By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) says it is nearing a firm agreement with…
TORONTO – Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) says it is nearing a firm agreement with the government in the Dominican Republic over its Pueblo Viejo mine.
The company has reached “an agreement in principle” that would see the local government receive a higher revenue from the project through various changes to a lease agreement, it said after stock markets closed on Wednesday.
Barrick says the changes would result in an even split of cash flows from the mine divided between the corporation that operates the mine and the government from 2013 to 2016.
The company says under the proposal, the country’s government would receive tax revenues of about $2.2 billion over the period, and provide an additional $1.5 billion to the Dominican government over the life of the Pueblo Viejo mine.
The mine is run by Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corp., with Barrick holding a 60 per cent stake, while with Goldcorp (TSX:G) owns the rest.
For the agreement to be reached, Barrick will need to reach new terms with the government, which it said could include such factors as an extension of the window to recover its capital investment and reduced depreciation rates.
Pueblo Viejo reopened last year and is among the world’s largest gold mines.
The government has sought to re-open the contract to help close a budget deficit. Previously, the venture was expected to pay about $7 billion over the 25-year life of the mine.
By Colin Campbell - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
Gold Rush fans may not want to change the channel just yet
Reality television’s latest obsession is gold. Jungle Gold, Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold and Gold Fever are all shows documenting miners’ efforts to dig up flakes of the precious metal worth $1,700 an ounce. The last time TV was so caught up in a trend it was in the house-flipping genre (Flip This House, Flip That House), which seemed to hit its peak just before the U.S. housing market crashed. Is there a similar warning sign in the TV gold boom? Does all the mainstream fascination with gold suggest an overinflated interest and price?
Some analysts on Wall Street, at least, seem to think gold’s wild ride may be nearing its end. This week, Morgan Stanley lowered its gold-price forecast for the year by four per cent, to $1,773. Late last year, Goldman Sachs cut its target price for 2013 to $1,800 an ounce from $1,940, citing an improving U.S. economy. “The risk-reward of holding a long gold position is diminishing,” it said.
Gold is the ultimate safe-haven investment and has enjoyed an incredible rise in recent years. A decade ago, gold was worth little more than $300 an ounce. Since 2000, it has gone up every year for 12 years (a record) and in each of the three years after the 2008 crash, gold prices peaked to hit record highs. That gold might be finally losing some of its shine suggests fear of riskier investments may be ebbing. The S&P 500 index last week, for instance, cracked the 1,500 mark for the first time since 2007. Continue…
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
Workers say they are sick with silicosis
More than 30 gold companies in South Africa are facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of 17,000 former miners who say that, as a result of their work, they are sick with silicosis, a debilitating, irreversible lung disease. The mining companies may be liable for as much as US$100 billion, according to Bloomberg News. The lawsuit comes at a difficult time for the mines, which saw massive drops in profit last year due to labour disruptions.
Class action lawsuits are unusual in South Africa, which does not have a long history of this type of litigation. In November 2012, a class action lawsuit was successfully brought against companies found guilty of running a bread cartel—“a seminal judgment,” says Wouter De Vos, professor emeritus of law at the University of Capetown. “The miners’ case will likely be the most important case to follow.”
Lawyer Richard Spoor, who filed the silicosis suit against some of the country’s biggest mining firms—including AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold—says the number of plaintiffs is increasing by 500 people a month. “People in South Africa can’t afford litigation,” says De Vos. “Class action is the only means to give them access to justice.”
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Talks aimed at the potential sale of African Barrick Gold to a…
TORONTO – Talks aimed at the potential sale of African Barrick Gold to a Chinese company have ended without a deal, Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) said Tuesday.
“These discussions were part of our ongoing efforts to identify opportunities to optimize our portfolio, said Barrick president and CEO Jamie Sokalsky.
“However, we are approaching this in a prudent and disciplined manner and will only proceed with opportunities that generate acceptable value for Barrick.” Continue…
By Charlie Gillis, Ken MacQueen, and Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
Turning a Winter nation into a Summer nation isn’t a short-term project.
In the quiet moment before his race began, Adam van Koeverden reached down to the hull of his kayak and used his finger to trace out the name: Simon Whitfield. His friend and long-time inspiration—Canada’s flag-bearer at London 2012—had wiped out on his bike on the triathlon course the day before, breaking his collarbone and ending his dream of a third Olympic medal to go along with the gold he collected a dozen years ago in Sydney and the silver from the last go around in Beijing. Watching it all unfold on TV, the man they call Van Kayak had cried. But now, early in the morning on the waters of Eton Dorney, he was determined to do something about it. As Whitfield had done four years before when he scrawled the name of gold-medal-winning rower Adam Kreek on his handlebar tape on the way to his own silver medal, he would take up the torch.
Heading out fast, as is his custom, van Koeverden led for most of the final of the men’s 1,000-m race. It was only over the last quarter that another friend, Eirik Veras Larsen of Norway, caught up and edged by. The difference between the top two steps of the podium was just over seven seconds. But for once, the intense 30-year-old Oakville, Ont., paddler wasn’t that gutted by second place.“This one is for the Whitfield legacy,” he said, looking down at the silver medal hanging around his neck and smiling. He had paid it forward.
Coping with the pressure on a global stage, and the weight of national expectations, is no small thing. The Olympic fields of play are littered with medal favourites who fall agonizingly short of the podium, or sometimes altogether fail to show up when it counts the most. Heartbreak that is multiplied by the four long years the athletes must wait for a second chance.
By Scaachi Koul - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 2:08 PM - 0 Comments
A food historian, a food writer and a chef all chime in on the trend that’s been around for longer than you think.
How do you like your burger? Well, you need the juicy patty, of course, and maybe some lettuce and tomatoes. Any ketchup? Some mayo? And how many gold leafs do you want it wrapped in?
