Canada wins in Olympic women’s soccer nailbiter against Brazil

Canada’s women’s soccer team defeated Brazil at the Tokyo Olympics, in a close-fought match that went into penalty kicks.

The Canadian team beat Brazil 4-3 in penalties after going scoreless in regular and extra time.

With this quarterfinal win, Canada is through to the semifinals in the Olympic tournament and will face either the Netherlands or the U.S. team in the semifinal on Monday, Aug. 2. They will be playing for a medal.

Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé took a hard fall at the end of extra time, just before penalty kicks, when she jumped to catch a ball and a Brazilian player slid under her, making Labbé land hard on her hip and lower back. She lay on the ground for some time before getting up and resuming the game.

However, Labbé held strong, making many dramatic saves to secure Canada’s victory.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Novak Djokovic loses to Zverev at Olympics, ending bid for Golden Slam

There will be no Golden Slam for Novak Djokovic.

The top-ranked Serb lost to Alexander Zverev of Germany 1-6, 3-6, 6-1 Friday in the semifinals of the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Djokovic was attempting to become the first man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same year. He won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon this year and needed the Olympic and U.S. Open titles to complete the collection.

Steffi Graf in 1988 remains the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam.

Read more:
How Canada performed at Tokyo Olympics Thursday, Friday

Zverev’s opponent in the gold-medal match will be Karen Khachanov. The Russian beat Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 6-3.

Djokovic will play Carreno Busta for bronze.

Djokovic hadn’t lost since getting beaten by Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open final 2½ months ago.

On a humid and muggy evening at the Ariake Tennis Park, Djokovic committed a series of uncharacteristic errors after a strong start as the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev started to win free points with his big serve.

Read more:
Bianca Andreescu drops out of Canada’s Olympic tennis team due to COVID-19 concerns

When Zverev hit a backhand winner down the line that Djokovic didn’t move for to close it out, Djokovic walked to the net where he was embraced by Zverev. Djokovic responded by resting his head on Zverev’s shoulder as the pair exchanged some words.

Djokovic’s only Olympic medal was bronze in singles at the 2008 Beijing Games — his first. He could still win a gold at the Tokyo Games in mixed doubles.

Read more:
Olympic athletes battle sweltering heat in Tokyo

Djokovic was due back on the court almost immediately to play with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the mixed doubles semifinals against the Russian duo of Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Toronto Blue Jays finally return to Rogers Centre to open 3-game set with Royals

WATCH ABOVE: It’s been 670 days since the Toronto Blue Jays played on home soil and on Friday the team is back. Shallima Maharaj got a sneak peek at how they’re preparing to welcome fans back.

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays have wrapped up an extended road trip down south and finally flown north — back home to Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays are finally set to return to Toronto after the federal government granted the club a national interest travel exemption, and the team will host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night in their first game at their home stadium in nearly two years.

The Jays haven’t played at Rogers Centre since Sept. 29, 2019 — an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay — due to COVID-19 restrictions that included a U.S.-Canada travel ban.

Read more:
Toronto Blue Jays receive federal government approval to return to Canada

Toronto played the shortened 2020 campaign at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., then began this season hosting home games at its spring training site in Dunedin, Fla., before returning to the home of their triple-A affiliate in June.

Jays president Mark Shapiro says the team has also received approval to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue and allow up to 15,000 fans at games _ about 30 per cent of its 49,286-person capacity. Shapiro says the retractable roof will be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures have been taken to ensure proper ventilation.

Read more:
Red Sox hit 5 home runs, beat Blue Jays 7-4 in Buffalo finale

The Jays currently sit fourth in the American League East with a 51-48 record.

Before Friday’s first pitch is the MLB trade deadline, with a 4 p.m. ET cutoff for teams to make a trade in a push for the post-season.

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement on July 16 that the decision to grant the exemption was made in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada and local and provincial officials.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Rosie MacLennan finishes fourth in trampoline at Tokyo Olympics

A few weeks before her quest to clinch a third consecutive Olympic title, Canadian trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan was on crutches and in a boot after a bad landing in training and had no idea if she would recover in time for her fourth Games.

