By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, December 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
It wasn’t just Usain Bolt who became a household name at the 2012 Olympics.
Speechless When trampolinist Rosie MacLennan of King City, Ont., won Canada’s first (and only) Olympic gold, the 23-year-old was shell-shocked: “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do?” The answer is: everything. She’s been celebrated at centre court by the Raptors, introduced an author at the Giller Prize ceremony, and was an honoured guest at the Gold Medal Plates fundraiser for Olympic athletes in Ottawa (her medal in an elegant clutch purse). She’s now an ambassador for the Level the Field campaign to show “how play can create brighter futures for children everywhere,” she says.
Boris Johnson doesn’t appear fit for office—or anything else, really. Permanently dishevelled, gaffe-prone and coiffed almost as preposterously as Donald Trump, the former journalist is, in a word, shambolic. But Londoners have a soft spot for their clownish mayor, and by the end of the Games so did the rest of the world. Despite dire predictions about everything from transit chaos to labour strife, the party went off without a hitch—except the moment when “BoJo” somehow got stuck midair on a zipline. And now there’s serious talk he might eventually replace David Cameron. Stranger things have happened.
Oscar Pistorius is among the fastest 400-m runners in the world. Quick enough to make South Africa’s Olympic squad, then come second in his heat in London, before bowing out in the semifinals. These are essential truths that sometimes get lost in the hype and controversy over the fact that he does it all on carbon-fibre blades. The double-amputee had to fight long and hard for his chance to race against able-bodied athletes. And while he didn’t win, he scored a victory for himself, and all of sport, just by being there. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
‘Fat girls,’ ice dancers and a sweet simian with a sense of fashion
Making their mark
A week after soccer’s brain trust, FIFA, snubbed Canada’s Christine Sinclair, fans of the game had plenty to celebrate. First, the Argentine superstar Lionel Messi scored his 86th goal of 2012, surpassing a 40-year-old record and affirming the Barcelona striker as the greatest scorer the game has seen. Then, Sinclair was announced as winner of the Lou Marsh Award, given to Canada’s top athlete of the year. The honour comes after FIFA left Sinclair off its shortlist for female player of 2012—a cold shoulder some chalked up to Sinclair’s intemperate remarks about the officiating after Canada’s hard-fought semi-final loss to the U.S. at the London Olympics. To John Herdman, Sinclair’s national team coach, her body of work speaks for itself: “I’d put her up there with the biggest and best athletes in the world.”
Back to bunga?
Silvio Berlusconi could provide survival tips to vampires. No sooner had his foes left him for dead, politically speaking, than the scandal-ridden former Italian prime minister rose anew, forcing current PM Mario Monti out of power this week, and declaring his candidacy for the national leadership. Berlusconi’s resurrection marks a new low for Italian politics, critics say: at 76, he is still appealing convictions for tax fraud, while fighting charges of having sex with an underage prostitute—this, at time when Italy is drifting toward a full-blown debt crisis. Yet the media tycoon hasn’t lost an ounce of audacity. On his Facebook page, he claimed that he tried to find a worthy successor, but added: “There isn’t one.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Glenn Beck’s new shill, a star turn for a senator’s spouse, and an MP stands up for shark fin soup
Time to move on
Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair has “no regrets” about venting to Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen about two dubious calls she made during the Olympic team’s controversial loss to the U.S.A. this August. “I don’t regret what I said,” Sinclair said in her first comments since being slapped with a four-game suspension and fined $3,500 by FIFA for “unsporting behaviour.” We may never know what Sinclair told the ref, but she backed down on suggestions that Pedersen wanted a U.S. victory: “No, I don’t ultimately believe she went into the match hoping the U.S. would win.” It was a face-saver for both sides. FIFA defended itself against match-fixing allegations, and Sinclair stood up for her team against two lousy penalties. Soccer Canada will pay her fine, and the suspensions will be in meaningless friendly games.
There may be truth to the theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can eventually generate a hurricane. British artist Damien Hirst is weathering a storm after news that 9,000 butterflies died during a summer-long retrospective of his work at the Tate Modern gallery in London. The free-flying insects, an installation he called In and Out of Love, were part of a retrospective including his famous dead pickled shark and other iconic works. Some butterflies were killed when visitors stepped on them or brushed them off their clothing, but most lived out their life cycle in the gallery, a Tate spokesman said. Hirst said a butterfly expert was hired “at considerable cost” to ensure conditions were perfect. Many enjoyed longer lives than in the wild, he said, “due to the high quality of the environment and food provided.” The flap didn’t stop almost 500,000 visitors from touring the exhibit—among the Tate’s most popular ever.