Last week, a New York City food truck launched a $666 “Douche Burger.” It’s a foie gras-stuffed Kobe beef patty with Gruyere cheese (melted with Champagne steam, of course), topped with caviar, truffles and lobster. It’s then wrapped in six gold leaf sheets.
Although the burger was intended to make fun of the super-rich, the owner actually received legitimate requests for it, showing the demand for high-priced grub.
The most unorthodox ingredient—edible gold—isn’t exactly a new gastronomical trend.
Magic Oven, a pizzeria in Toronto, has had a 24k gold leaf-garnished pizza for $108 on their menu for several years now.
Although eating gold sounds like the ultimate in gourmet luxury, it has no taste, texture, and adds nothing to a meal other than, quite literally, a lot of glitter.
“It certainly was being used in large feasts in the Middle Ages,” says Dr. Heather Evans, a food expert and historian. “This was the period that people referred to as the Dark Ages. Among the upper class, the small percent that had loads of money, this was a really glamorous, luxurious era. They wanted their fancy stuff.”
Toronto food writer Corey Mintz finds the gold-eating trend an act of inexcusable opulence. “Eating gold is the absolute height of tastelessness,” Mintz says. “If you find yourself eating gold, just take a moment for self-reflection, you’ll see just what a callous act it is.”
But Executive chef at Toronto restaurant Aria, Eron Novalski, has a simple explanation of why restaurants use gold leaf in their food. “It’s gold. It kind of speaks for itself.”
When Aria first opened, the menu included an opera cake garnished with gold leaf. “When I studied in France, we used to use a lot of it in pastries, and it’s become a trend to augment a dish,” Novalski says. “The glistening, the flakes—it’s almost like fire.”
It’s not cheap, either. A sheet of edible gold could cost as much as $50, depending on the carats.
Unlike other expensive ingredients or garnishes—like caviar—edible gold adds nothing to a meal other than, quite literally, dollar signs. “Take something like a truffle oil,” says Mintz. “It can be wonderful with, say, an egg. In macaroni and cheese, it’s just a way to make something seem fancy or expensive.”
“The cynic in me would say it’s a little bit of a gimmick,” Evans says. Mintz adds that advertising gold in your restaurant’s dishes is sometimes more of an advertising ploy to get customers in the room, only to have them buy a $12 meal.
“Right now in times of austerity, we’re all a little hungry for that sense of luxury that many of us might feel that we have lost,” Evans says.
That sense of luxury is popping up on low-brow dishes with high-brow ingredients, like burgers or pizzas topped with $50 worth of gold. In fact, the World Record Academy even has a sub-category for most expensive foods with gold. The most expensive pizza in the world with gold is at Margo’s Pizzeria in Malta, with nearly a $400 USD price tag. The Douche Burger is the world’s most expensive gold-covered burger. “People are trying to put new twists on classic foods,” Novalski says. “Now it’s coming to gold leaf.”
Evans says that the presence of gold on low-brow, casual dishes is similar to how replications in the fashion industry work. “Just like fashion, what we see on the runway one season shows up in a reduced and much cheaper version in Walmart in another season,” she says. “People are having access to that higher end food.”
Accessible or not, eating gold is still the height of gastronomical excess. “I’m all for waste,” Mintz says. “But for most people, if it seems like something only a Bond villain would eat, you should not eat it.”
By Marni Jackson - Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
Book by Chris Cleave
Cleave is fearless about tackling women’s voices, and finding the bright spots embedded in calamity. In his first novel, Incendiary, he reinvents the life of a mother who loses her son and husband to an act of terrorism. Little Bee, his wildly successful second book, describes the life of a Nigerian woman seeking asylum in England. With this equally ambitious novel, Cleave is going for gold with a widescreen, action-packed story that explores two emotional extremes: the life of a professional athlete determined to win at any cost, and the experience of parents caring for a gravely ill child.
Zoe and Kate meet as 19-year-old cyclists who share an aging coach. Zoe is a driven party girl while Kate is the sensible one who feels a bit guilty when she wins. Their goal is to compete in the London Olympics. But when Kate falls in love with another gold-seeking cyclist, she discovers how motherhood can mess with the singlemindedness their sport demands. The fact their daughter has leukemia only raises the stakes higher, in a novel where conflict and consequence pile up like sweaty riders in a peloton. Looking after a very sick child, Cleave writes, is “the Olympics of parenting.” The theme of personal ambition vs. parental demands feels as timely as the feat of synchronizing the novel to this summer’s games in London. He overestimates the sort of media frenzy that would focus on a female cyclist, though. Or is that just a familiarity with London tabloid culture talking? (Cleave was a long-time columnist for the Guardian newspaper.)
“I like to tell stories about a world that hasn’t yet cooled,” Cleave has said, and his fiction does have a deeply researched journalistic immediacy. He writes with great tenderness about children. But Kate and Zoe too often behave as if they are in a movie—as they no doubt soon will be. The language is by turns brilliant and overamped. (“Rain lashed her face and she opened her mouth, liking the untamed taste of it.”) There’s more than a soupçon of Harlequin here—and that’s just the way his millions of readers like it.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
On April 2, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney stepped in front of a business crowd in Waterloo, Ont. to speak about the state of Canada’s foreign trade. His message, more or less, was this: we need to break our national reliance on exports to the U.S.–the country is a wounded behemoth, and we would do better to focus on trade with economic up-and-comers. By that the governor probably meant the likes of China and India. But by looking at our trade numbers, one would think Canadian exporters are taking it to mean the U.K. as well.
Over the past decade, the value of Canadian exports to the centre-piece of the Commonwealth have skyrocketed. In 2011, they hit a record high of $18.8 billion, up more than 324 per cent since 2002. The U.K. is now Canada’s second biggest export partner–while China is only third.
