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Canada's Gushue secures top seed at world men's curling championship

LAS VEGAS — Win or lose at this week's world men's curling championship, Brad Gushue feels his team's legacy is secure."I think we are the best team to ever play from the longevity that we've had and the success that we've had," Gushue said. "It's a hard argument for anybody else to make, so (a title here) would be icing on the cake for sure."His team of vice Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker has padded the resume nicely this season with a Trials win, a fourth national title in s...

LAS VEGAS — Win or lose at this week's world men's curling championship, Brad Gushue feels his team's legacy is secure.

"I think we are the best team to ever play from the longevity that we've had and the success that we've had," Gushue said. "It's a hard argument for anybody else to make, so (a title here) would be icing on the cake for sure."

His team of vice Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker has padded the resume nicely this season with a Trials win, a fourth national title in six years and an Olympic bronze.

Another medal could come this weekend after the team nailed down a semifinal berth with an 8-6 win over Scotland's Kyle Waddell on Friday. The first-place Canadians (10-2) secured the top seed in the evening with a 9-2 rout of Denmark's Tobias Thune.

Three-time defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden (9-3) closed his round-robin schedule in the afternoon with a 7-6 win over Norway's Magnus Ramsfjell. Edin earned the other direct berth to the semifinal.

The other playoff spots went to Italy's Joel Retornaz (8-4), American Korey Dropkin (7-5), Scotland (7-5) and Switzerland's Yannick Schwaller (6-6). The Swiss were in a three-way tie but got the nod thanks to last stone draw numbers.

Italy will meet Switzerland and the U.S. will face Scotland in qualification games Saturday with the winners advancing to the evening semifinals.

Gushue's current four-man lineup spent two quadrennials together, but Gallant will be leaving at the end of the season. In addition to their national and Olympic hardware, they won world gold in 2017, silver in 2018 and have 12 Grand Slam titles to their credit.

"There's enough there on the resume to cement the legacy of this team," Gushue said. "I don't know if a win here this week is going to move that needle very much. Obviously winning will improve it."

Gushue, who won Olympic gold in 2006 with Nichols, was determined to limit the distractions that he felt hampered the team when the 2018 world championship was played at this venue.

The Canadians are not staying at the tournament hotel and have laid low in their downtime. A pre-event round of golf has been the most ambitious activity on the calendar since arriving in Sin City.

It has been a taxing yet successful season for the Gushue team. They topped the field at Canada's Olympic trials last November -- considered the toughest event in curling -- and isolated in a pre-Games training camp in B.C. for a couple weeks before heading to Beijing.

A semifinal loss to Edin at the Ice Cube was followed by a win over American John Shuster in the bronze-medal game. A short break was followed by a memorable week at the Brier, where Gushue's side prevailed despite losing Nichols for the final weekend due to COVID-19.

A second world title would be quite an accomplishment in an unforgettable season that concludes with a couple of Grand Slam stops.

"There's been times this week where I've felt like a zombie out there," Gushue said. "You're focused and you're trying to do your best. But it's been a long year. It has been a grind."

The Canadians were in control over the second half against Scotland but an angle raise from fourth Ross Paterson in the ninth end tied the game at six. Gushue had hammer in the 10th but didn't need his final stone after Paterson flashed his last throw between the two Canadian rocks in the house.

It was a nice break for the Canadians since draw weight had changed during the game. Balmy conditions outside -- the mercury reached 30 C -- may have impacted ice conditions.

"We got a few flat spots and it kind of junked up," Gushue said. "If we had to draw the four-foot in the last end, it would have been a bit of a guess and you don't really want that. Fortunately, we played a really strong 10th end."

Canada opened with a pair against Denmark and pulled away with a three-point third end. The teams shook hands once the minimum six ends were completed as Canada reached the 10-win mark.

"This was what we expected," Gushue said. "It's what we wanted and what we worked for. So we're happy with it."

The venue, located a couple kilometres from the Vegas Strip, boasts plenty of Canadian flavour even though the pandemic has impacted attendance, travel plans, and limited the usual event activities.

