Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Skicross injuries show the risks of the sport and the challenges of course-building

    There's a severe risk of injury in plenty of the Winter Olympic sports, and we're really seeing that with skicross in Sochi.

    The sport, which originated in the 1980s as a way to bring the side-by-side racing excitement found in motocross and auto racing to skiing, has four participants racing at a time, taking on both steep downhills and jumps in a race to the finish. It's a fantastic spectator sport, but in Russia, it's led to numerous injuries thus far, including Russia's Maria Komissarova breaking a vertebra in her back during a training run Saturday and requiring six and a half hours of surgery in Germany.

    (Special to Yahoo Sports)

    That's led to questions about if the Sochi course is unsafe, if injuries are to be expected in this sport, and perhaps even if qualifying standards should be more rigorous. Canadian men's skicross racer Brady Leman told Yahoo's Jeff Passan and Eric Adelson that this course is extremely difficult, which might have contributed to Komissarova's injury:

    "This is a super challenging course here," Leman told Yahoo Sports. "For someone in her position, she'd had have to been on her game here. If you're one of the athletes at the back of the pack, there's not a lot of room for error."

    It's notable that Leman is also talking about Komissarova's relative ability, though. As noted in that piece, she's only been competing in ski cross since the end of the 2010-11 season, and she hadn't finished in the top 15 in any event so far this season. That doesn't mean that the injury was necessarily her fault, but her skill level is something that should be factored in here. Leman went on to say that the ability spread in a relatively-young sport like ski cross can make it challenging for course designers to make something that's both challenging for the best and reasonably safe for other participants, and Canadian women's ski cross racer Marielle Thompson added that she feels the course is safe.

    Read More »from Skicross injuries show the risks of the sport and the challenges of course-building
  • Winning an Olympic medal is incredibly hard, and Canada's record in alpine skiing over the past two decades shows that. Despite numerous talented athletes who found success on the World Cup level and came close at the Games, Canadian alpine skiers hadn't won an Olympic medal since 1994 heading into Sochi. Jan Hudec managed to break that drought in Sunday's super-G, though, burying a lucky loonie next to the finish and then coming through with a blazing time of 1:18:67, tying him with American skier Bode Miller for bronze. It's perhaps perfect that Hudec was the man to do that, as just making it to these Olympics was unbelievably difficult for him; he overcame seven knee surgeries and crippling back pain to shine for Canada, and he wouldn't even have had a chance to do that if not for a perilous defection by his parents while he was a baby. From Sean Fitz-Gerald of The National Post:

    Sailing enthusiasts around the world still race the small class of boat that Jan Hudec’s parents used to flee their homeland, floating across the top of the Adriatic Sea with a 10-month-old future Olympian on board. The boat was, and is, known as a Fireball.

    Calling it a boat makes it seem grander than it really is; it’s a two-person dinghy designed to ride low in the water. They are made from fibreglass now, but when Jan Sr. and his wife, Vladi, ordered the kit more than 30 years ago — they had to build it themselves — it was made of wood. Leaving would be a risk, but so was staying in Czechoslovakia.

    So they ordered it, and Jan Sr. built it, in secret, at his mother’s house. Husband and wife practised on a lake, just to get comfortable. They planned their escape from communism during a vacation in Yugoslavia, where they were allowed to travel.

    Two days from the end of their trip, they shoved off, their baby, Jan, in tow. In a story he has been told his whole life, Jan’s mother had to bail water as they crossed to freedom, in Italy. They barely made it to the beach, but they made it. And, eventually, they made it to Canada, the name of which crossed the jacket Jan Hudec was wearing Sunday, as he retold the story inside the Canadian Olympic Committee’s temporary office in Russia.

    That story, he said, led him to where he was sitting, and not just literally. Hudec has been struggling with injury for a decade, with seven knee surgeries and a wonky back that left him bedridden in January. He was in pain again last week — and was in pain again as he spoke, sitting on a couch — but he was also an Olympic medal winner.