By Tamsin McMahon - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian resource companies were among the worst performers of the year
It’s been a great year to be involved in Canada’s natural resource sector—unless you happen to own stock in some of the companies. Even with oil trading at more than $100 a barrel and gold hovering just below $1,700 an ounce, Canadian resource companies have been struggling to hit their earnings targets. Canadian mining companies were among the worst performers of the year, according to a recent report from National Bank Financial. They were dead last among commodity-producing countries, the report’s authors said.
Shares of Canadian energy companies have stagnated, while Canadian gold stocks have been on a steady downward spiral over the past 12 months. Energy companies can partly blame a buildup of crude oil reserves in the U.S. Midwest that has kept the price of Canadian oil low. Canadian gold producers, however, have been hit on all sides with soaring operating costs, massive writedowns at major projects, and the politics of operating mines in countries with unstable governments.
Shares of Kinross Gold Corp., the country’s third-largest gold company, fell 20 per cent in January. It was the largest drop in the company’s history and came after Kinross announced a $2.5-billion writedown on its mine in Mauritania along with expected delays at projects in Chile and Ecuador. Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. embarked on an ambitious plan to mine a stretch of Nunavut so remote that the company spent $50 million building a road to the nearest town. But after a blaze destroyed the mine’s kitchen in -60˚ C weather —and with operating costs soaring to $1,000 an ounce—the company announced a $644-million writedown last month. Vancouver’s Ivanhoe Mines stock also took a hit after the government of Mongolia said it wanted to renegotiate its agreement with the company over its $6-billion Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, saying it planned to raise taxes and increase the government’s stake from 34 per cent to 50 per cent. The government later backed down, but the damage was done.
Investors, meanwhile, continue to flock to gold bullion as a surefire path to riches—even if they’ve proven they don’t have much faith in the Canadian companies that mine it.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Is the Venezuelan president really spooked by the markets or just shoring up finances?
In a move that he’s portraying as financial prudence in the face of market turmoil, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has ordered over $6 billion in cash reserves to be relocated from accounts in Britain and Switzerland to China, Brazil and Russia, and over 200 tonnes of gold repatriated. The measure, he said, is aimed at sheltering Venezuela from “a crisis of uncertainty” in the global economy. Admittedly, with the world on the brink of a possible double dip into recession, Britain struck by riots on top of a sluggish economy, and even Switzerland recently engaging in dubious manoeuvring to force a depreciation of the Swiss franc, Chávez may have a point. Some critics, though, suspect the Venezuelan autocrat is simply shoring up resources as he heads into a difficult presidential election this fall after recently being diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, others argue that Chávez was spooked by the fate of his close friend Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whose financial assets in the West were frozen at the outset of the Libyan revolution.
By Kenneth Whyte - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 3 Comments
On immigrant dreams, the importance of failure and why the future belongs to Canada
Peter Munk, the founder and chair of Barrick Gold, the world’s biggest gold miner, found a land of opportunity when he arrived in Canada as a teenager after he fled Nazi-occupied Hungary. But the 83-year-old businessman is convinced the country’s brightest days may still lie ahead. As the appetite for raw materials skyrockets in China, India and other developing countries, he argues that Canada has a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish itself as the world’s next big financial sector, rivalling the dominance of London and New York.
Q: Let’s talk first about your earliest impressions of Canada as an immigrant boy.
A: That day I arrived, it was a miserable, rainy day in early March ’48. It was like, terra incognita, like going to Mars. I know it sounds moronic.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Some investors are turning to silver as the cheaper alternative to gold
Is silver the new gold? Silver prices have risen 154 per cent in the last 12 months, compared to 32 per cent for gold, and 45 per cent for oil. And on Wednesday, the metal hit a 31-year high at US$44.79 an ounce. The silver surge is proving a bonanza for pawnbrokers and jewellery buyers, who are now urging people to sell anything from their silver coins (Canadian quarters made before 1967 are made of silver and are now worth over $7) to grandma’s silver tea set. Skyrocketing silver prices are also putting wind into the sails of proponents of precious metals, such as Peter Schiff. The well-known investor has long been advising clients to stock up on things like bullion bars as insurance against a collapse of paper currency that he predicts.
Though Schiff’s views may be extreme, analysts note the silver rush is driven by investors looking for safe havens. Though gold continues to be the favourite of traders concerned about the weak U.S. dollar, not everyone is ready to stomach its US$1,500 price. Some, then, may be turning to silver as the cheaper precious-metal alternative.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
The gold rush in today’s economy doesn’t seem to be coming to an end any time soon
Identifying asset bubbles before they pop is a mug’s game. And gold is no different. As its price continues to set records, now closing in on US$1,500 an ounce, a long list of skeptics has emerged to warn that the gold party is on its last legs. “Naysayers started calling gold a bubble back when prices hit $250 an ounce, and though gold’s bull market has tossed and flung the bubble callers around for almost a decade now, their voices have only gotten increasingly louder as prices broke through $1,000, $1,200 and now $1,400 an ounce,” Frank Holmes, the CEO of San Antonio-based U.S. Global Investors, Inc., wrote in his blog recently.
Now Holmes and a few others are questioning whether current gold prices should really be viewed with gaping jaws. Gold has long been viewed as a “safe haven investment” during shaky economic times, and Holmes argues the recent gains in the price don’t seem as severe when compared against other asset bubbles, including Japanese equities in 1986 and tech stocks during the dot-com boom. Nor is there much evidence that average investors are piling into gold.
Canadian investment guru Eric Sprott is also in the no-bubble club. He argued in a March letter that new investment in gold over the last 10 years totalled a relatively meagre US$250 billion compared to the nearly US$100 trillion funnelled into other financial assets. Sprott noted that ownership of gold as a proportion of total financial assets has remained less than one per cent since the early 1990s, compared to as much as five per cent in 1968. “Investors can rest assured that they are not participating in any speculative bubble by owning gold,” Sprott concluded. “They are merely protecting their wealth.”
