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Thriving under pressure, Team Fleury stays perfect as do-or-die games draw near

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SASKATOON — Every other afternoon game had wrapped up already, and Sherry Middaugh figured this was the perfect scenario: All eyes at Sasktel Centre were on her skip, Tracy Fleury, who was about to throw the final rock in an extra end that would make or break the game.

“Pressure,” Middaugh said, later. “That’s going to mimic being in the playoffs.”

In other words, the moment served as perfect preparation for what could be ahead at Canada’s Olympic Trials when the do-or-die games get underway this weekend, if you ask the coach of the No. 1-ranked women’s team in the world.

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And when Fleury, in that pressure cooker, floated her rock by a guard and stuck for three and the decisive win, she smiled a bit and then slid down the ice to give her teammates and coach high-fives. And then she slid off the ice.

“I’m sure she’s stressed and a bundle of nerves inside,” Middaugh said, following her team’s fifth straight win at Canada’s Olympic curling trials on Wednesday afternoon. “But she really doesn’t show it.”

Fleury sure doesn’t, though the skip did admit it was “nice to feel some nerves out there,” during this latest victory, even if you’d need a microscope to spot them.

“She’s got the perfect temperament for skip,” Middaugh said. “And you don’t often see that.”

The Sudbury-born Fleury and her team are the lone perfect rink on the women’s side here at the Roar of the Rings, with three games to go before the weekend’s playoff round begins (the top three teams here advance).

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“It was nice for us to pull off a close one,” Fleury said after that 9-6 extra ends win over Jacqueline Harrison’s team from Hamilton, Ont. “It gives us a little bit of confidence.”

Just a little bit of confidence — is that all? Fleury, lead Kristin MacCuish, second Liz Fyfe and third Selena Njegovan should be feeling more than a little confident. The team came into this event riding a high, after winning three titles earlier this season, including defending their Masters title last month on the Grand Slam of Curling circuit.

Coach Middaugh is riding a hot streak herself. The four-time Scotties bronze medallist (last in 2008) won her third straight Ontario senior women’s championship over the weekend, and had to miss the first two games here to defend her title. She didn’t arrive in Saskatoon until Monday morning.

“I felt very guilty at our event, and watching the line scores and just wanting to be here,” she said, but the team had done a mock-up of this scenario, knowing beforehand of the conflict. And Team Fleury got off to a hot start here, earning wins against another Manitoban foursome led by Kerri Einarson and then defeating Edmonton’s Kelsey Rocque.

Fleury had been curling near-perfect heading into Wednesday, and despite opening with a deuce against Harrison, she had a few misses in this latest win. She sent her final rock long in the second end and Harrison stole two to even things up, and the teams went back and forth to force the 11th and final end. Fleury curled a tournament-low 73 per cent.

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“We got away with kind of a sloppy game and still got a win out of it,” Middaugh said. “It’s in our hands, which is great — we don’t have to rely on someone else. The games are under our belt, there’s three more and we just have to continue on.”

Team Jones skip Jennifer Jones throws against Team Harrison during Draw 3 of the 2021 Canadian Olympic curling trials in Saskatoon, Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Liam Richards/CP)



Fleury’s final round-robin game comes against the fellow Manitoban rink led by the legend that is Jennifer Jones. It’s Jones (she’s 5-1 here) that Fleury beat in the final of the Masters last month.

Should Team Fleury come out of these Trials as the winners, Middaugh, who has a busy schedule — she has another curling bonspiel in a week-and-a-half — will be sure to clear her schedule for the Olympics. She placed second at Trials herself back in 2013.

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“I hate to say it, I would probably miss my own daughter’s wedding,” she said of the Games, laughing. “But thankfully, I don’t need to.”

That’s still a long way away, of course. For now, Team Fleury will continue doing what they’re doing, relaxing between games and trying to continue to rack up wins.

Being 5-0 is a good start, though. Said Fleury, just a few minutes after she’d thrown that last rock in that pressure-filled situation: “It feels good.”



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Kyrie Irving traded out of BKN… so what's next for Kevin Durant? | What's Wright?

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Nick Wright takes a look at the second player most impacted by Kyrie Irvings trade demand, and that’s Kevin Durant. With Kyrie heading to Dallas to play with Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, Nick details to Damonza why KD has now been presented with a golden opportunity to prove the one thing that has yet to be proven: He can lead a team to a championship on his own.



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Report: Nets exploring trading Dinwiddie, picks to Raptors for VanVleet

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Let the trade deadline drama begin in the NBA.

The first big domino fell Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets reportedly moved disgruntled star Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, for Spencer Dinwiddie and a handful of draft capital.

However, NBA correspondent Marc Stein is reporting Monday that the deal is still not official and that a third team may enter the fold, namely the Toronto Raptors.

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Stein is reporting that the Nets have “explored the feasibility” of packaging the newly acquired Dinwiddie with draft capital in hopes of acquiring Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet.

VanVleet, along with almost every player on the Raptors roster, has been the centre of trade rumours for the past month, as the Raptors continue to remain in limbo about their team’s future.

In fact, ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that the majority of trade discussions just three days before Thursday’s deadline revolve around the Raptors.

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What Toronto decides to do remains to be seen, but the market is clearly there should they decide to be sellers.

Stein also reported Monday that the Nets are also very interested in Raptors star Pascal Siakam, though Toronto seems reluctant to part ways with its forward from Cameroon.

The Raptors just finished up a season-long road trip with a 4-3 record, and currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 25-30 overall record. They are just a half game out of the conference’s final spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.

And while it’s undecided whether they will be buyers or sellers over the next few days, what is clear: they have some chips to play with.

The NBA’s trade deadline is this Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

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Angels GM Shared A Shohei Ohtani Spring Training Update

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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 

Pitchers and catchers of the Los Angeles Angels are scheduled to report on February 15.

That’s nine days from now.

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Yes: baseball is almost back.

If we have waited this long, might as well wait a few more days!

When it comes to the Angels, everybody wants to see Shohei Ohtani in action.

He was the 2021 AL MVP and the runner-up in 2022 for a reason: he is a uniquely dominant baseball player.

Angels fans who want to watch him in spring training will need to do it quick, though.

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The man has a commitment to play for his country, Japan, during the World Baseball Classic.

As a result, he will leave camp much earlier than anticipated.

“Shohei Ohtani will be at Angels camp until around March 1, and will make one start. He then leaves for Japan and the WBC, per Perry Minasian,” Angels insider Sam Blum tweeted.

The 2023 edition of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will be played from March 8 to March 21.

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It means Ohtani will be in Japan’s camp for a week before the official start of the competition.

The Japanese were the winners of the first two editions of the classic, in 2006 and 2009.

However, Ohtani was just a kid when they both occurred, and wants his first taste of meaningful international competition.

He also wants to make sure Japan returns to the highest place in the podium.

Angels fans will get to enjoy his talents for the whole 2023 season (or until he gets traded, which is a possibility).

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Most of his March, however, will have him focused on the WBC.

The post Angels GM Shared A Shohei Ohtani Spring Training Update appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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