The 32-year-old, who sustained full and partial ligament tears and multiple bone bruises, finished fourth in Tokyo on Friday after being squeezed off the podium by China’s Zhu Xueying and Liu Lingling, and Britain’s Bryony Page.

Read more:
How Canada performed at Tokyo Olympics Thursday, Friday

“It was a bit of a question mark for a few weeks whether I would get back in time,” MacLennan said. “It was about three weeks ago or two days before I left that I was able to put routines together for the first time.”

MacLennan has faced her share of adversity and injuries threatening to end her career. Concussions ahead of the 2016 Rio Games left her without spatial awareness, something crucial in her sport.

Read more:
Rio 2016 – Rosie MacLennan goes for gold after suffering a concussion

She struggled with anxiety and depression as she slowly learned to jump again.

“The fear that you experience, it sticks with you,” she said. “Even to this day you second guess yourself sometimes and it just takes a lot of really diligent work and a lot of patience and a lot of support around you.”

In Rio, MacLennan became the first back-to-back Olympic trampoline gold medallist and the first-ever Canadian to win two gold medals in an individual event at a Summer Games.

MacLennan said her fourth-place finish in Tokyo did not tarnish her career or her past accomplishments.

“I really did want to come out here and win a medal for Canada,” she said.

“But at the end of the day, my experience in sport, there’s so much depth to it and there’s so much that I’ve learned through sport that I can take with me through the rest of my life. I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything else.”

© 2021 Reuters

Police search for missing 36-year-old London man

Police are searching for a missing 36-year-old London man who was last seen in the northwest end of the city.

According to police, Junqing Pan was last seen around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, in the area of Coronation Drive and North Routledge Park.

Police say he was wearing a blue t-shirt, black shorts and flip flops, and is liking driving a black, 2014 Honda Odyssey.

Read more:
Man, 18, charged after firearms, drugs seized from OEV home, London police say

Both police and family are concern for his welfare.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact London police or Crime Stoppers.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Nova Scotia election: Party leaders on how they will address COVID-19 moving forward

Iain Rankin, Tim Houston and Gary Burrill took to the stage and answered questions for 90 minutes on topics including health care, affordability and the environment. The debate was hosted by CBC.

While Nova Scotia has largely managed to keep COVID-19 under control over the past 18 months, the province isn’t out of the woods yet.

The virus continues to surge in other parts of Canada, especially in unvaccinated people, propelled by highly transmissible variants.

Read more:
As COVID-19 variants surge, most Canadians worry about a potential 4th wave

Throughout the pandemic, the governing Liberals have been calling the shots, with the assistance of chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang. But now that a provincial election is underway, it’s possible that there could be a new government as early as next month to lead us through COVID-19.

Global News sent the leaders of each of the three main political parties the same five questions about how they plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic moving forward. Each was asked to keep their answers to 100 words or fewer and some responses have been edited for length.

How would your government address a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia? Would you be prepared for another province-wide shutdown?

Liberal leader Iain Rankin: We will address a potential fourth wave in the same manner as previous waves, by working closely with our Public Health officials and acting quickly when required. The health and safety of Nova Scotians will always be my number one priority.

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston: Nova Scotians have done an incredible job of following public health guidelines. We need to keep following Public Health advice and encouraging our fellow Nova Scotians to get vaccinated. I am prepared to work with Public Health for the continued best interests of Nova Scotians.

Read more:
Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave will be among unvaccinated, with fewer restrictions: experts

New Democratic Party leader Gary Burrill: The last 16 months have shown that the people of Nova Scotia will come together and do what is required to protect their neighbours by stopping the spread of COVID-19. An NDP government will be guided by public health in all decisions related to restrictions and other measures that may be required to address the spread of COVID-19. We know that the people of our province will be ready to support each other once again.

What do you think about our current vaccination rates? What would your government do to increase vaccine uptake?

Iain Rankin: Nova Scotia is currently one of the provinces leading the country in vaccinations. Nova Scotians have stepped up throughout the pandemic to do their part. Other jurisdictions are now seeing an uptick in infection rates among unvaccinated people and so I will continue to encourage Nova Scotians to get fully vaccinated as it is the best protection against the disease and its variants.