Indeed, there would appear to be abundant “fundamentals” to support continued price increases, what with the continued economic uncertainty in the U.S. and Europe, and political instability in the Middle East. Holmes, for one, predicts gold prices could double over the next five years. Of course, another frequently cited bubble warning sign is the emergence of those who would tell you that, with respect to the boom in question, this time it’s different.
By By Nancy Macdonald with Kate Lunau - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 11:31 AM - 27 Comments
The inside story of their childhood dream come true
You’d never know it, considering the chemistry between Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they skated to gold this week, but a little over a year ago, Moir was training alone—using a hockey stick and a sandbag as a stand-in for his partner. Back then, Virtue could “barely walk,” says Lynn Lee, a close friend of the Moirs. Virtue, 20, and Moir, 22, missed most of the 2008-2009 season while she recuperated from surgery to both of her legs. Doctors had told them that “nobody recovers the same from this surgery,” Moir told Maclean’s. “And for the longest time before that they didn’t even know what was wrong with her.”
Yes, it’s been quite the ride for Canada’s golden duo, the youngest ice dance gold medallists in history, and the first North Americans to win the event in its 30-year Olympic history. It makes their victory, following a near-flawless skate on Monday, even more remarkable. “Last year was very tough,” says their coach and choreographer, Igor Shpilband. In October 2008, Virtue went under the knife to relieve pain in her shins, the result of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (each of her calves still bears four circular scars from the surgery). Her coaches, who held weekly conference calls with her doctor and physiotherapist, had to be careful not to push too hard.
Virtue and Moir’s return to the competitive circuit began in Vancouver, a year ago this month, at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships at the Pacific Coliseum, the Olympic figure skating venue. As painful as that event was for Virtue—who was hustled to the medic for treatment after every skate—it was a triumph for the pair. They took silver. And in every competition since, they’ve gotten better, says Skate Canada CEO William Thompson. “I’m blown away by what they’ve done. Not only did they return; they’re stronger than ever.”
By Michael Friscolanti - Friday, February 26, 2010 at 5:54 PM - 22 Comments
Women’s curling final: Sweden 7, Canada 6
Cheryl Bernard certainly knows what’s at stake today. Win, and it’s gold for Canada in women’s curling. Lose, and it’s the bittersweet taste of silver. But just in case the skip does need a reminder, all she needs to do is look to her left (or her right, depending on which way she’s sliding). On the sheet at the far end of the arena, about twenty feet from where she’ll be battling for Olympic glory, is the medal podium. No matter what happens, Bernard will be standing there later tonight. On which step is the only question.
2:28 pm — Bernard and the rest of her rink have surfaced from the tunnel for their warm-up tosses, and the crowd certainly noticed. There is much applause and cow-bell tapping. It’s still more than 30 minutes before the gold-medal match, but the bleachers are filling up quickly—and each new arrival is trying hard to look more Canadian than everybody else. A simple hockey jersey just isn’t enough anymore. Ron Wolfe and Brad Hrycan, both from Saskatoon, are wearing red sweatpants, red and white wigs, Canadian flag capes, and maple-leaf shaped glasses. For the moment, they’ve taken off their red gloves. It’s easier to drink the beer that way.
3:03 pm — The bagpipers are finished belting, and the public address announcer is introducing the members of each rink. The roof nearly fell off when it was Bernard’s turn.
3:07 pm — Sweden goes first in end number one. The house is empty after six stones.
3:11 pm — Both rinks are trading hits and sticks. The famously raucous crowd is clearly on edge. Except for the odd “Let’s Go Canada,” there are some nervous faces inside the Vancouver Olympic Centre. Two shots to go, and here comes Bernard.
3:14 pm — If Bernard is nervous, she’s not showing it. Her first shot of the day was a nice hit and stick, leaving one Canadian stone in the house. But Swedish skip Norberg answered right back, completing the exact same shot.
3:16 pm — Bernard knocks the Swedes out of the circle, and herself too. Canada keeps the hammer, it’s 0-0 after the first end.
3:29 pm — Swedish second Eva Lund just made a beautiful shot, sneaking her stone past a Canadian guard and nudging it next to her opponents’ rock in the house. Canadian second Susan O’Connor couldn’t match the magic. Advantage Sweden.
3:31 pm — Bring on Bernard! She lands her rock on the edge of the four-foot circle, Norberg can’t squeeze her last past a guard, and Canada’s about to score.
3:33 pm — Big opportunity blown. With one rock already closest to the centre and the hammer in hand, Bernard failed to draw it into the circle. 1-0 Canada. Should be 2-0.
3:39 pm — Some background here: The Bernard bunch slaughtered the Swedes in round robin play. The victory was such a lopsided affair that Canadian alternate Kristie Moore, who is almost six months pregnant, saw action in the ninth end. Picture a college basketball blowout, when the bench-warming senior plays a few seconds of garbage time with his team up 35 points. Don’t think for a second the Swedish squad has forgotten that.
3:44 pm — If the Swedish squad loses, don’t be surprised if the skipper blames the crowd. As she set up for her first shot of the third end, more than one fan was yelling her name in that long, drawn-out kind of way. “Norrrrrr-berrrrrrg.” When Bernard’s up, it’s all hush-hush.
4:01 pm — Big shot coming up for Bernard. She has to squeeze her hammer through an army of Swede rocks or lose two more.
4:03 pm — Beauty! The shot, I mean. 2-2. (Should be 3-2 Canada, but I’ll stop saying that now. Unless it proves costly later.)
4:07 pm — Best heckle of the day so far from Canadian fans: “Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those sweepers!? Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those girls!?” Jeepers, creepers, where’s the beer guy?
4:14 pm — There’s a great moment in every end when Bernard, after inspecting the house, glides back to the other side of the sheet to delivery her shot. The crowd goes bananas. How she doesn’t slip is rather impressive.
