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Moose is Loose: Canada’s Mitch (Moose) Hooper reaches World’s Strongest Man final

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Not lacking for confidence, Canada’s Mitchell (Moose) Hooper made some bold predictions ahead of his first appearance at the World’s Strongest Man competition.

So far he’s been calling his shots.

In a recent YouTube video, the six-foot-three 315-pounder described his potential for the event and felt first- or second-place qualification results were realistic.

He backed up his talk this week at the Capitol Mall in Sacramento, Calif., by securing a berth in the weekend finals. Not bad for someone who entered the event as a relative unknown.

“I’m pretty in tune with what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of,” Hooper said. “To put it simply, I knew that if I was one of the favourites I wouldn’t want me to be in that group.”

Strong showings in the loading race, deadlift ladder, car walk and log lift gave Hooper a healthy lead in his six-man group.

He only needed a single point in the wrecking ball hold Thursday to secure first place and one of two group berths in the two-day final starting Saturday.

“I was pretty spot on,” Hooper said of his predictions. “So yeah, I have a pretty good feel for what I can do.”

Hooper, 26, has a varied sporting background. He’s the director and founder of an exercise physiology business in Barrie, Ont., which helps people with injuries and chronic conditions.

Hooper played hockey as a youth, has run marathons and had varsity golf opportunities in the United States.

He played football at the University of Guelph and completed his undergraduate degree in human kinetics before becoming head strength and conditioning coach for the National Basketball League of Canada’s KW Titans.

“I have some family with chronic health conditions,” Hooper said. “I wanted to seek out something a little bit more meaningful. So I found exercise physiology.

“I looked up the No. 1 school in the world and that happened to be the University of Sydney. Off I went.”

Hooper completed his master’s degree in 2019 and “happened to stumble upon” strength sports while Down Under. He entered a few powerlifting competitions and got some attention by winning the Australia’s Strongest Man event.

A video of a Hooper deadlift in competition recently gained steam on social media and it wasn’t long before World’s Strongest Man organizers tracked him down and invited him into the 30-man field.

He hopes a top-three standing after Saturday’s competition would leave him in good shape for a Sunday showdown.

“I wouldn’t be surprised with first, I wouldn’t be surprised with seventh,” Hooper said. “I imagine I’ll land somewhere in between there.”

On a regular day, Hooper said he usually gets up at about six in the morning and eats five or six meals a day. He aims for about 2 1/2 hours of daily training.

“I try to hit 6,000 calories (daily) and about 330 grams of protein,” Hooper said.

“A couple of cartons of egg whites — one in the morning and one at night — that usually gets me covered,” he added.

Deadlift competition and the Flintstone barbell are among the events on tap Saturday ahead of the bus pull, Atlas stones and power stairs disciplines on Sunday.

This is the 45th edition of the World’s Strongest Man. Maxime Boudreault, a native of Kapuskasing, Ont., also advanced along with reigning champion Tom Stoltman of Britain and his brother, Luke Stoltman, the reigning European champion.

Hooper, meanwhile, is showing no signs of rookie jitters against such veteran competitors.

“It’s a psychological thing as much as it is a physical thing,” he said. “Consistency really trumps everything.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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International

People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas

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MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Beehives and goat farms: Lacombe school shortlisted in global environmental contest

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Taylor Perez says she learned more about her passions while tending beehives, goats and fruit trees at her central Alberta high school than sitting through lessons in a classroom.

“These are all skills we don’t learn in regular classes,” says the 18-year-old student at Lacombe Composite High School.

“You’re not going to learn how to collaborate with community members by sitting in a classroom learning about E = mc2.”

Perez and her classmates are buzzing with excitement after their school’s student-led beekeeping program, goat farm, fruit orchard, tropical greenhouse and other environmental projects were recognized in a global sustainability contest among 10 other schools.

It’s the only North American school to be shortlisted by T4 Education, a global advocacy group, in its World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action contest.

“The projects are coming from the students’ own hearts and passion for taking care of the environment,” says Steven Schultz, an agriculture and environmental science teacher who has been teaching in Lacombe since 1996.

“They are going to be our community leaders — maybe even our politicians — and for them to know what the heartbeat of their generation is (is) extremely important.”

Schultz says the projects are pitched and designed by students in the school’s Ecovision Club, to which Perez belongs, and he then bases a curriculum around those ideas.

The school of about 900 students began reducing its environmental footprint in 2006 when a former student heard Schultz say during a lesson on renewable energy that “words were meaningless or worthless without action,” the 56-year-old teacher recalls.

“She took that to heart and a year later she came back and told me that she wanted to take the school off the grid.”

Schultz and students watched a fire burn down solar panels on the school’s roof in 2010, an event that further transformed his approach to teaching.

“As their school was burning, my students gathered in tears. That day I realized that students really care about the environment and they really care about the projects that they were involved in.”

Since then, 32 new solar panels have been installed, and they produce up to four per cent of the school’s electricity. After the fire, students also wanted to clean the air in their classrooms so they filled some with spider plants, including one in the teachers’ lounge.

More recently, students replaced an old portable classroom on school property with a greenhouse that operates solely with renewable energy. It’s growing tropical fruits, such as bananas, pineapples, and lemons, and also houses some tilapia fish.

Two acres of the school are also covered by a food forest made up of almost 200 fruit trees and 50 raised beds where organic food is grown.

The school also works with a local farm and raises baby goats inside a solar-powered barn that was built with recycled material.

“They breed and milk them at the farm because there are really tight regulations,” says Schultz.

“We take the excrement from the goats and the hay and use it as mulch and fertilizers for our garden. The goats also chew up the grass and allow us not to have to use lawn mowers and tractors”

Perez said her favourite class is the beekeeping program with 12 hives that produce more than 300 kilograms of honey every year.

“I love that they have different roles in their own little societies,” Perez says of the bees.

She says while working with local businesses and groups as a part of her curriculum, she learned she’s passionate about the environment and wants to become a pharmacist so she can continue giving back to her community.

James Finley, a formerly shy Grade 10 student, says the Ecovision Club and environment classes have helped get him out of his comfort zone.

“I made friends, which was a hard thing for me in the beginning. But now I have, like, hundreds,” says the 16-year-old, who enjoyed the lessons he took on harvesting.

“Taylor and Mr. Schultz were the main people that made me stay.”

Schultz says the winners of the contest are to be announced in the fall.

A prize of about $322,000 will be equally shared among five winners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sunday, July 3, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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