Swansea manager Bob Bradley fired after less than three months

He felt he’d earned his shot at a big job after a number of setbacks and rejections, and was proud to be the first American coach to manage in the Premier League.Turning around Swansea’s fortunes was always going to be a difficult task, though, especially for a man with no experience with British soccer. “I knew exactly what I was getting into when I came to Swansea,” Bradley said by text message, “and realized the hardest part was always going to be getting points in the short run.“But I believe in myself and I believe in going for it.”Swansea is above only Hull on goal differential after 18 games of the 38-game season. He didn’t even make it to the Bournemouth game on Saturday, with the board taking decisive action that will at least give Swansea’s new manager the January transfer window to make changes.Assistant coaches Paul Williams and Alan Curtis will take charge of the team in the short term. American businessmen Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan have run the south Wales club since July, when they bought a 68 per cent controlling stake.Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and current Wales manager Chris Coleman are the early favourites with British bookmakers to replace Bradley.Bradley arrived at Liberty Stadium with a strong reputation after spells at clubs in Norway and France, as well as stints as coach of the United States and Egypt national teams during his 35-year coaching career. He is a good man, a good person who gave everything to the job.”Once regarded as a beacon of stability and an example of how a soccer club should be run, Swansea will begin the search for its fifth full-time manager in less than three years, desperate to keep its place in the richest soccer league of all. After taking training on Tuesday, Bradley later returned to the club’s training ground only to be told he had been dismissed by the team’s American co-owners. Bradley couldn’t shore up Swansea’s defence — the team conceded 29 goals in his time in charge, and at least three goals in eight of his 11 games — and had only one attacker of true quality, Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.Bradley was unconcerned about coming under scrutiny — mostly from British soccer fans on social media — for his occasional use of American soccer terms like “PK” (for penalty kick) and “road games” (for away games), but was worried about Swansea’s sloppy play and failure to keep clean sheets.Bradley acknowledged that Swansea’s two games immediately after Christmas, at home to West Ham and Bournemouth, could determine his future. Bob Bradley waited years for the chance to coach a team in one of Europe’s top soccer leagues.When he finally got it, the job proved too big for him.The 58-year-old American was fired as Swansea manager on Tuesday, just 85 days after taking over the English Premier League’s next to last place team.Bradley won two of his 11 matches in charge, with his fate sealed a day after a 4-1 loss at home to West Ham that left Swansea in the relegation zone. The Welsh club is four points from safety, having been one place out of the relegation zone when Bradley joined.“With the club going through such a tough time,” Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said in a statement, “we have to try and find the answers to get ourselves out of trouble.“Personally, I have nothing but praise for Bob.