    Here's what Hudec told NBC about just how difficult that journey was:

    Read More »from Jan Hudec’s story of triumph: escaping communism, surviving surgeries and winning Canada’s first alpine medal in 20 years
  • Rory Kohlert is back in Winnipeg, and never would have left if the Redblacks had their way.The greatest insult possible in the CFL? Being told your team is so bad that other franchises would rather pass than take your players. That's reportedly what happened to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in December's Ottawa Redblacks expansion draft, a story that emerged this week thanks to Canadian receiver Rory Kohlert returning to Winnipeg in free agency. Kohlert was the lone pending free agent chosen by Ottawa; many teams left pending free agents unsigned until after the draft, likely gambling that the Redblacks wouldn't risk taking them, and they were proved right in every case but Kohlert's, which caused him to stick out at the time and saw some jokes that they thought about passing. This week, it came out that the jokes were true, as TSN's Dave Naylor tweeted that the Redblacks tried to pass rather than taking anyone from Winnipeg, but were forced to make a pick by the league:

    If that's accurate, that's a pretty scathing indictment of the depth of Winnipeg's Canadian content. It doesn't mean that the Bombers had no players who would fit in on the Redblacks, as Ottawa quite willingly chose import receiver Wallace Miles in round one and non-import LB James Green in round two, but it does mean that by the time Winnipeg had protected six further Canadians in advance of round three (for a total of 12), there was no one left that the Redblacks wanted to take. Granted, many of the pickings across the league were slim by the third round, but Ottawa still managed to grab some quality talent in it, including OL Marwan Hage, LB Jay Pottinger and DB Eric Fraser, so the Bombers having no one left unprotected who interested the Redblacks doesn't say anything good about the state of their Canadian talent. Granted, Winnipeg had a lot of pending free agents, including Kohlert, so Ottawa's avoidance of those guys is also a factor here (and that, rather than any comment on his ability, may be why they didn't want Kohlert), but that doesn't negate the problematic state of their non-import depth.

    Read More »from Redblacks tried to pass on Bombers’ players in expansion draft, were forced to take Rory Kohlert, who’s now back in Winnipeg
  • Some of the best Canadian stories at the Sochi Olympics haven't been about those who won medals, but rather those who didn't, including cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth helping a Russian skier, Larisa Yurkiw completing her self-funded journey to the Games by skiing well on a sprained ankle and long-track speedskater Gilmore Junio stepping aside for teammate Denny Morrison (who went on to win silver) in the 1000-metre event. That latter heartfelt gesture from Junio has given his profile a massive boost, and his sacrifice hasn't gone unnoticed. In fact, plenty of people have been campaigning on Twitter for him to carry the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies. (It probably doesn't hurt that Junio has the amazing Twitter handle of @cdnhappygilmore). Here are some of the best #GilForFlagBearer tweets, including one from Morrison himself:

    [Related: Shani Davis looking to rebound in 1500m event]

    Read More »from Gilmore Junio’s selfless act to give up his spot has resulted in a #GilForFlagBearer campaign
  • Brock University professor Blayne Haggart thinks the CBC has lost its integrity.The Olympics usually tend to bring out some unusual viewpoints, and one of those was expressed in The Globe and Mail Tuesday. The paper ran a guest column from Blayne Haggart arguing that the CBC, Canada's official Olympic broadcaster this time around, has sacrificed its journalistic integrity in the name of the Games. Haggart, an assistant professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, then goes on to argue that the Olympics are a "corrupting exercise" because they've been held in countries with oppressive regimes, that "we don’t need the Olympics to celebrate sports," and that at the Games, "every athletic triumph is inextricably linked to the suffering of the powerless," problematic arguments all around. It's his argument as to why the CBC's corrupt that's the most hilarious and ludicrous, though. What's their crime? They agreed to IOC regulations that prevent CBC radio coverage from being heard outside Canada during the Olympics:

    The CBC has effectively turned over decisions about how its news and entire Radio 1 network will be distributed to the International Olympic Committee, which controls the rights to the Olympics.

    [Related: Gold medallist jokes about giving Bob Costas pinkeye]

    This move casts a shadow over all of the CBC’s Olympics reporting. If they’re willing to allow the IOC such control, how do we know they’re not also toning down reports of dog slaughters, worker deaths (over 60 to date, according to the Building and Wood Worker’s International union) and human-rights violations to keep people focused on the aforementioned luge competition. Even worse, it suggests that there’s little the CBC won’t do for the right payday.

    If any other group on the planet had tried this trick, the CBC’s bright lights would’ve (rightly) huffed about “journalistic integrity” and “the importance of independent media.” Canadians’ trust in the CBC’s journalism is possibly its most valuable asset, particularly since they’ve just lost their Hockey Night in Canada cash cow.

    Instead, they’ve cashed it in because, Olympics.