Several dozen Canadian fans bellowed their support when Gushue's side was on the ice. The Tragically Hip's "38 Years Old" played on the arena loudspeakers after the morning game.

Gushue beat Edin in the 2017 world final in Edmonton. The Swede, a five-time world champion, won the return match a year later.

Medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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Celebrities go online to voice support for Ukraine

NEW YORK (AP) — A group of inter-generational stars from film, TV, sports and music — including Bruce Springsteen, Hugh Jackman, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish — have signed up for a social media campaign to show support fNEW YORK (AP) — A group of inter-generational stars from film, TV, sports and music — including Bruce Springsteen, Hugh Jackman, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish — have signed up for a social media campaign to show support for U...

NEW YORK (AP) — A group of inter-generational stars from film, TV, sports and music — including Bruce Springsteen, Hugh Jackman, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish — have signed up for a social media campaign to show support f

NEW YORK (AP) — A group of inter-generational stars from film, TV, sports and music — including Bruce Springsteen, Hugh Jackman, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish — have signed up for a social media campaign to show support for Ukraine.

The Global Citizen-organized social media rally Friday urges governments, institutions, corporations and individuals to help fund humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and other regions of the world. Celebrities are being asked to use their social media accounts to publicize the effort, using the hashtag #StandUpForUkraine.

Springsteen posted a video on social media Friday to show his support: “Refugees in Ukraine and around the world need our help now,” he said. “Everyone deserves safe and humane living conditions.” Barbra Streisand tweeted a link to Global Citizen and wrote: “I supported and hope you will too.”

The list of participants also includes The Weeknd, Alanis Morissette, Alejandro Sanz, Angélique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Chris Isaak, Chris Rock, Demi Lovato, FINNEAS, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Green Day, Carole King, Jon Batiste, Juanes, Kacey Musgraves, Katy Perry, Leon Bridges, Luke Combs, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Pearl Jam, Pharrell Williams, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shaquille O’Neal, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, Weezer, 5 Seconds of Summer, Dave Matthews, Radiohead, Miley Cyrus, Tame Impala, U2 and Usher.

Celine Dion took to Instagram to upload a video of support with a caption in English and French that said: “I'm calling in world leaders to help all those who are forced to leave their homes.” Ellen DeGeneres in her own video urged world leaders to “do the right thing and contribute the billions they need.”

The campaign has also been joined by players for the NBA's Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, the band Metallica, Billy Porter, Julian Lennon, Adam Lambert, Luis Fonsi, Måneskin, Padma Lakshmi, Weezer and Rita Ora.

Lenny Kravitz posted a photo of himself on Twitter holding a sign that read, in part, “Let love rule, not war.” Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, posted a video of support and a plea: “We're asking everyone who sees this to amplify this call.”

The campaign takes place a day before a pledging conference Saturday co-hosted by European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

__

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

The Weeknd, Doja Cat lead artists at Billboard Music Awards

The Weeknd is the top finalist at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards for a second year in a row, up for 17 awards, followed by Doja Cat, who is up for 14 awards.The Weeknd is the top finalist at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards for a second year in a row, up for 17 awards, followed by Doja Cat, who is up for 14 awards.Finalists were announced Friday across 62 categories for the awards that measure chart success, streaming, airplay and social engagement. ...

The Weeknd is the top finalist at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards for a second year in a row, up for 17 awards, followed by Doja Cat, who is up for 14 awards.

The Weeknd is the top finalist at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards for a second year in a row, up for 17 awards, followed by Doja Cat, who is up for 14 awards.

Finalists were announced Friday across 62 categories for the awards that measure chart success, streaming, airplay and social engagement. The show will air on NBC and Peacock on May 15 from Las Vegas.

The Weeknd picked up nods in top artist, top 100 artist and top streaming songs artist and his duet with Ariana Grande on “Save Your Tears (Remix)” is up for six awards. Also nominated for top artist are Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and Drake, who is the show's most decorated winner of all time with 29 total awards.