Tim Houston: I’m pleased to see that our vaccination rates have caught up to our neighbouring provinces. I thank everyone who had received their first and second dose.

Read more:
COVID-19: Top doctor in N.S. imploring people to move up second vaccine appointments

Gary Burrill: Public health and the people of Nova Scotia have done the hard work of getting us to the point we are at in the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people have stepped up to do their part by staying home when needed and getting vaccinated when asked. People need to be supported with good information to make health decisions about vaccination. An NDP government would ensure that people are supported with the best resources and information available to combat vaccine hesitancy.

What precautions would your government put in place for the upcoming school year, especially while children under the age of 12 have not yet been vaccinated? Would you make masks mandatory for students?

Iain Rankin: I will follow the advice of our public health officials to ensure that all Nova Scotians stay safe from this disease.

Read more:
694 COVID-19 cases linked to N.S. schools as potential exposure sites

Tim Houston: A PC government would take the lead of Public Health to ensure that schools are safe for students. It’s important to remember that apart from the pandemic, in recent years, reports emerged shining light on lead levels in drinking water and concerns over ventilation in schools. Many schools have yet to have these issues addressed. We were also the first party to release a plan for schools to reopen safely for both students and teachers in the fall of 2020.

Gary Burrill: Teachers, students and parents have borne the brunt of the difficulties of the last year and a half, and with often confusing and rapidly changing information. An NDP government would make sure to work together with teachers and parents to develop the best path forwards, along with guidance from public health in all decisions related to restrictions and other measures that may be required in schools to address the spread of COVID-19.

Would you support a “vaccine passport” for people entering the province or attending events in Nova Scotia?

Iain Rankin: Nova Scotia requires visitors to the province to be fully vaccinated or to isolate upon arrival. I do not see that changing for the foreseeable future. Protocols for events and gatherings will be determined based on the recommendations of our public health officials.

Tim Houston: While the federal government has indicated it is working on a vaccine passport for international travel, we have not heard of any plan to require vaccine passports within Canada. In fact, travel within Canada is proceeding without a passport.

Read more:
Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September

Gary Burrill: We believe that most people want to do everything in their power to protect their friends, families, and neighbours from harm.
An NDP government will be guided by public health in all decisions related to restrictions and other measures that may be required to address the spread of COVID-19, including vaccine passports and how they might be used — and will do so with great sensitivity to the balance between public health, privacy and civil liberties considerations that would accompany such a program.

What would your government do to help people and businesses affected by COVID-19 get back on their feet financially?

Iain Rankin: A re-elected Liberal government would continue to focus on building a strong economic recovery for businesses and families. We have introduced historic universal child care that will see child care costs halved next year and brought down to an average of $10 a day in five years.

Read more:
Keeping track of the N.S. election and promises from main party leaders

We have introduced a number of programs designed to support businesses including the Small Business Impact Grant Part 3 ($29 million), the Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program ($7.3 million), the Tourism Restart Package ($18.2 million), and the Digital Assistance Program for Small Business. A re-elected Liberal government has committed to extending this innovative program.

Tim Houston: The pandemic for many communities served as a rallying call to shop local. We need to continue the buy local mentality and expand upon it in order to drive a strong economic recovery. That’s why the PCs will bring forward the Nova Scotia Loyal Program. The PCs are also proposing the Better Pay Check Guarantee, which will allow corporations to have 50 per cent of their tax revenue returned to them provided it is paid to their employees.

Read more:
N.S. Progressive Conservatives project Year 1 election promises at $553 million

For the past two years, the PCs have proposed a tourism tax credit to encourage staycations amongst Nova Scotians. The Liberals rejected the idea.

Gary Burrill: The NDP has a plan for Nova Scotia — where the health care you need is the care that is provided, where every person and family has an affordable place to live, where the climate emergency is addressed with unprecedented investments in green jobs and a transition to a renewable economy, and where paid sick days, decent wages, and access to quality child care are available to everyone.

Read more:
Nova Scotia election kicks off, NDP releases political ‘vision document’

It is through this vision that Nova Scotia can come out of this time of challenge healthier, more prosperous, and stronger than before.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

While you were sleeping: How Canada performed at Tokyo Olympics Thursday, Friday

Canada won its third gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, while athletes in swimming and athletics also managed to advance through qualifying and semifinal rounds.