Canada kicks off world juniors with win over Russia

His shot eluded Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov, a Washington Capitals prospect.By this point, Canada was fully in charge of the game for the first time since the opening five minutes of the first period when Tyson Jost, a first-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, roofed a backhand to open the scoring. The Canadians held a wide lead in shots throughout the first two periods but took most of that time to get their game together. By the third period, the Canadians were in control and finished the night with a 37-16 edge in shots. It was a nice finish to an equally nice setup, as Jost skated into the high slot, found himself alone and yelled loud enough for a pass to be heard in the last row of the building.Canadian defenceman Phillipe Myers heard him loud and clear and put the puck right on Jost’s stick. While the shot clock declared Canada’s opening game of the 2017 world junior hockey championship an artistic success, there were still a few kinks in the team’s game on Boxing Day.However, the Canadians finished with a relatively easy 5-3 win at the Air Canada Centre over Russia, as the visitors could not muster a response to the openings the Canadians allowed at various times. There were a lot of missed passes and turnovers that the Russians were unable to capitalize on before Canada got enough of a handle on things to take a 3-1 lead into the third period.After Canada outshot Russia 12-5 in the first period, only to see the score tied 1-1, the Canadians started the second by tripping all over themselves. This would turn out to be a theme for the Russian goals and raise some questions about Carter.The Canadians scored two more power-play goals early in the third period to take a 5-2 lead, with Barzal scoring one and then setting up Strome again for his second goal of the game. He was stripped of the puck in his own end by Russian forward Denis Alexeyev. But each time the Russians came back with a goal and each time it was a long shot that got by Hart.Kirill Kaprizov scored from the high slot after Barzal’s goal and then Yegor Rykov fired one from the point after Strome’s goal that cut the Canadian lead to 5-3. Fortunately for Canada, the Russians were not much better and their best scoring chance was hitting the post just past the halfway mark of the second.The wobbly play was epitomized by Canadian defenceman Thomas Chabot on an early power play. Myers himself is an interesting story, as he was passed over by all 30 NHL teams in the 2015 NHL entry draft. While he was helping to kill the penalty, defenceman Blake Speers lost his stick during a long stretch without a whistle.Speers valiantly tried to put his body in front of the Russians and the puck, and his best move came when he skated in front of a defenceman at the point, kicked out his foot and blocked a blast from the point. He put a wrist shot from the high slot behind Canadian goaltender Carter Hart at 9:47. This time, passes found their mark and Strome, playing the right point on the power play, scored on a one-timer thanks to a nice pass from Matt Barzal.Nicolas Roy did a nice job of digging the puck out of a crowd in the high slot to give Canada a 3-1 lead at 17:08. They could not get the puck to behave, it seemed, and the result was several minutes of sloppy play. Speers was given an appreciative ovation from the crowd when the play finally stopped and from that point Canada’s play picked up.Centre Dylan Strome gave Canada a 2-1 lead with Russian forward Mikhail Sergachev, a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, in the box for hooking. Chabot then slashed Alexeyev to draw a penalty at 7:08 and end the Canadian power play.However, a strong bit of lunch-bucket hockey while Chabot was in the penalty box may have inspired the Canadians to start skating harder and take over the game. The native of Moncton, who plays for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, later signed with the Philadelphia Flyers and they found themselves with a genuine NHL prospect when Myers, who was injured in his draft year, made big strides in his skating.Sergachev tied the score, though, on Russia’s second shot of the game.

U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles named AP female athlete of the year

So what if the stage and the stakes were different?The floor was still the floor. The vault still the vault. Not that she remembers any of it.“It’s kind of a blur,” Biles said.Maybe to Biles, but not to the rest of the world.In a vote by U.S. Maybe the best in history. Over the course of 10 days in August, the biggest meet of her life ended as pretty much all the others in the four years that came before it: with Biles standing atop the podium, a gold medal around her neck and the sport she’s redefining one boundary-pushing routine at a time staring up at her. Simone Biles tried to treat the 2016 Olympics as just your average ordinary gymnastics meet. editors and news directors announced Monday, Biles received 31 votes out of a possible 59 votes. The balance beam still a four-inch wide test of nerves.And the 19-year-old with the electric smile and boundless talent was still the best in the world. The uneven bars still uneven.