Doja Cat, who recently won her first Grammy Award for her collaboration “Kiss Me More” with SZA, is up for top 100 song, top collaboration and top viral song.

First-time finalist Rodrigo continues her streak of a being an awards show favorite as a finalist in 13 categories, including top new artist, top female artist and top radio songs artist.

Justin Bieber also is up for 13 awards, including top male artist, top Hot 100 artist and top streaming song for his song “STAY” with The Kid LAROI.

Ye, who changed his name from Kanye West, is a finalist for 13 awards and a strong favorite in the Christian/gospel categories. He has four out of the five songs in both top gospel song and top Christian song categories, and his album “Donda” is also up for top rap album, top gospel album and top Christian album.

Swift has a chance to surpass Drake for most wins in the show's history. The pop star is second behind him with 25 previous wins and is up for seven awards this year. But Drake is also up for 11 awards, including top Billboard 200 Album, top rap artist and top streaming songs artist.

This year, five new categories were added, four of which are based on Billboard's global charts, and one measuring viral songs. The 2022 awards are based on the chart period of April 10, 2021, through March 26, 2022.

Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press

Hernández leads Blue Jays to wild 10-8 win in Toronto's first home opener since 2019

TORONTO — The Blue Jays' first home opener in Toronto in three years won't soon be forgotten by Teoscar Hernández, his teammates, or the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.TORONTO — The Blue Jays' first home opener in Toronto in three years won't soon be forgotten by Teoscar Hernández, his teammates, or the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.Hernández had a three-run blast and scored the winning run as Toronto rallied for a raucous 10-8 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday. It was the first time Roger...

TORONTO — The Blue Jays' first home opener in Toronto in three years won't soon be forgotten by Teoscar Hernández, his teammates, or the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.

TORONTO — The Blue Jays' first home opener in Toronto in three years won't soon be forgotten by Teoscar Hernández, his teammates, or the sold-out crowd at Rogers Centre.

Hernández had a three-run blast and scored the winning run as Toronto rallied for a raucous 10-8 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday. It was the first time Rogers Centre had hosted a home opener since 2019, as COVID-19 restrictions forced the Blue Jays to play all of 2020 and most of 2021 in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, N.Y.

When the team did return to Toronto late last summer Ontario still had capacity limits in place for most venues, limiting the cavernous Rogers Centre to just 15,000 fans.

"The moment was very special," said Hernández of Friday's win. "I think there's not a single player in this clubhouse that is going to forget today, what happened today."

Hernández played in Toronto's last home opener at Rogers Centre, a 2-0 loss to Detroit, but the Blue Jays core of young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio had never experienced it until Friday.

They got the full experience with a crowd of 45,022 at Rogers Centre, the first sellout at Toronto's ballpark since March 29, 2018, wildly cheering and booing with every lead change in the back-and-forth game.

"We always knew it was going to be like that from the beginning," said Hernández. "We're just excited to be back and enjoy every single moment with the fans."

Danny Jansen added some insurance with an eighth-inning homer as Toronto (1-0) came back from a 7-0 deficit.

José Berríos gave up four runs in just a third of an inning as Toronto's Opening Day starter escaped with a no decision. Berríos said that he felt good warming up before the game but when he got to the mound he was throwing instead of pitching.

"When it came to game I was trying to be too perfect, I think like too nasty and I didn't throw the ball over the plate," he said.

Seven relievers came out of the Blue Jays' bullpen, with Adam Cimber recording the win and Jordan Romano of nearby Markham, Ont., earning the save.

"Everyone here can help the team win ball games and we saw that tonight, our bullpen kept us in game," said Berríos. "They battled, they pitched, they competed."

Mitch Garver's two-run home run helped Texas (0-1) build a 6-0 lead by the end of the sixth inning. Brad Miller and Adolis Garcia added solo blasts for the visitors.

Jon Gray struck out four but allowed three runs over four innings for the Rangers and left the game when he developed a blister on his throwing hand. Dennis Santana, one of four Texas relievers, took the loss.