    It's a good thing Haggart is a political science professor and not a journalism one (although his Brock biography describes him as "an economist and journalist in his past lives"), because he shows remarkably little understanding of the divide between distribution/business decisions and content decisions. Geoblocking, or restricting content based on a listener's location, certainly has its problems, but it's awfully hard to argue that agreeing to only broadcast content in your country as part of an Olympic broadcasting contract (presumably to protect the value of rights in other countries) affects your organization's journalistic integrity. That's a business decision, pure and simple, and the CBC (and presumably other media organizations in other countries) had to agree to it in order to get Olympic rights. Moreover, what exactly is CBC sacrificing on the journalistic front by only broadcasting certain content in Canada? There's no reason that should affect their journalistic coverage, and no evidence that it has.

    Read More »from Globe and Mail guest columnist argues CBC has “corrupted itself”—by agreeing to IOC geoblocking restrictions?
  • Kory Sheets won the Grey Cup with the Riders, but is now off to the Raiders.The Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders have suffered substantial losses already this offseason, and they took another hit in free agency Wednesday—but not from a fellow CFL team. Instead, it came from the NFL's Oakland Raiders, who signed former Riders' running back Kory Sheets. Sheets' loss isn't entirely unexpected, as he had previously worked out for several NFL teams, including the Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts, and there could have been a free-agency bidding war for him even if he did stay in the CFL. However, his departure still adds to the significant attrition the Riders have already experienced this offseason, and it perhaps leaves a bigger hole than any of the team's other losses.

    What Sheets did in 2013 was remarkable. Early on in the year, he set a record for the most rushing yards ever in a three-game stretch, incredible considering how the CFL's adapted into more and more of a passing league over the years. Sheets' presence allowed the Riders to become a throwback team that ran the ball far more than anyone else, and that strategy paid off for them, as they used it both to have a dominant first half of the season and to make a run through the playoffs to the Grey Cup. It was a strategy centred around Sheets, though, so it's no coincidence that they went into a three-game skid when he got hurt snapped that slump when he returned. He was also crucial to their Grey Cup victory, setting an all-time record with 197 rushing yards and shattering Johnny Bright's 1956 record of 169 yards in the process. While Saskatchewan also found success through the air with Darian Durant and an impressive receiving corps, and while their solid defence played a major role in their Grey Cup win, Sheets was the core of the Roughriders' offensive identity. He won't be easy to replace.

    Read More »from Kory Sheets signs with Raiders, increasing Riders’ losses and forcing an offensive identity shift
  • Does Canada’s medal-focused funding strategy present a catch-22?

    Canada's Brad Martin didn't medal in the halfpipe; might more funding have helped?Canada's doing very well in the medal count in Sochi thus far, as expected, and that's partly thanks to the change in approach ahead of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. However, while the Own The Podium program's focus on channelling more money to those determined to be realistic medal hopefuls has produced plenty of success stories, there are some drawbacks to it as well. In particular, there's the question of it's a catch-22: athletes have to show medal potential to receive significant funding, but can they demonstrate that potential without funding? If not, Canada could be missing out on medals thanks to not giving certain athletes enough of a chance to develop. That's an argument that's mentioned by The Toronto Star's Kerry Gillespie, who talked with Canadian snowboard coach Dan Raymond about why his male and female riders were seen as unlikely to medal in halfpipe:

    Canada’s snowboard coach Dan Raymond was under no illusions about what the very best snowboard halfpipe riders in the nation were likely to achieve here.

    “They can’t bluff their way into a medal. We all understand that,” Raymond said earlier in the week.

    For him, success is when his riders deliver their best, regardless of the result.

    “They’ve been working on their personal Olympic dream runs for the last year, for their whole careers really. For them to put that down … would be considered the ultimate success.” ...

    The Olympics create “a lot of reminders of the importance of medals,” Raymond said.

    That’s particularly true now that sport funding in Canada is tied so closely to Olympic success.

    That puts his team in the midst of a sporting Catch-22. They are not considered to have medal potential, so they don’t get the extra funding that would help them afford the training opportunities they need to get better.

    “When you fall in love with a sport, you don’t think twice about whether or not it’s going to be an easy road to the success that you crave,” he said. “You do it because you love that sport.”

    The discussion here isn't necessarily about rolling back the Own The Podium strategy across the board. There clearly is a limited pot of funding to go around, and the approach of heavily funding strong medal contenders has proved very successful for Canada. However, development needs to be considered as well; there's a distinction between those who are unlikely to medal regardless of funding and those who aren't necessarily medal contenders at the moment, but could be with a little more investment.