4:16 pm — Drama time. Bernard just hit a beautiful draw into the house with her final rock, nicking the Swedish stone. But it’s not clear which one’s closer. Norberg then proceeded to draw the hammer closer than both of them. So it’s one point for sure for the Swedes. Maybe two. Here comes the measuring guy.
4:18 pm — The Swedish rock is a smidgen closer. You can tell because only the people with yellow and blue flags are cheering. Two huge points for Team Norberg, putting them up 4-2 with five ends to go. That podium suddenly looks much larger.
4:30 pm — A reader just asked a good question—proof positive that Olympic curling is attracting new fans (even if some of them are just tuning in to see Cheryl Bernard). In the first end, when Bernard used her hammer to knock out the Swedish stone, why didn’t she hit and stick so Canada scored a point? Answer: she would rather keep the hammer for the next end than score one measly single. See, if a team scores, they give up the hammer, and at this high level of curling, it’s pretty pointless to use the hammer to score just one. Better to keep it and try for more in the next end.
4:34 pm — Bernard just made a beautiful draw to the button, but Norberg didn’t waste any time knocking it out. The Swedes now have four stones in the house. Canada has none. Here comes Cheryl with the hammer.
4:38 pm — Bernard is really looking comfortable now. Avoiding a disaster, she curled her stone into the middle of house, knocked out the closest Swede, and stuck around for one. Sweden 4, Canada 3. Seventh end.
4:53 pm — The fans screamed “Shoot em up, Cheryl!” and “You can do it, Cheryl!” So she did it, knocking a Swedish stone from the four-foot circle and leaving three Canadian rocks all by themselves. Norberg ponders.
4:57 pm — What a seventh end! Norberg silences the crowd with a gorgeous hit and stick, and then Bernard comes right back with her own, leaving two Canadian rocks in the four-foot. Norberg’s hammer falls short, and Canada steals two to take a 5-4 lead. A gold-medal match, indeed.
5:07 pm — I had to get a beer. Everyone else is having one.
5:10 pm — The eighth end was a repeat of the first, except it was Norberg, not Bernard, clearing out the house. No points for either side. Sweden keeps the hammer heading into the second-last end. Oh, and someone topped the “jeepers, creepers” chant. As Bernard shot her final rock of the end, someone yelled: “Get in the hole!” Some other people thought it was funny.
5:26 pm — After the crowd urged each other to “Shhhh,” Bernard made a zinger, knocking out the Swedish rock in the house and leaving to Canadians behind. Norberg has the hammer. Here it comes.
5:28 pm — Norberg was a little too hard. She knocked out one of Bernard’s rocks—but sent hers out, too. One Canadian stone left in the house equals one big steal. Canada 6, Sweden 4. Final end.
5:31 pm — “More cowbell!” someone screams. Cowbells ring.
5:35 pm — Ladies and gentlemen, the Bernard squad can taste it. We’re in the tenth end, the Canucks are up by two, and one fan just yelled: “I love you, Cheryl!” He’s not the only one.
5:38 pm — Bernard is about to take what should be her final two shots of the Olympics. The crowd went nuts, then dead quiet.
5:44 pm — Nice shot. Norberg knocked a Canadian stone out, put hers somewhat behind the guard, and left Bernard with a little work to do. Here we go.
5:43 pm — Bernard blew it. She couldn’t knock the yellow stone out, and Norberg hit and stuck for two. We’re tied at six going to extra ends.
5:52 pm — It goes without saying that the crowd is a tad deflated. The gold was there. If it’s any consolation, Bernard does have the hammer in the eleventh end.
6:01 pm — The Swedes just took a timeout to talk strategy. As they huddled with their coach, the crowd tried to be as noisy as possible.
6:06 pm — Norberg just pulled off another gorgeous hit and stick, leaving Swedish stones in the four-foot circle. Bernard with the hammer. It all comes down to this. She needs to move both stones.
6:07 — Bernard couldn’t do it. Game over. Sweden Gold, Canada Silver.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 5:52 PM - 2 Comments
Canada’s women curlers win semi-final
Let the Google searches continue. Cheryl Bernard, the skip of the Canadian women’s curling team—and a full-blown Internet sensation—is on the brink of Winter Games glory after leading her rink to a semi-final win over Switzerland today. The 6-5 victory sets up a gold-medal showdown Friday afternoon against Sweden, the defending Olympic champs. “It’s amazing,” said a beaming Bernard. “You get this close and you want it even more.”
She wasn’t quite so chipper last night. Battling a nasty cold, the 43-year-old Calgarian declined a chance to attend the Canada/Russia hockey showdown, choosing instead to gulp some NeoCitran and watch the game from her bed. It was the right choice. The only symptoms she felt this morning were the butterflies in her stomach. “There were a lot of nerves, but we tried to breathe and tried to do all the stuff we know how to do, and I thought we played great under the circumstances,” she said. “Our team handled the nerves.”
Tonight—with at least a silver medal now guaranteed—Bernard plans to drink something else: a glass of red wine. “Definitely,” she laughed.
There were certainly some tense moments. Trailing 5-4 in the ninth, Swiss skip Mirjam Ott looked ready to steal a point for the tie after guiding her rock onto the button, directly in front of one of the Canadian stones. But Bernard followed that up with the highlight of the morning, using her hammer to knock out the Swiss stone and capture one. (It was nearly two, but another Swiss rock was a smidgen closer than the other Canadian stone left in the house).
Down by two in the tenth, Ott had one final chance to tie things up, but after her final shot eliminated Bernard’s stone, it rolled a little too far. The crowd—which included Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and actor Donald Sutherland—erupted in applause. Ott could only shake her head. “It’s hard,” she said. “It was a close game and it was obviously not my best day.”