A lengthy pre-game ceremony kept the crowd on its feet for more than 35 minutes. Guerrero, Hernández, and Marcus Semien — who signed with Texas in the off-season after playing for the Blue Jays last year — formally received their Silver Slugger awards. Guerrero earned the loudest cheers, including M-V-P chants, as he trotted out from the dugout during team introductions.

Miller, leading off for Texas, immediately quieted the Rogers Centre crowd when he bounced a 1-2 pitch from Berríos off the stadium's second deck.

Berríos's struggles didn't end there. He couldn't get his first out until he was six batters into the Rangers' lineup and Toronto was trailing 3-0. By the middle of the fourth inning Texas had built a 7-0 lead.

"It's funny because it seems like everybody was a little nervous at the beginning because we expected so many people and we want to give them a good show," said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.

"But then we settled down."

Guerrero singled home George Springer in the fourth and advanced Bichette to second. Hernández then walked to load the bases and brought Lourdes Gurriel Jr., up to bat.

Gurriel hit into a fielder's choice scoring Bichette and Alejandro Kirk's sacrifice fly brought in Guerrero to cut Texas's lead to 7-3.

"You give them a little bit of hope, they’re going to feed off of that," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "They’re a very talented but also emotional team, so they feed off of that emotion."

The top of Toronto's batting order kept chipping away in the fifth.

Springer drew a two-out walk before Bichette and Guerrero had back-to-back singles to score again. Hernández then smashed a pitch just over the right-field fence to tie the game 7-7.

Santiago Espinal, pinch hitting for Biggio, gave Toronto its first lead of the game with a double in the sixth, cashing in Jansen. But Garcia tied it back up for Texas in the seventh with his homer.

A controversial play in the bottom of that inning put Toronto back ahead.

Hernández was called out at home plate by umpire Bill Welke when Gurriel doubled to deep left and advanced to third on Miller's throw. Fans chanted "Safe!" as umpires reviewed the play but erupted with cheers when the call was reversed and Hernández was ruled safe.

"I mean, there's not a better moment than that," said Hernández.

Jansen gave the Blue Jays more of a cushion with a one-out home run for the game's final score.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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Canadian welterweight (Proper) Mike Malott set for UFC debut

While it took (Proper) Mike Malott just 39 seconds to earn his UFC contract on Dana White's Contender Series in October, the Canadian welterweight spent considerably longer getting there.The 30-year-old from Burlington, Ont., began training in 2005."It's a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices — that I'm happy to make," he said in an interview. "It's not like I do this begrudgingly. I'm happy to put my time into this. It's my passion. It's something I really want to be successful in."And he is beginn...

While it took (Proper) Mike Malott just 39 seconds to earn his UFC contract on Dana White's Contender Series in October, the Canadian welterweight spent considerably longer getting there.

The 30-year-old from Burlington, Ont., began training in 2005.

"It's a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices — that I'm happy to make," he said in an interview. "It's not like I do this begrudgingly. I'm happy to put my time into this. It's my passion. It's something I really want to be successful in."

And he is beginning to enjoy the fruits of that labour.

On Saturday, Malott (7-1-1) makes his UFC debut against American Micky Gall (7-4-0) on the undercard of UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Being on a pay-per-view (card) is a huge honour," Malott said. "I'm a fan of this sport first, and foremost. That's what got me into it. I grew up watching these pay-per-views as a kid. I didn't miss a pay-per-view."

The main event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena sees Australia's Alexander (The Great) Volkanovski defend his featherweight title against the Korean Zombie, the No. 4 contender among 135-pounders whose real name is Chan Sung Jung.

Bantamweight champion Aljamain (Funk Master) Sterling faces interim title-holder and former champion Petr (No Mercy) Yan of Russia in the co-main event.

Malott's fight career took him to California seven years ago to join Team Alpha Male. He made Sacramento his home, although he spent most of this training camp back in Ontario.

