Winter Olympic Sports Watch

​Jon Nava

December 29th 2016


As of this writing, there are 406 days left to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea - a little over 13 months until the Olympic flame will be lit.  Canada is coming off two straight Winter Games showings of at least 10 gold medals and a top-five finish in the medal standings since 1998.  A perennial winter power, Canada is also coming off a strong Summer Olympics showing in Rio de Janiero, and looks to continue that momentum into Pyeongchang.


Despite the uncertainty of National Hockey League players being included into the ice hockey portion of the next Winter Olympics, Canada still fields a host of medal contenders.  Some of these athletes are looking to repeat their medal performances from Sochi, some are looking to make their mark in their first Olympic Games, while others may consider this competition in Korea their swan song from amateur athletics.


Here are a few notable Canadians to watch on the road to Pyeongchang (including Twitter handles!)


Kaillie Humphries (@BobsledKaillie)
- women's bobsleigh
Humphries is possibly the greatest female bobsleigh driver in the sport's history, and also its most decorated driver.  The two-time defending Olympic champion in women's bobsleigh looks to drive to another title in Pyeongchang. She would be the first bobsledder to win three straight Olympic titles since German legend André Lange in 2010.  Humphries has won 14 World Cup races, is a two-time World Champion and has won the World Cup season title three of the past four seasons.  The 31-year old Calgary native is also a pioneer in the sport by being one of the first women to compete against men in four-man bobsleigh races - first with a men's crew in November 2014, and an all-women's crew in January 2016.  Pyeongchang will represent her third Winter Olympics, and she shows no sign of slowing down past South Korea. Next event: Women's World Cup bobsleigh race @ Altenberg, Germany (January 6th)


Erik Guay (@erikguay) - men's alpine skiing
Guay has won a World Cup title (Super Giant Slalom, 2010) and a World Championship gold medal (Downhill, 2011) along with 24 World Cup medals (five of them victories).  The only thing the Mont-Tremblant, QC, native is missing from his skiing CV is an Olympic medal.  The 35-year old came achingly close in Torino 2006 (fourth place in the Super-G) and Vancouver 2010 (two 5th-place finishes in Super-G and downhill) where he missed out on the podium by a combined total of .37 of a second.  For Guay, South Korea looks to be his fourth Winter Games, and what way to cap a fine international skiing career with an Olympic medal?  The Norwegians (led by Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud) and Italians (fronted by Peter Fill and Dominik Paris) will challenge Guay in the speed events.  Next event: Men's World Cup downhill race @ Wengen, Switzerland (January 14th)


Marielle Thompson (@bigairmar)- women's ski-cross
Thompson is the defending Olympic champion in this freestyle skiing event.  She has won the overall World Cup title in ski-cross twice (2012, 2014), and has won 16 World Cup races from her 27 podium finshes.  The 24-year old looks to continue's Canada's hold on the ski-cross title since the event's inception (Ashleigh McIvor won the inaugural competition in Whistler during the 2010 Olympics).  The 2016-17 World Cup ski-cross season so far for Thompson has been a dominant one to say the least; heading into the Christmas break, the North Vancouver native had won three of five races and finished second  and fourth in the other two races. Next event: Women's World Cup ski-cross race @ Watles, Italy (January 14th)


Mikael Kingsbury (@MikaelKingsbury)
- men's moguls skiing
The Saint-Agathe-des-Monts, QC native is the greatest moguls skier in history, all at the young age of 24.  In his seven-year World Cup career, Kingsbury has won five moguls and overall freestyle skiing season titles, while also setting marks in career moguls victories (34) and consecutive freestyle ski event wins (seven).  He has won both moguls and dual moguls World Championship titles, while winning the most medals for a male in every Freestyle World Championship he has competed in.  In Kingsbury's Olympic debut at Sochi 2014, he just missed the top step of the podium, losing out to defending champion (and fellow Quebec native) Alexandre Bilodeau.  The coronation to Olympic gold in Pyeongchang seems destined for Kingsbury, who made his World Cup moguls debut in 2010 at the age of 17.  Kingsbury follows a great tradition of Quebec mogul skiers, from 1994 Olympic men's champion Jean-Luc Brassard, Bilodeau, 2006 Olympic women's winner Jennifer Heil and the Dufour-Lapointe sisters (where Justine and Chloe went 1-2, and Maxime made the final).  Next event: Men's World Cup moguls @ Lake Placid, NY (USA) January 13th


These are just a few of the Canadian Olympians one should watch over the next few months heading into their respective world championships. More Canadian athletes will be profiled in the weeks to come.

Whose Curse Breaks First?

October 27th 2016

Jon "Should Bartman have thrown out a First Pitch?" Nava

After two games at Progressive Field, the 2016 World Series is tied at one game apiece between Chicago and Cleveland. Some takeaways from the first two games headed as the series shifts to Wrigley Field.

If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

Cleveland followed their blueprint to victories in the ALDS & ALCS - run out to an early lead, then bring in the bullpen by the fifth or sixth inning to lock it down. That was the case in Game 1, as the home side scored two runs in the first inning.  ALCS MVP lefty reliever Andrew Miller managed to get out of a 7th inning bases loaded situation by striking out Cubs catcher David Ross en route to a Cleveland 6-0 win in Game 1.

Kluber...and pray for rain. 