Here’s what you may have missed overnight from the day of competition.

Read more:
Olympics medal count: Here’s who won the most medals during the Tokyo Games

Rowing

The big story out of Friday was the women’s eight rowing team winning the gold medal, the first for Team Canada in that event since the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

The women — Lisa Roman, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Christine Roper, Andrea Proske, Susanne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and Kristen Kit — dominated throughout the race, with silver and bronze medallists New Zealand and China unable to catch up.

Elsewhere, Carling Zeeman managed a second place finish in the “petite” finals of the women’s single sculls, after missing out on the medal final.

Trevor Jones finished third in his own “petite” final of the men’s single sculls.

Swimming

Penny Oleksiak was less than a second off from taking the bronze medal in the women’s 100-metre freestyle swim. The medal would have made the 21-year-old the most decorated Canadian athlete in Olympic history.

Kylie Masse and Taylor Ruck made it through the women’s 200-metre backstroke semifinals with first and fourth place finishes, respectively, to swim in Saturday’s final.

The news was less good for Joshua Liendo Edwards, who finished fifth in the men’s 100-metre butterfly semifinal, just short of qualifying for the final.

Trampoline Gymnastics

Canada’s Rosannagh Maclennan was edged out of the medal standings in the women’s trampoline gymnastics final, ending with a fourth place finish.

Maclennan was fighting back from an ankle injury to try and snag her third Olympic medal, following back-to-back golds in the 2016 and 2012 Games.

Canada’s other trampoline gymnast Samantha Smith finished 14th in the qualifier earlier in the day, missing a spot in the final.

Diving

Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware both qualified for Saturday’s semifinal of the women’s three-metre springboard event after finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the preliminary rounds.

Athletics

Khamica Bingham and Crystal Emmanuel both made it to the semifinals of the women’s 100-metre dash, placing fourth and third in their respective heats.

In the women’s 800-metre qualifiers, Madeleine Kelly finished fifth in her heat, Melissa Bishop-Nriagu placed fourth and Lindsay Butterworth finished fifth.

Men’s high jump qualifiers began with Django Lovett placing second and Michael Mason placing seventh in their respective heats.

John Gay placed sixth in his heat during the men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase qualifier, while Matthew Hughes finished fourth in his heat.

Volleyball

The men’s team scored their second win in a row with a 3-0 final over Venezuela in the preliminary round of play, giving them some hope of staying in the medal hunt.

Canada will face Poland next on Sunday.

Hockey

Canada tied with South Africa 4-4 in the men’s team’s final matchup of the preliminary rounds, pushing them out of the quarterfinals.

Rugby Sevens

Canada’s women’s team won’t get a chance to try and repeat their bronze medal win from the 2016 Games, after falling to France 31-0.

They later played Brazil to determine their final standing in the rankings, winning 45-0. They’ll find out if they place ninth of 10th in their final match on Saturday.

Sailing

Sarah Douglas placed fourth in her first race of the day in the women’s one-person laser radical dinghy event, later finishing second in her second race — her best result after 10 races in these Games.

The men’s 49er skiff team of William Jones and Evan DePaul placed 18th in their first race, 17th in the second and 15th in the third.

Canada’s Jacob Saunders and Oliver Bone managed a seventh-place finish in their first race of the men’s two-person 470 dinghy event, and 15th in the second race.

The women’s 49er FX skiff team of Alexandra Ten Hove and Mariah Mullen later placed 10th in their first race of the day, 12th in the second and fourth in the third.

Golf

Mackenzie Hughes fell to a tied 38th place in the men’s standings with a score of 72 in the second round of play.

Corey Conners is on track to tie with 34th place after his second round.

Equestrian

Colleen Loach and her horse Qorry Blue D’Argouges finished 15th in the first session of the individual and team dressage event.

Shooting

Lynda Kiejko finished 42nd out of 44 in the women’s 25-metre pistol rapid qualification round, with a final score of 564-13x.

