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Last week our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles

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To become a true sports fan, everyone must understand the day-to-day definition of miracle.

League championships count, of course. So do record-setting performances and, rarely, the sort of team or individual success that stamps itself on the viewer’s memory for many years.

Last week, in this humble view, our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles:

* Felix Auger-Alliasime, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil became the first Canadians to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open, among the world’s most iconic tennis tournaments;

* Little-known goaltender Thatcher Demko, a San Diego product who was virtually unknown in the NHL, constructed an amazing goaltending streak that carried the underdog Vancouver Canucks all the way to a seventh game in a Stanley Cup playoff quarter-final;

* Our best-ever basketball player, Steve Nash, accepted a contract to coach the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association.”I knew I wanted to pursue coaching if and when the right chance came.”

* Occasional starter Ogi Anunoby combined with team leader Kyle Lowry on a buzzer-beating, three-point shocker with a half-second remaining — repeat, a HALF-SECOND remaining — to keep the Toronto Raptors alive in their bid to repeat as NBA champions.

Probably the worst thing about sports miracles is that they sometimes fade at painful speed.

Apart from Shapovalov’s victory over Belgian vet David Goffin and the fact that Nash signed a long-term coaching arrangement, that’s exactly what happened this time.

After spotting Goffin the first set in a tie-breaker, the 22-year-old lefty took total control of the next three sets. Pospisil and Auger-Aliassime — known to most of his fans simply as “Double-A” — each played well but lost in the first set. There was little excitement for Canadian fans as they failed to win another set, and probably didn’t reach another break point.

Arguably, the most exciting moments, win or lose, were split between Anunoby and Demko. They also shared immense “cool” when discussing their feats.

Demko, a San Diego product who spent three years in goal at Boston College, made several references to teammates who sacrificed their bodies numerous times in the three games he played at Edmonton’s Rogers Place — two of them victories — against a bigger, stronger, faster Las Vegas team.

Anunoby was even more succinct: “I took the shot because I thought it would go in,” the budding star said without a smile. “I don’t take a shot and expect to miss it.” Later, experts compared his moment of brilliance with Kawhi Leonard’s unforgettable four-bounce shot to defeat Philadelphia on the way to last year’s title.

The future is bright for all of the young players — AA is the baby, just turned 20 years old — and for the 46-year-old Nash, as well as for Demko’s Vancouver Canucks allies, a collection of solid journeymen and fast-improving youngsters.

But things don’t look so good for the Raptors. After Anunobi’s stunner in that 104-103 victory over Boston, they posted a second win and squared the series. Unfortunately, miracles do not always carry long guarantees: the Raptors were humiliated in the fifth game of the series and could be on the sidelines for good by Thursday morning.

If another miracle arrives in Orlando tonight (Wednesday), Nick Nurse and his players are sure to make it welcome.

Edmonton’s connection to the defection of Baltimore Orioles’ superstar Jose Iglesias

Alberta

Alberta premier to outline more support for business during COVID health restrictions

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EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is to speak this morning on providing more support to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney promised more aid last week after his government introduced a new round of restrictions to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity and restaurants can only offer takeout or curbside service, although patios remain open.

The Opposition NDP says Kenney’s government has failed for a year to properly manage economic supports, saying the money is always too little, too late.

Kenney faces opposition from some quarters — even within his own caucus — to ease up on public-health measures even as the province is recording more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

He says restrictions on public gatherings need to be in place a bit longer until vaccination rates reach critical mass.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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