It wasn’t Bernard’s best day, either. But it was enough to ensure that the Canadian women leave Vancouver with some sort of curling medal in their suitcases. Had they lost, it would have meant a fight for the bronze tomorrow morning against the Chinese, who lost 9-4 to the Swedes. “I think there is pressure off,” said Dennis Balderston, the Canadian coach. “Personally, I felt the pressure. I tried not to show it to them, but this was the pressure game for me.”
Bernard agreed. “We know how much it meant, and I haven’t played a game like that before and neither have the rest of the girls,” she said. “There is not so much pressure now, but we still have a job to do.”
Susan O’Connor, Bernard’s third, said when Switzerland’s last rock slid out of the circle, her first emotion was relief. “Now it’s just exciting,” she said. “It’s exciting that we get to come play for the gold medal in front of this crowd. What could be better in the world?”
Just one thing. A win.
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:39 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s ‘old lady of boarder cross’ strikes gold on Cypress
West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain has brutalized Olympic fans since the start of these Games, but it’s been good, very good, to Canada’s athletes. It’s thrown rain, fog and wind at spectators and athletes, and forced harried Vancouver Olympic organizers to cancel 24,000 standing-room tickets, lest fans drown in a sea of mud. But Tuesday afternoon the rain stopped, the fog lifted and local gal Maëlle Ricker tamed her hometown hill. She stormed down the snowboard-cross course to win Canada’s second gold of these Games, and the fourth Canadian medal on the mountain in four days. On Monday, teammate and fellow boarder Mike Robertson took silver off the same course.
Ricker’s first qualifying run was “a disaster,” she said, but she pulled it together on her second and final chance. Teammate Dominique Maltais, a bronze medallist in Turin, fell twice and didn’t advance, a shock that didn’t knock 31-year-old Ricker off stride. Once into the finals, the veteran of three Olympics never looked back. In the start gate, she followed her usual ritual and put a chilling dump of snow down her back. “It gives me a little zip,” she said. Her race strategy was simple enough. “I tried to explode out of the gate,” she said later. The next challenge, she knew from the frequent falls on the rutted, treacherous course, was to stay on her feet. “It was really, really hard today to get a clean run all the way down the course.” Ricker, the “old lady of boarder cross” as she puts it, did that in style. She was so far ahead of second place Deborah Anthonioz of France it seemed she was racing alone.
At the base of the hill, her parents and friends among a crowd of 8,000 went wild. In a classy move, bronze medallist Olivia Nobs of Switzerland used hand signals to whip the crowd into a frenzy before Ricker took the podium. It was a storybook finish and a sweet homecoming for the daughter of a geologist father and a biology teacher mother who grew up on the North Shore boarding on Cypress and its neighbouring mountains. Across the water in Vancouver, the Heritage Horns atop Canada Place blared the first four notes of O Canada in celebration, the sound echoing off the mountains and across the city.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:35 PM - 2 Comments
After suffering through setbacks, Cherie Piper sets her sights on a three-peat
Already, veteran sniper Cherie Piper has scored two goals and three assists in Team Canada’s pair of blowout wins in Vancouver. But for the big, strong East York, Ont., native, who plays alongside captain Hayley Wickenheiser, the road to the Games was anything but a cakewalk.
It all started with an ugly injury in a college game between her Dartmouth Big Green and Providence four years ago. When she tore her ACL, she says, everyone at the New Hampshire rink heard the “pop.” It came midway through Piper’s final NCAA season—just nine months after her triumphant return from Turin, where Canada won gold and she finished second on the team in scoring. Following surgery, Piper didn’t get back on the ice for six months, and missed a full year with the national squad.
And just as she was regaining her fitness and timing, her dad Alan died of a heart attack; he’d been Piper’s coach and mentor, had first put her on skates at age eight in a Toronto boys’ league, and ferried her across the city to games for years. “It was tough to finish the season,” says Piper, then with the Mississauga Chiefs of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The rink was no longer a refuge; hockey suddenly became a grim reminder of all she’d lost.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 8:13 PM - 2 Comments
Gold is great, but to her, it wasn’t perfect
And the mere fact that such an honour doesn’t actually exist at the Olympics didn’t stop her from beating herself up over her clutch win in the women’s 1,000m today. Skating in front of a raucous home crowd, the 24-year-old from London, Ont. topped the podium with a time of 1-minute, 16.56 seconds, edging out Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands by just two one-hundredths of a second. Laurine van Riessen, also of the Netherlands, took the bronze.
You see, on the World Cup circuit this season, Nesbitt never lost a race. Indeed, she won most of them in a walk. And to say she is a perfectionist at heart is a gross understatement.
So, just squeaking out a victory, no matter how exciting, amazing and inspiring it was for the rest of the country, wasn’t quite good enough for her. And pretty much the moment she stepped down from the victory podium, Nesbitt started providing chapter and verse on why her gold medal performance was one of the worst races of her career.
“As much as I was fortunate enough to win Olympic gold, this was probably my worst 1,000m race of the year,” she said. “I’m really lucky.”
From the starting gun, Nesbitt said she never felt right. She slipped on about her third stride. Coming out of the first corner, she found herself ahead of the other skater in her pairing, Monique Angermuller of Germany, and started to relax—then saw her time, 18.36 over the first 200m, putting her in 15th place.
“I was panicking,” she said. “I was definitely fighting demons.”
“I didn’t feel technically good. I was, ‘Oh, no!’ I’m not having a good race. I’m not even going to be on the podium.”
At the next split, the 600m mark, she was in 9th place, and sweating it even more.
“I knew I wasn’t skating very well. I almost felt like with a lap to go the crowd fell silent when they saw how far behind I was.” (If that was indeed true, Nesbitt was the only one to notice. It was so loud inside the Richmond Oval that you could barely hear yourself think.)