Cleveland's rotation has survived the loss of two of their top three starters heading into the World Series. However, that arm attrition may not serve them well versus Chicago, as Game 2 starter Trevor Bauer lasted only 3.2 innings and took the loss. The rest of the rotation looks shaky, as prospective Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin has a penchant for allowing home runs.  Recovering starter Danny Salazar came in for a relief inning in Game 2 and could be used as an emergency fill-in.  ALCS Game 4 rookie starter Ryan Merritt (4.1 IP of scoreless ball) would be hard-pressed to duplicate those heroics in the World Series. Save for Game 1 victor Corey Kluber, the rest of the rotation looks patchwork.

Schwarber's not missing a beat. 

Once declared out for the season after suffering an ACL & LCL tear on April 7, the Cubs' Kyle Schwarber made his return to baseball's biggest stage. Schwarber has made the most of his return, garnering two run-scoring hits in the Game 2 Cubs win. He also doubled in Game 1, missing a home run by a couple of feet.  Manager Joe Maddon has a dilemma on his hands entering Game 3 at Wrigley: where to play Kyle?  The young slugger was safely ensconced as the designated hitter at Progressive Field, but with the series moving to Wrigley, Schwarber must play the field in order to get his bat in the lineup. The question is, where?  Maddon may have a hard time keeping his simmering bat out of the lineup - it says here that Schwarber will play left field, moving super-utility man Ben Zobrist to right field and displacing struggling Jason Heyward to the bench.

Jake awesome at the Field formerly known as the Jake. 

Cubs Game 2 starter Jake Arrieta was outstanding. He didn't allow a hit until Jason Kipins' one-out double in the sixth and departed that same inning only allowing one run, striking out six Cleveland hitters.  The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner looked locked in, impervious to the chilly climes by pitching sleeveless.  This sets up the Cubs starting rotation well for Wrigley, with MLB earned run average champ Kyle Hendricks and playoff veteran John Lackey slated to follow.

This writer was not a believer in Cleveland throughout these playoffs and twice picked their opponents in the ALDS & ALCS to prevail. I'm still doing the same here, picking the Cubs to win. Chicago has the superior pitching and offence over both the Red Sox and Blue Jays that Cleveland has yet to witness so far in this playoffs. Now that the Cubs are on track with a Game 2 win, the shallowness of the Cleveland starting rotation will be highlighted along with their respective bullpen (which will be hindered by no DH at Wrigley). Cubs in six games.


 

As of this writing, there are 406 days left to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea ​"








​monolith sports - THE NAVA REPORT

#TorontoLoud

October 19th 2016

Jon "Bringer of the Noise" Nava


There wasn't a name for the aural phenomenon that started to grow last fall in the bowels of Rogers Centre.  It was pent up emotion released in a guttural howl, cleansing the ghosts of underacheiving Toronto Blue Jays teams that played almost two and a half decades without meaningful baseball being played in October.  When Toronto slugger Jose Bautista flung his bat after flicking his wrists on a Sam Dyson fastball, the roar emerged.  And the roar remained strong through the past year.  But there was still no name attached to this tsunami of noise until this year's American League Division Series.  And the baseball baptism didn't even occur during a Blue Jays game.


Ernie Johnson, a sportscaster more well known for his work on National Basketball Association broadcasts, was covering the series between Cleveland & Boston for TBS Sports (who were televising the ALDS nationally).  He remarked during Game 1 about the Cleveland crowd at Progressive Field that they were quite vocal, but not "Toronto loud".   This was off the heels of Johnson calling the American League wild-card game, decided on an extra-inning walk-off home run by Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion.   The noise reached a crescendo after that at-bat, but one could claim the Toronto faithful kept the decibel level to the max throughout the do-or-die game.


Suddenly, media, both social and traditional, finally had a name for the noise.  It all seemed so simple, yet so encapsulating of the mood regarding not just Torontonians, but all who embrace the team as their own.  Everyone in Canada who regards the Blue Jays as their team, whether they live on the west coast of in B.C., or on the eastern front facing the Atlantic Ocean, are part of the aural phenomenon called #TorontoLoud.


It's not just a hashtag for social media or a phrase that a sportscaster from the U.S. uttered to compare one's fanbase to the other.  Rather, it describes a bravado, a healthy swagger that is symbolic of the baseball of 2015-16 and now its fans.  Presently, it's rare for the quiet to take over when the Blue Jays take the field, whether or not they are at home or on the road.  In the case of the latter, there seems to be a sizable number of Blue Jays fans who pilgrimmage from parts all over Canada to give their contingent a voice to be heard.  This was the case in their last trip to Seattle, where the noise grew to such large levels for Toronto that Mariners ace Felix Hernandez exclaimed to the pro-Toronto crowd, "This [Safeco Field] is my house! My house!" while pumping his fist into his chest.


And now, with the Blue Jays one loss away from elimination, #TorontoLoud became #Sullen&Silent during Game 3 of the ALCS versus Cleveland. 


It seemed that Game 4 would finally sink the team and said hashtag for the season.  Toronto jumped to an early lead, as The Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson, homered (his first of the playoffs).  He gave life to #TorontoLoud and thus giving hope to the fans and most assuredly, the players themselves.  The apex of vocal positive reinforcement came during Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna's strikeout to end Game 4, and brought #TorontoLoud to the forefront once again. 


Now with Game 5 another win-or-go-home deal, the Rogers Centre faithful must keep the vocal intensity that was sparked in the previous match and help cheer their team on as the Blue Jays try to accomplish what was done once previously by the 2004 Boston Red Sox. They must rally from being down three games to none.  But the crowd shouldn't just cheer. The Blue Jays crowd just needs to be #TorontoLoud.

 

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