    Read More »from Does Canada’s medal-focused funding strategy present a catch-22?
  • Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field, seen under construction in November, won't open until July 26.There's plenty to discuss with Wednesday's release of the CFL schedule for 2014 (almost a month ahead of when it came out last year), including the nine-team schedule that sees one team have a bye every week (that's going to be a big change), the first game being Toronto in Winnipeg on Thursday, June 26 (really, the league wants to start the season off with a Bombers' team that went 3-15 last year?), the Grey Cup rematch between Hamilton and Saskatchewan on Sunday, June 29, the return of a Labour Day Classic double-header (after the first year since 1949 without one) with Toronto-Hamilton and Edmonton-Calgary on Monday, September 1, less stupid midweek home games for the Toronto Argonauts (the Blue Jays' schedule has caused plenty of these in the past, but the league schedulers have done well to work around that this year; there's only one Argonauts' midweek home game, on Tuesday, August 12), and the final four weeks being intradivisional play only. However, one of the most interesting things on this schedule is like Sherlock Holmes' "curious incident of the dog in the night-time"; something that didn't happen. That would be early home games in their new stadiums for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks.

    Read More »from CFL schedule features late home debuts for Hamilton and Ottawa, which should help stadium construction, but carries trade-offs
  • Larisa Yurkiw raised $150,000 herself to get to Sochi.When is a 20th-place finish at the Olympics remarkable? When it comes from Larisa Yurkiw, a skier Alpine Canada dropped from the team before this World Cup season, one who sought out her own sponsors and paid her own way on the World Cup circuit to qualify for the Sochi Games, and one who's bounced back from a horrific 2009 crash that tore multiple ligaments in her left knee and kept her out of competition for two years. Yurkiw also suffered a sprained ankle in training Friday, but still elected to compete in Wednesday's downhill anyway. After what she went through just to get to Sochi, nothing was going to keep her from this race (or Saturday's super-G, which she's also scheduled to compete in).

    The challenges the 25-year-old Yurkiw, from Owen Sound, Ontario, overcame in her effort to get to these Games are remarkable. She displayed promise on the World Cup circuit early on, recording seven top 30s from 2008 to 2009, and looked set to maybe compete for Canada in Vancouver, but crashed during a training run in December 2009 and tore her ACL, her MCL and her lateral and medial meniscus, a combined bunch of knee injuries so bad they're known as the "unhappy triad". That injury alone would have stopped many, but not Yurkiw. Here's what Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star wrote about her recovery:

    Read More »from Canada’s Larisa Yurkiw finishes 20th in downhill, but overcame massive funding and injury hurdles
  • William Shatner and Jesse Lumsden discuss bobsleigh, carbonite and the Molson beer fridge

    The Olympics are crazily popular around the world, and there are always plenty of celebrities watching and tweeting about them. In London two years ago, Samuel L. Jackson captivated the world with his Olympic tweets, and at these Sochi Games, one of the most notable commentators has been William Shatner. Shatner, the Canadian-born actor who's apparently a big fan of the American bobsled team now (although his loyalties are divided when it comes to the Canada-U.S. women's hockey showdown), has been talking about the Olympics a lot recently, including posting the medal count, and he got into a fascinating conversation with Canadian bobsledder (and former CFLer) Jesse Lumsden early Wednesday morning. Here it is:

    That's just an amazing discussion. Shatner, of course, is referencing American bobsledder Johnny Quinn's various misadventures in Sochi, which, so far, have included being trapped in a bathroom (which he then smashed his way out of) and stuck in an elevator. Lumsden's response with a picture of a sculpture of Han Solo frozen in carbonite is perfect trolling, as that's from Star Wars and Shatner famously starred as the original Captain Kirk in Star Trek. (Don't even ask about the Star Wars - Star Trek fanbase wars.)

    Then Quinn himself got in on the action:

    (Quinn's was later retweeted by Shatner.)

    It's great to see Shatner respond to Lumsden, though; someone with 1.75 million followers probably gets a lot of unnecessary mentions, but not only did he pick up on Lumsden being an athlete himself, he retweeted the comment and responded. Lumsden's line about Canadians not smack-talking is also hilarious, as is Shatner's comment on the beer fridge.

    The cherry on top is Lumsden's planned international celebration, though. If he's able to pull that off, we have just one thing to say: beam us up, Scotty!

    Read More »from William Shatner and Jesse Lumsden discuss bobsleigh, carbonite and the Molson beer fridge

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