A giant leap for mankind
On Oct. 14, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner stood perched on a tiny shelf the size of a skateboard, ﬁxed to a capsule he’d ridden to the edge of space. Then he jumped. Baumgartner plunged over 39 km—more than three times the cruising height of a jetliner—reaching a maximum speed of 1,342 km/h and landing safely with a parachute in the New Mexico desert. Sponsored by Red Bull, Baumgartner’s mission was more than a publicity stunt; it was a testament to how the human body can cope with the extreme conditions of space, and made him the first human ever to break the sound barrier in a skydive (one of several records broken that day). But Baumgartner wasn’t thinking about that as he jumped. Before stepping off his perch, he radioed to mission control: “I’m coming home.”
With his outsized salary, me-first attitude and admitted steroid use, New York Yankees third-baseman and three-time league MVP Alex Rodriguez has never been an easy guy to like. But his popularity is now plunging to unheard-of lows after his bat fell silent in the post-season, which resulted in him being demoted in the line-up and benched. A-Rod’s meltdown came as the sporting world watched another implosion of a former star: seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, whose career is now officially in tatters after details about the official investigation into his team’s massive doping scheme became public.
Tea Party denim
Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck has apparently identiﬁed an underserved fashion market in America: libertarian hipster dads. This week he became the latest celebrity to roll out his own line of selvage jeans under the label 1791 Supply & Co. (named for the year the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution). After berating Levi’s for outsourcing manufacturing overseas, Beck is promising $129 pants in “straight” and “classic” cuts (no youthful skinny jeans here) that are “100 per cent made in the U.S.A.” The pitch comes complete with a bizarre, Americana-laden commercial showing a bearded man wielding a hobby rocket, lighting its fuse, and then running away full tilt. Perhaps because he suspects it’s a dud?
A Google homage
Google’s homepage art on Oct. 15 may have single-handedly revived the reputation of Winsor McCay, creator of the 1905 fantasy comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. Gerald Lynch of Tech Digest was so impressed by the animated recreation of McCay’s style, where Little Nemo falls into “Google Land” and has surreal adventures, that he pronounced it “the best Google Doodle ever” despite never having heard of the strip before. McCay-mania spread so far on the Internet that the National Post published an article on the controversy over whether or not he was born while his mother was visiting Canada. You know someone’s famous again when Canadians want to take credit for him.
A bowlful of controversy
At Jade Restaurant in Richmond, B.C., Conservative MP Alice Wong recently enjoyed a controversial meal: a bowl of shark fin soup. The dish is banned in Toronto and North Vancouver, while other communities—including Richmond—are considering following suit. Several shark species are endangered, and the techniques used to fish them are notorious; but Wong, who reportedly only invited Chinese media to witness her meal, insists municipalities should butt out and let Ottawa decide whether to enact a ban. Restaurant owner David Chung went further, calling a ban “culturally insensitive.”
Back on the market
The standards by which we, as a society, judge the possibility of monogamy—that is, the marriages of Hollywood stars—continue to crumble. First, after 30 years together, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman decided they were no longer interested in mutually diminutive matrimony. According to Radaronline, DeVito’s flirtatious ways were to blame and now the short, bald 67-year-old is “embracing the single life” (step one: shopping around for a new sports car). Meanwhile, Hollywood hunk and celebrated phone-thrower Russell Crowe is back on the market after nine years of marriage to Danielle Spencer. Her partner on the Australian version of Dancing With The Stars is rumoured to be the problem. DeVito will no doubt be calling Crowe soon in the hopes of procuring a wing man.
A few weeks removed from pleading guilty to a mid-air disturbance, Maygan Sensenberger took to the runway in Ottawa as a model citizen, or at least a model. The 23-year-old wife of 69-year-old Sen. Rod Zimmer took her turn on the catwalk as part of Ottawa Fashion Week, modelling the work of Canadian designer Gwen Madiba. “She may be shorter than all the other models, but she’s beautiful and glowing,” Zimmer told the Ottawa Citizen. Sensenberger, who was sentenced to probation after her mid-flight squabble with Zimmer became a minor media sensation, is also apparently taking acting lessons and, according to Zimmer, is up for a role in an upcoming movie to be filmed in Ottawa.
