and tennis is such a specific sport because at the end of the tournament only one person does not lose,” Abramowicz said.

“The last thing that I want (Swiatek) to do, to be completely honest with you, after she loses a match, is that she does the press,” she said, adding that she had been working with Swiatek on helping the player deal with her life as a “public person”.

“It’s tough emotionally to cope with it, it is one of the challenges that tennis brings. It’s sometimes overwhelming and might be a burden when the emotional state (of the player) is way away from good.”

Abramowicz said that it was paramount to insist on “the empathy and mutual respect between athletes and the press, sometimes the organisers.”

In tennis tournaments, players have to attend a news conference after each match and face a fine if they do not.

Abramowicz believes that players should sometimes be allowed more time to reflect on their performances before being brought to the media and urged athletes to use their social platforms to share their thoughts.

‘PUBLIC EYE’

She added that given the nature of the sport’s environment, which she labels a “business industry”, players needed support not only on, but also off the court.

“We live in the public eye, cope with additional pressure and outside expectations and it includes connecting with the press, the media – not only traditional media but also social media,” she explained.

“So yes I’m a strong advocate of building resources and equipping players and teams with the tools that help them and allow them to cope better.

“From my psychologist’s point of view this is one of the most important areas. There is no chance of escaping the media, social media pressure and expectations that partners and sponsors also bring to the table.”

Sports psychologists focus on the players’ environment, she said, looking to create a safe bubble for them.

“What we try to do in terms of sport psychology is that we no longer work solely on the mental tools that help to perform better, but we also work on the areas that help to create the healthiest career possible,” said Abramowicz.

All parties involved, however, need to be on board, she added.

“We have to build the resources to educate the players, teams, coaches, management teams and also press and organisers to bring the best policies and strategies that are good for the comfort of the players and good for the working environment,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool

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Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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