"Right now the scene in Southern Ontario has gotten a lot better," he explained. "I've a lot of great training partners and people are starting to work together collectively a lot more than when I first moved to Sacramento.

"Before everything was really spread out and I was training at different gyms and I didn't feel like I really had a home base."

Malott trains at Niagara Top Team in St. Catharines, Ont. Gym co-owner Chris Prickett is a close friend — and former national wrestling champion.

"A lot of guys my size (there) and a lot of guys that can emulate that Mickey Gall style quite well," said Malott.

The 30-year-old Gall is coming off a December loss to Alex (the Great White) Morono that dropped his UFC record to 6-4-0. He won his first three fights in the promotion, including a submission victory over highly touted Sage Northcutt, but has gone 3-4-0 since.

"He's definitely dangerous," said Malott, who is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "You can't underestimate the guy. He's got a pretty solid ground game. He's tough on the feet. He's not the most technical or crisp striker but he doesn't seem afraid to fight.

"(I) definitely respect him. But I think I'm definitely better than him everywhere."

Malott got the UFC's attention by dispatching Israel's Shimon (Assassin) Smotritsky via guillotine choke for the second-fastest submission in the six-season history of Dana White's Contender Series. The TV show, held at the UFC's Apex production facility in Las Vegas, offers fighters a chance to impress the UFC president — and possibly earn a UFC deal.

Malott took a break from fighting between February 2017 and December 2020, when he defeated Solomon (The Black Dragon) Renfro in the Cage Fury Fighting Championship promotion. That was his last action before the Dana White Contender Series bout.

Malott said he took the time off to re-evaluate things.

"I kind of lost the passion for fighting," he said. "The idea didn't excite me. It was purely discipline that was keeping me training for MMA, it wasn't passion at all."

So he opted to compete in jiu-jitsu instead. At the same time, Team Alpha Male boss Urijah (The California Kid) Faber offered him the role of striking coach.

He went on to corner Cody (No Love) Garbrandt, Andre (Touchy) Fili, Darren (The Damage) Elkins and Faber, among others, in the UFC. He reckons he has already been part of 20 UFC fight weeks, including an earlier card in Jacksonville.

"That kind of gave me way more experience and confidence going back into competing and MMA," he said.

Malott isn't used to long fights, however. He has had to go beyond the first round just once — in a 2015 draw with France's Thomas Diagne in Bellator action.

His other eight fights have lasted a combined 11 minutes 26 seconds. "I'm not afraid to look for a finish and I'm not afraid take calculated risks."

In his last outing, he dropped to the ground after grabbing Smotritsky's neck as the two tangled. That led to the quick choke.

Malott is not the only athlete in the family.

Younger brother Jeff is a winger in the Winnipeg Jets organization. The 25-year-old Jeff, the bigger of the brothers at six foot three and 204 pounds, made his NHL regular-season debut March 20 in a 6-4 win at Chicago.

Jeff Malott, who attended Cornell, has 21 goals, 15 assists and 49 penalty minutes in 54 games for the AHL Manitoba Moose this season.

"The kid's not scared to throw the mitts down if he has to," Mike Malott said proudly. "I've put the pads on for him a couple of times and held mitts for him and taught him some stuff. He's big and athletic anyway so he'd be able to handle himself regardless. But I tried to show him stuff I though might help him in some hockey fights."

Malott, who is 6-1 and normally walks around at 185 pounds, said he wasn't that good at hockey. But MMA caught his eye.

"I don't know what it was but something about fighting just clicked for me. I felt like I was able to pick it up pretty quickly and it just kind of made sense to me."

He found a local taekwondo gym in Waterdown where he grew up, then transitioned to a Muay Thai gym in Stoney Creek before moving east to attend Dalhousie University, training at Titans MMA in Halifax.

"I took fighting far more seriously than my degree," he said.

He made his pro debut in April 2011 while at Dalhousie.

"Getting into fights on the weekends and then going back to class on Mondays," he recalled.

Malott started as a featherweight (145 pounds) but now fights at welterweight (170).

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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