So, faced with certain doom—or an acute sense of pickiness—Nesbitt turned on the jets over the last 400m. At the lane change on the final curve, she chased down Angermuller, and blew right past her. Then, she burned rubber down the final straightaway, crossing the finish line with an awkward toe kick.
Nesbitt looked peeved after the race. She said she was certain the time wasn’t going to be enough to win. And all through the final pairing of the day—her teammate Kristina Groves and Margot Boer of the Netherlands—she stewed in the infield. But Groves’ time of 1:16.78 was only good enough for fourth. Boer came sixth. And Nesbitt was the country’s newest golden girl.
Ugly? Perhaps, but Canada will take it.
And lest you worry that Nesbitt might be taking this winning thing a little hard, she did allow some measure of satisfaction at the accomplishment.
“I’ve been working really hard, not just physically, but mentally, and that’s what carried me through,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself. A year ago, two years ago, there’s no way—I wouldn’t have had that same drive.”
On Sunday, the new Olympic champion gets to go through it all again, squaring off against the world number-one ranked Groves in the 1,500m.
Another chance at glory, and another chance to find fault.
“I love criticizing myself,” Nesbitt allows.
Keep it up, it appears to be working.
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
It takes a village to raise an idiot
Jacques Rogge and the rest of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee have relented and will allow the Australian International Olympic Committee to fly its iconic “boxing kangaroo” flag from a balcony of the Vancouver Olympic Village. The flag was ordered removed because the IOC bans unauthorized commercial symbols, and the cartoon ’roo is trademarked, albeit only to the Australian Olympic Committee. The dispute ﬁred up Aussies everywhere. Deputy PM Julia Gillard called it a “scandal.” Vancouver radio phone-in callers raged at the IOC’s bully tactics. IOC spokesman Mark Adams called the issue “a storm in a teacup.” Meantime, athletes are streaming to the Oz sector of the village for a photo with the giant ’roo.
He did it for the kids
It was death in the afternoon for any bull that Jairo Miguel Sànchez Alonso faced Saturday at an arena in southwest Spain. The 16-year-old killed six bulls without mussing his sparkly white suit of lights. He returned to Spain after several years apprenticing in Mexico, where there is no minimum age for fighters. He almost died there in 2007 when a bull gored him. Alonso holds no grudges. “I feel quite bad when the bull has been good and you see the expression on his face, the innocence,” he says. “He has given you his bravery.” The event, while bloody, had a softer side. It was a fundraiser for children with autism.
Bad times for burkas
French Prime Minister François Fillon announced this week he’ll deny citizenship to a Moroccan national who forces his French-born wife to wear a burka. “If this man does not want to change his attitude, he has no place in our country,” he said. Meantime, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a law banning full burkas is gaining steam. He has declared the full veil and body covering “not welcome” in France, and inconsistent with the country’s values. It’s certainly not welcome in Paris post offices. Two burka-clad robbers walked into a post office in the Paris suburb of Athis Mons, an area with a large immigrant Muslim population. They pulled out handguns and stole the equivalent of $6,000.
Blades of glory
Germany’s Katarina Witt and Canada’s Elizabeth Manley met on the ice in Vancouver Sunday, 22 years after the Teutonic bombshell and Canada’s sweetheart squared off in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Witt won gold but Manley, under enormous home-country pressure, pulled off the skate of her life to finish second. Both women are doing television colour commentary in Vancouver, but they took a turn on the Robson Square ice rink with young members of the Coquitlam Skating Club. “We’re not here for a rematch,” joked Manley, 44. “Not at our age, I’m 20—plus tax.” Replied a razor-sharp Witt: “Oh, my God! How much are taxes here?”
Tea time in Tennessee
Cranky country singer and musical comedian Ray Stevens’s flagging career was ready for a death panel. Then the 71-year-old singer of such novelty hits as Ahab the A-rab and Gitarzan wrote We the People, a lighthearted attack on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative. The video, which shows Stevens strumming a bathroom plunger and singing, “You vote Obamacare, we’re gonna vote you outta there,” is a YouTube hit and an unofficial anthem of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Stevens sang at the group’s convention in Nashville on the weekend, where Sarah Palin raised eyebrows with her $100,000 fee for giving the keynote speech. “That’s a lot of damned tea,” grumbled one delegate.
Do as I say, not as I…ahh-choo!
As deputy health minister for the Czech Republic, Michael Vit has the job of deciding whether to impose mandatory swine flu vaccinations on “all people indispensable for the functioning of the country.” The day after receiving the assignment, Vit came down with H1N1 himself. “I have muscle problems, a headache, simply all symptoms of the flu,” he said. The deputy health minister admitted he had yet to receive the vaccination. “As you see, I’m a living example.”
‘Funeral’ for friends, and strangers
Canadian orchestral rockers Arcade Fire made it to the Super Bowl last weekend, when the group’s stirring anthem Wake Up, from their hit CD Funeral, was used in a series of NFL promo ads. While the group is protective of licensing its music, they had their reasons in this case. They turned over the fat licensing fee to Partners in Health, an agency with deep roots in Haiti. Band member Régine Chassagne’s family came from the island. She expressed her grief in an article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time.”
Broom versus stick
Icy, obsessed with winning and not above the occasional cheap shot. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and hockey are a match made in heaven. Hockey is “deeply reflective of the character of the nation,” he explained in a pre-Olympic interview with Sports Illustrated. Harper, who has studied the origins of the sport, said it contributes to “a uniquely Canadian sense of belonging in a community across the country.” Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff waxes poetic about a different sport: curling. Naturally, he identifies with the skip. “It’s the leadership and the precision, and the quiet,” he told the Globe and Mail. Apparently he’s not the sort of skip who shouts unseemly commands like, “Hurry, hurry hard.”