BMX Cycling

Drew Mechielsen managed to snag a spot in the BMX cycling race final after three qualifying runs, but finished at the back of the pack.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Front-line workers worried about CRB, EI in a 4th wave: 'I would have been homeless'

Nicole Menzies, a single mother of two teenage boys, has no doubt. Without the federal COVID-19 income support programs, “I would have been homeless,” she says.

Menzies says she’s been through eight months of on-and-off unemployment after her income as a restaurant manager and server dropped to 10 per cent of her usual pay at the start of the pandemic. Throughout that time, it was only thanks to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and then enhanced Employment Insurance (EI) that she was able to keep a roof over her head and food in the cupboards, she says.

Read more:
As COVID-19 variants surge, most Canadians worry about a potential 4th wave

But while Menzies has now been back to full-time hours since the start of the summer with the restaurant back to bustling with customers, she’s concerned about what the future holds.

“I’m nervous about what would happen in the fall if we get another spike (of the virus),” she says.

If a fourth wave of COVID-19 led to new restrictions or drove patrons away once again Menzies wonders how she’d make ends meet without a beefed-up government cheque.

Both the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and many of the temporary changes to EI that are currently in place are set to expire in September. At the same time, though, COVID-19 cases have been rising in Alberta, which has lifted most public health restrictions.

As of Thursday, the province ended asymptomatic testing and contact tracing for those who have come in contact with people who test positive for COVID-19. The province has also lifted the self-isolation requirements for those who may have been exposed to the virus.

Read more:
COVID-19 is surging in Alberta, but experts say other provinces shouldn’t worry yet

Menzies isn’t the only one to worry about another difficult fall. A recent poll conducted by Ipsos exclusively for Global News found that 81 per cent of respondents reported feeling worried that the spread of new variants will delay a return to normality. Sixty-nine per cent also said they are concerned about the potential for a fourth wave.

For Menzies and other low-wage front-line workers like her, the question is what happens if a new wave of COVID-19 does indeed dry up business once more — this time without a bolstered safety net.

For Canadians who may yet again become unable to work in a new pandemic wave, the stakes are high, says David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives. 

With the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), which succeeded the CERB, set to run out toward the end of September, most self-employed workers would be “completely cut off all support,” Macdonald says.

Payments have also been reduced from $500 to $300 pre-tax per week for new applicants and anyone who’s already received the benefits for 42 weeks.

And many of those who, like Menzies, might qualify for EI would receive a lower level of benefits, Macdonald adds. While the current, bolstered version of EI provides $500 a week before tax, the average benefit is usually around $300 a week, he adds.

Read more:
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’

There’s also the question of whether workers who return to their jobs in the summer only to lose them again in the fall would be able to amass enough insurable hours to access EI again.

Until the fall of 2022, Ottawa has set the requirement to claim EI at a uniform 420 hours across the country, with jobless workers guaranteed a minimum of 14 weeks worth of benefits. The bar is significantly lower than it was in pre-pandemic times, when Canadians would often have to log more than 900 hours to be able to receive the jobless benefits, according to Macdonald.

But 420 hours is nonetheless considerably more than the 120 hours it currently takes to qualify for EI under the rules that will be in place until September, Macdonald notes.

Someone who has returned to work at the beginning of June and keeps full-time hours until the fall might be able to accumulate 420 hours, he says. Part-time workers and those who are recalled to their jobs later in the summer would fall short, he adds.

Federal budget legislation allows the government to extend both the CRB and current enhancements to EI until Nov. 20 without the need to bring the issue to Parliament. A looming national election, however, might complicate matters.

Speculation is rampant that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon pull the plug on the minority government he has led since October 2019 and force Canadians back out to the polls.

Citing sources, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Trudeau is eyeing September for an election.

“If we see cases start to rise, the government supports are likely to modify or be adjusted,” says Ted Mallett, director of economic forecasting at the Conference Board of Canada.

But, he adds, “it may well be that the decision is either to extend the benefits or to move the election forward.”

A spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of Employment said the government “will continue to monitor the situation.”

“We’ve had Canadians’ backs since the beginning of the pandemic and we will continue to be there for them,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement via email.