It’s a checkpoint there, Charlie
Mauritania is a dangerous place, even if you’re the president. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was shot by one of his own soldiers at a military checkpoint. The shooting immediately set off alarm bells in the strife-torn country, whose most recent military coup brought Aziz to power. But the recovering leader announced from his hospital that his injuries weren’t due to terrorism or another coup, but rather, mistaken identity: he was driving home alone after a relaxing weekend trip, and didn’t bother to stop at the checkpoint even after warning shots were fired. Mauritanians can rest easy knowing the only danger they face is from their own trigger-happy soldiers.
Air Canada to the rescue
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were named hosts of the 70th annual Golden Globe awards this week. The announcement that the 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation stars will team up has fans anticipating all kinds of funny for the Jan. 13 show, particularly after Fey was skipped over as an Academy Awards host in favour of comedian Seth MacFarlane. The duo replace the merciless Ricky Gervais, who hosted the Golden Globes for the past three years—and made the once marginal awards show a must-watch event. The Golden Globe gig won’t be the first time Fey and Poehler have teamed up, and fans are hoping their hosting duties might resemble something like their Saturday Night Live classic, with Fey as Sarah Palin and Poehler as Katie Couric.
We are all Malala
The entire world, it seems, is praying for Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old gunned down by the Taliban for speaking out against them, and promoting education for girls. She was flown to Britain this week, where doctors say she is making good progress.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, August 13, 2012 at 9:07 AM - 0 Comments
Even winners don’t necessarily strike it rich back home
Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Over the next few days, Canada’s Olympic medallists will likely return home to a hero’s welcome.
But once the dust settles, it’s unlikely they’ll be cashing in on their Summer Games success.
“Canadians really love the Olympics more than they realize,” said Cary Kaplan, president of Cosmos Sports, a sports marketing company in Mississauga, Ont.
“It’s bonding. It’s huge. But when it’s over, (the excitement) doesn’t carry over. It tends to drop off a cliff.”
A lack of public interest in amateur sports that are so revered during the Olympics — like diving, kayaking and gymnastics — has historically resulted in corporate Canada passing over Olympians, even ones with gold medals hanging from their necks.
“The problem is sponsors don’t sponsor athletes out of the goodness of their hearts, although it would be nice if that was the case,” said Kaplan, whose past clients include Golf Canada and a handful of National Hockey League teams.
By Ken MacQueen - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 3:52 PM - 0 Comments
It takes a great team to know it’s being beaten, and not get beat
John Herdman, the English-born coach responsible for the rebirth of Canada’s national women’s soccer team, has a motivational picture in his home office. It’s a photo of team captain Christine Sinclair after last June’s soccer World Cup. She has her head in her hands, and there’s anger and despair on her face.
He made himself a promise, when he came from the New Zealand women’s program to join the team last September. “I said to the girls, this will be my motivation. I’ll never see a player of that quality in that state after a tournament.”
And, well, it came close after the last-minute larceny of losing to the Americans Monday with an extra-time goal that bumped Canada out of contention for the gold medal match at the London 2012 Summer Games. Sinclair, with those deep-set eyes was flashing her laser beam look of doom, not so much with despair, but certainly anger. There was outrage at some of the calls by Norwegian referee Christiana Pendersen, especially one against goalie Erin McLeod, for holding the ball too long. Outrage in Canada, too, at the loss, and the waste of Sinclair’s brilliant hat trick and of an overall level of play that showed this was indeed a world-class team.
Which brings us to the bronze metal match against France at a lovely new stadium in Coventry where the Canadians played most of their Olympic games. They’d come to think of it as their home turf, but they’d so wanted to play their last game in London, where the gold medal game was decided. No such luck so it was back to Coventry for bronze.
They had three days to restore their battered souls and bodies, swallow their disappointment and square off against the very difficult French. France whipped then 4-0 in the World Cup last June, the most humiliating loss of a humiliating tournament, where the Canadians lost every game. Herdman and his crew drafted their usual meticulous game plan, with one addition: a presentation in slides and video of the avalanche of goodwill, outrage and support that had piled in from every corner of Canada after their U.S. loss.