Very, very teed off
A Kelowna, B.C., entrepreneur is cashing in on Tiger Woods’s extramarital mayhem. Mike Caldwell has produced the Mistress Collection, a boxed set of 12 golf balls, each bearing a portrait of one of Woods’s mistresses. “He likes to play a round with them…and now you can, too!” notes his website, tailofthetiger.com. Caldwell says he sold 1,500 sets at US$54.90 in the first six days. Less than impressed is Joslyn James, an adult film star and alleged Woods mistress. She called a news conference to denounce the balls as hurtful and in bad taste. “It bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands hitting a ball with my photo on it,” she said. She then showed her sensitive side by releasing 100 tawdry text messages she said she received from Woods.
You don’t want a visit by Oscar
Oscar the cat has a near infallible ability to detect which of the patients in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., is next to die, says Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician. When Oscar curls up with a patient, staff know to phone the next of kin. “It’s like he’s on a vigil,” says Dosa. Such insight would come as no surprise to cat owners, who are themselves terribly smart. Certainly smarter than dog owners, according to a study by Dr. Jane Murray at the University of Bristol. Winston Churchill was a cat lover. Paris Hilton loves dogs. Want more proof? Cat owners (if anyone really owns a cat) are 1.36 times more likely than dog owners to hold a university degree. They’re also 100 per cent less likely to have to follow behind their pet and scoop droppings off the sidewalk.
Gay but not cheerful
The headline in the Seattle Weekly says it all: “Gay, mentally challenged biracial male cheerleader claims discrimination.” All that high school student Benjamin Grundy wants is to shake his pom-poms like the girls on the squad at Garfield-Palouse High School in tiny Palouse, Wash. Instead, the cheer coach suggested he’d make a great mascot. He was eventually given a cheerleader’s top but denied the rest of the uniform, pom-poms, and the right to join the dance routine. “I was reduced to standing there and moving my arms,” he says. The school board denies discrimination, but Benjamin’s mother, Suzanne Grundy, is pressing the case with the ACLU and her congressman. “The combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them,” she told the local TV station.
L’état c’est moi
Quebec’s Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne has revived a tradition that ended 44 years ago—awarding medals, in gold, silver and bronze, and bearing his coat of arms, to those making contributions to their communities. The practice of awarding such medals ended in 1966 after Quebec nationalists condemned the symbolic tie with the monarchy. Duchesne has no such qualms: he also invoked royal privilege to avoid testifying before a national assembly committee on how he spends some $1 million annually in taxpayer money. His refusal to testify was condemned by all sides of the legislature.
Disharmony in the house of Wang
It was Hong Kong feng shui master Tony Chan’s skills in arranging buildings to create a positive life force that drew Chan to the eccentric, pigtailed property magnate Nina Wang. He began a 15-year affair with Wang, 23 years his senior. Now, he’s accused of arranging her $4-billion fortune in a manner auspicious to himself. When she died at 69 in 2007, he claimed to be her sole heir. Her family contested the will, and he’s charged with forgery.
She also has a Ph.D. in thankless tasks
Leila Ghannam, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, is the first woman governor of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank. Her challenge is to quash a resurgence by hard-liners in Hamas. “My intelligence experience, like my degree in psychology, helps me carry out my job,” she says.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 9:10 PM - 48 Comments
A look at 50 Canadian Olympians with podium potential
Experts are predicting a huge medal haul for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and the pressure is on our athletes to make the host country look good. Although the Canadian team won’t be finalized until a few weeks before the competition begins, here is a glimpse at 50 athletes we think have podium potential.
Check after the break for the full listing.
By Steve Maich - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
The new normal: Call it frugality if you like. We call it sanity.
When will things go back to normal? That is the only question that seems to matter: when will this strange and frightening episode pass? It’s a fair question, but not exactly the right one. What most really mean is: when will my house price begin soaring again? How long before my stocks triple? And when will I feel safe to max out my credit cards again? Over the past 15 years that became “normal,” or at least common. But that isn’t coming back soon.
The reality is, everything we see happening around us is part of the process of returning to normal. For the past decade or so the laws of financial gravity were suspended. Now they are back in force, and those who soared the highest have the furthest to fall.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 8:20 AM - 2 Comments
Clifford will give dentists ‘top dollar’ for old gold fillings
The world is being gripped by gold fever—if you doubt it, you need only look at John Clifford’s latest enterprise. He pays top dollar to dentists for the shiny metal after they pull it from patients’ mouths. When people get dentures, they sometimes leave gold fillings and bridges behind at the clinic, says Clifford, owner of Guaranteed Green. It’s not always pretty. The fillings often come attached with “bits of porcelain and tooth matter.” Yet a large filling can fetch $50. “Dentists could easily accumulate $10,000 worth of gold over the course of a career,” he says.
Clifford is part of a booming industry capitalizing on the soaring price of gold, which recently hit US$914 an ounce, up 30 per cent since October, and up nearly 240 per cent since 2001. Investors keep bidding the price higher because they’re betting the massive stimulus plans in the U.S. and other countries will spark an era of hyper-inflation. As the price rises, companies like Clifford’s are making big profits by buying gold at big discounts to the market price. Hence the disturbing image of Ed McMahon flogging his gold toilet in a Super Bowl commercial.
By Colin Campbell - Monday, January 5, 2009 at 11:30 PM - 7 Comments
Canada demolishes Sweden to capture its fifth straight world junior title
There were no heart-stopping moments this time, or late game heroics. They weren’t needed. Team Canada dismantled the Swedes in the gold medal game of the world junior championships last night, winning 5-1 to take its fifth straight championship.
From the first minute, when defenceman P K Subban scored the opening goal, it was all Team Canada, which played a tough, albeit somewhat undisciplined game against a Swedish team that at times looked flat and wasn’t getting the lucky bounces. They were lucky to get out of the first period down by just one. “We knew we had to come out with our best game,” said Zach Boychuk. Getting that first goal “was huge,” he added. Continue…