Read more:
Canadians with long COVID: Sick and, increasingly, worried they’ll go broke

Both Macdonald and Mallett note another surge of cases may hit customer-facing businesses and their workers even without another cycle of government restrictions.

“You can’t force people to go to restaurants. You can’t force people to go out,” Macdonald says. “And so if there is a general fear of catching COVID-19, of going to the hospital, there’s certainly likely to be some psychological impact and therefore some financial impact for those front-line businesses.”

If dining halls empty once again, Menzies says she won’t be able to pay the bills on her own or with a lower EI benefit. While the COVID-19 income supports allowed her to set aside a little money to pay income taxes and a small repayment she owed, it hasn’t been enough to build an emergency fund.

The CERB and the boosted EI benefits were like “a security blanket,” she says. “It was amazing for my kids … And to have that taken away when we’re not over (the pandemic), it definitely puts me back into that state of anxiety.”

— with a file from Global News’ Amanda Connolly

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canada's elite athletes at greater risk for mental disorders, study finds

WATCH: Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, has now withdrawn from two competitions at the Tokyo Olympics, to focus on her mental health. As Crystal Goomansingh explains, Biles is being praised for showing strength through self-care.

As the importance of mental health continues to make headlines at the Tokyo Olympics, a new study, one of the first of its kind in Canada, has revealed 41 per cent of elite Canadian athletes meet the criteria for one or more mental disorders.

Zoe Poucher, a sports psychology PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, told Global News the data shocked her.

“That number is quite high,” said Poucher.

Alongside a team of researchers, Poucher surveyed 186 Canadian athletes who were training for the 2020 Summer Olympic/Paralympic Games and found they are more at risk for mental disorders compared to the general population.

31.7 per cent reported symptoms of depression, 18.8 per cent reported symptoms of  anxiety, while 8.6 were high risk of an eating disorder.

Stress and training load were the main factors.

“We found a correlation between having been selected for the Tokyo Games and symptoms of depression,” Poucher explained.

“I think probably a lot of people think, like, ‘They made the team, they must be really happy’,” but Poucher said the findings didn’t support that.

“I’m inclined to think that it maybe has something to do with pressure and expectation. Now you have to compete at the games and it’s this even more stress and more pressure than before,” she said.

Mental health top of mind in Tokyo

Canadian gymnast Ellie Black commented Wednesday on the pressures she and others face on the Olympic stage.

“We are all just human. We are just regular people. We train at the highest level; we compete at the highest level,” Black said

“Sometimes you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. There is a lot of expectation and pressure.”

Her comments were in response to the news that Simone Biles withdrew from Thursday’s all-around athletic gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics, after stepping back from competition on Tuesday.

USA Gymnastics released a statement saying Biles’ withdrawal was made, “after further medical evaluation” for the 24-year-old superstar gymnast to “focus on her mental health.”

Read more:
Simone Biles’ Olympics puts focus on mental health: ‘I have to do what’s right for me’

Why are elite athletes so stressed? 

Canadian rower Jane Thornton, who competed in the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, said the pressure that comes with being on a world stage is immense.

“You train for years and years … but nothing that prepares you for the intensity of an Olympic games,” she said. “As an ambassador of your country … it can sometimes feel like the weight of world is on your shoulders.”

Katherine Tamminen, a sports psychologist, also involved in the study, said not wanting to let anyone down, is one of the most common stressors.

“Athletes might also feel a sense of obligation or pressure to perform well because of all of the sacrifices that they’ve made. They want all of that effort that’s been invested to be worth it to pay off,” she explained.

Tamminen said athletes also face burnout as well as organizational stressors and pressure from the public, especially around competition time.

“It’s really intensified around the Olympics,” she noted.

And the pandemic has made it worse, said Thornton, who is now a sports medicine physician.

“I have seen an uptick in patients with anxiety when that wasn’t an issue for them before. The is uncertainty getting to them.”

Canadian findings not unique 

While Poucher said she was originally shocked by the number of athletes who are facing mental disorders, she said given the other findings worldwide, she shouldn’t be.

In a study out of Australia, 50 per cent of 224 elite athletes they spoke to experienced symptoms of at least one mental disorder.