But, it soon came clear that loss had taken a physical and emotional toll on the team. “I think heading into the game we thought the emotions of being in the bronze medal game would sort of take us through it,” Sinclair said afterwards. “But most of us realized, I think partway through the first half, that we were absolutely gassed.”
The Canadians were flat. There were more than a few mental errors, wasted throw-ins and missed passes. The French, meanwhile, built the sort of impenetrable defensive wall that would have served them well circa 1939. Fortunately for the Canadians, the French were also the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Their forwards rang balls off the goal posts and crossbars, and to the left, to the right and overtop. The shots that did hit the net were handled by McLeod, who played brilliantly, and by midfielder Desiree Scott, who deflected away a dead-certain goal inches before it crossed the line.
By any measure there were at least ten golden—well, bronze—scoring opportunities that eluded France.
Even a good team knows when it’s being outplayed. “I’m absolutely sure,” Herdman said, “everyone at home put a force field along the goal.”
But it takes a great team to know it’s being beaten, and not get beat.
For the second game in a row the Canadians fought for their lives in injury time, and in the 91st minute midfielder Diana Matheson was playing far forward when all logic dictated she should be back at centre awaiting another French attack. The ball came to her, she doesn’t even recall how, and she went through one of those slow-motion Chariots of Fire experiences where she placed the ball exactly where it needed to be, which is to say the back of a largely open net.
There it was, not only Canada’s first Olympic medal in soccer since the men won gold in 1904, but the first medal by the country in a team summer sport since the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. “I was just in the right spot at the right time,” she said. She broke into a beautiful smile at the biggest goal she’s ever scored, and grabbed at her game jersey to kiss the Canadian team crest. “It felt like a dream,” she said. “It feels unreal right now. I’m just so happy for the team, the staff and all the Canadians that have been supporting us.”
The thing of it is, it was a total team effort, not the Christine Sinclair show. She had a strong crew on the field, in the support team, and, to hear the women tell it later, in every Canadian that rallied to their side over the past three days. Sinclair can finally relax, the team around her is at a new level, Herdman said.
The game ended about 10 seconds after the goal. Within minutes, Canadian Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean tweeted the perfect post-game analysis: “Why do you train that hard? So you can win on the bad days!”
One can’t but feel a tug of sympathy for the French team, who left the field gutted. Their coach, Bruno Bini, slumped before the microphone in a perfect Gallic funk. “Sometimes you can give everything, and at the end it’s just not enough,” he said. “It’s just like a love story, and afterwards, the person is still going away.” The melancholy moment lacked only a smoldering Gitanes, a carafe of red and a violin.
Football can be cruel, Herdman said. But not Thursday. Not when the team captain is at his side, looking as though a massive weight was lifted off her, barely a year after a World Cup humiliation that sank the team to its lowest point in all her years on the team.
“It was great to see Christine smiling,” were about the first words out of Herdman’s mouth. He had to be thinking how good that photo is going to look on his office wall.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
Garth Brooks resurfaces, Jonathan Franzen’s new snit, and Christine Sinclair sends Canada to London
A model union
The union movement just got a whole lot more photogenic. Sara Ziff, a waifish 29-year-old model from Manhattan, is the industry’s first labour leader. Launching in February, Ziff’s Model Alliance hopes to enforce ﬁnancial transparency laws, as well as sexual harassment and health care issues for U.S. catwalkers. Contrary to the glossy fantasy, Ziff says, modelling is a bruising, exploitation-prone industry that chews up and spits out the vast majority of those who try to make a go of it. Ziff, who quit the industry at 25 after an A-list career modelling the likes of Calvin Klein and Stella McCartney, says Model Alliance isn’t a union per se, but a regulatory agency that will police the industry.
Julia’s very bad week
Pity Julia Gillard. The Australian prime minister had to be dragged to safety by bodyguards after Aboriginal protesters crashed an awards ceremony on Australia Day. What’s worse, the protesters were actually targeting opposition leader Tony Abbott, who earlier in the day had criticized an Aborigine occupation of the grounds outside Parliament House. It was the second time in as many weeks Gillard had to retreat. She recently said a gift she’d received from the Queen was paid for by Aussie taxpayers. Gillard was incorrect, and the Queen was not amused.