Out of  143 athletes surveyed from the United Kingdom, 48 per cent reported symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Read more:
‘Bigger than media’: Olympians call for greater mental health support for athletes

Prioritizing and destigmatizing mental health in sports 

Both Poucher and Tamminen acknowledge there are better supports these days but getting athletes to use them is a whole other ballgame.

“I think in some cases it’s a matter of maybe encouraging access because some of the stigma still exists,” Poucher said.

She also explained why an athlete may be hesitant to seek help. “Maybe I talk to a sports (psychologist) and they talk to my coach and they think I’m not mentally ready to compete,” she said.

Thornton agreed.

“We train so hard … we appear to have it together,” she said, “but I think what happens is the culture of sport makes it hard to voice your symptoms and admit weakness.”

Poucher said coaches should instead welcome the honesty.

It’s a proactive approach, Poucher said, that may have helped in the case of Simon Biles.

“Maybe if she had been able to work through some of this beforehand and been in a place where there was someone to help, maybe then it wouldn’t have built up into this big thing at the Olympics,” she said.

Poucher also explained a better flow of information and communication between family, coaching staff and athletes could help reduce stress as well.

Success with support 

In 2018, Canadian swimming star, Penny Oleksiak, took a step back from her sport after her family said she was becoming burnt out after a non-stop competition circuit.

“We were concerned she was getting overwhelmed,” her mother, Alison Oleksiak, told Global News. “It was a 30-month period with no breaks. No one can keep doing that.”

The break, her sister said, paid off.

“The mental growth she has developed … she has a revived passion for the sport again,” said Hayley Oleksiak, “We talk to her day to day … when she is racing … she is so happy and confident.”

Read more:
Penny Oleksiak’s family reflects after she becomes Canada’s most decorated summer Olympian

In Tokyo, Wednesday’s bronze medal win made Oleksiak the most decorated Canadian summer Olympic athlete.

For Thornton, the importance of support cannot be overstated.

“We need to really build a support network (of) family and friends,” she said. “We need to support (athletes) throughout their journey, no matter how they perform.”

Thornton said while the steps she sees athletes taking towards prioritizing their mental health are encouraging, there needs to be a cultural shift in sports overall.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Hong Kong protester given 9-year prison sentence after 1st ever security law trial

WATCH: Hong Kong Security Law: What is it and why is it so controversial?

A pro-democracy protester was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison in the closely watched first case under Hong Kong’s national security law as the ruling Chinese Communist Party tightens control over the territory.

Tong Ying-kit, 24, was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers at a July 1, 2020, rally. He carried a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

Beijing imposed the security law on the former British colony last year following anti-government protests that erupted in mid-2019.

The sentence was markedly longer than the three years requested by the prosecution. Tong’s defense lawyers appealed for no more than 10. He faced a possible maximum of life in prison.

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1st person tried under Hong Kong security law found guilty of terrorism, secessionism

Critics accuse Beijing of violating the autonomy and Western-style civil liberties promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 and hurting its status as a trading and financial center.

Officials reject the criticism and say Beijing is restoring order and instituting security protections like those of other countries. More than 100 people have been arrested under the security law.

Defense lawyers said Tong’s penalty should be light because the three-judge panel hadn’t found the attack was deliberate, no one was injured and the secession-related offense qualified as minor under the law.

On Friday, Tong was dressed in a black shirt and tie with a blue blazer as he was throughout his trial.

The three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Tong’s actions were an act of violence aimed at coercing the Hong Kong and mainland governments and intimidating the public. It said carrying the flag was an act of incitement to secession, rejecting defense arguments that Tong could be proven to be inciting secession just by using the slogan.

Tong’s trial was conducted without a jury under rules that allow an exception to Hong Kong’s British-style common law system if state secrets need to be protected or foreign forces are involved. The judges were picked by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The last pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper, Apple Daily, shut down last month after journalists and executives were arrested. Its owner, Jimmy Lai, is serving a 20-month prison term and faces more charges of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security.

Also last year, Hong Kong’s legislature was rearranged to reduce the public’s role in picking lawmakers and guarantee a majority to Beijing-allied figures. Rules for elected officials were tightened to require them to be deemed patriotic.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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