Flag on the play: The NFL has an officiating problem, and they know it

There weren’t any, in particular.Phantom pass interference calls have been as common as unflagged hits to the head, the likes of which sent Newton to the commissioner’s office for a discussing. pretended to take a picture of Victor Cruz while Cruz was dancing.Penalties for celebration were up more than 50 per cent from 2015 midway through the season. Even then, 17 full-time referees will only represent a bit more than 10 per cent of the workforce.“Over 60 per cent of [questions from coaches] are not about calls made but those not made,” Blandino said. “So we could cover more of the field of play, which of course is a positive.”Pass interferenceIt’s an almost annual cry: The NFL should consider changing its long-held rule on penalizing pass interference at the spot of the foul in favour of the more lenient college rule, which calls for only a 15-yard penalty.If Mike Pereira, the former VP of officiating for the NFL, could change one single thing in the NFL, this would be it.“You can change the course of a game on one of those calls, and what if a referee’s not sure?” said Pereira, now an analyst for Fox.The con to this is that it would now pay for a badly beaten defensive back to dive and tackle a receiver who was breaking open for a sure touchdown.Of course, the league could consider a major and minor version of pass interference, though that has the potential to raise as many questions as it answers.Targeting replayWeek 14 was Exhibit A, but hardly the only example of an instance in which officials could have used help from the booth to determine whether to eject a player for targeting to the head.Darren Sproles of the Eagles was moving forward to field a punt when Deshazor Everett of the Redskins launched himself into Sproles and hit him helmet to helmet, knocking Sproles out of the game.In college, this play might’ve been sent to the booth to determine if the rule calling for an automatic ejection should be enforced. 21 game between the Raiders and Texans may have been the worst-called game of the season.Among the misses: a pair of questionable spots with the Texans trying to gain short yardage to keep a potentially go-ahead drive going. The part-time official has long been a staple of the league, and there’s good reason for it. Replays indicated the officials may have missed the spots both times. Patterns? But it didn’t change anything at the end of the Cowboys-Vikings game. Thomas hugged an official; Emmanuel Sanders wound up in the manner of a baseball pitcher and threw the football into the wall; Antonio Brown twerked ; Odell Beckham Jr. “Players get in the way, it doesn’t tell us if the knee is down, and there are other factors that play into it that you don’t have in, say, tennis or soccer.”No Fun LeagueIt’s become almost a weekly exercise to see which NFL striped shirt will throw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on a player trying a new celebration. There were petty calls for hugging refs (Earl Thomas) and throwing towels (Travis Kelce got ejected ), all underscored by a flurry of flags for celebrations that grew more subversive the harder the NFL tried to curb them.Replay worked – sometimes. “And sometimes it can be negative, and we understand that in officiating.”What to do about all this?Nothing new here – there is no single answer, but merely a list of remedies the NFL has committed to and could consider in the off-season.Full-time refereesThe league is considering hiring 17 full-time officials and increasing the size of officiating crews from seven to eight. This has been the year of the penalty in the NFL.Not so much because more flags have been thrown in 2016 – through Week 15 teams were averaging 8.09 flags a game this season compared to 8.10 in 2015 – or because a larger-than-normal number of games have been decided by questionable calls.More because the questioning of the competence of the officials began, literally, on opening day with a flurry of unflagged hits to the head of the reigning MVP, Cam Newton, and has continued, in some form, virtually every week without a stop. But the league will review the rule in the off-season.“The [competition] committee is really focused on not taking the spontaneous emotion out of the play,” Blandino said, “and not take away that collegial feeling with the fans in the stadium.” Only if the league and the unions representing the players and officials can figure out a way to guarantee full-time officials some job security will this work out. Blandino said for all the fuss, only 27 had been called through Week 15. That doesn’t always make it a play worthy of an ejection, Pereira explained, but rather a timing play that went awry.Spotting the ballThe Nov. The NFL does none of that, and Pereira explained that the call wasn’t as automatic as many outraged posters on social media made it sound.“Sproles didn’t call for a fair catch, and you’ve got a guy running toward him, trying to time the hit with the ball behind him and he can’t see it,” he said. Why would an official quit his day job for one with very little job security? Cedric Thornton wasn’t flagged after a clear hit to the head of Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford as Bradford threw for a potential game-tying two-point play.Also not reviewed: The non-call for Richard Sherman’s takedown of Julio Jones at the end of the Seahawks-Falcons game; or a particularly poor spotting of the ball in an especially poorly called game between the Texans and Raiders.“The scrutiny and the attention are at an all-time high on anything related to NFL, and that is a very positive thing,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice-president of officiating. (That Texans head coach Bill O’Brien didn’t challenge the first spot is another issue).The league is looking into technology already used in soccer: inserting a chip into the football that would help officials locate the ball and make more accurate spots.“It’s not as simple as to simply have a chip in the football,” Blandino said.

Acrobatic Henrikh Mkhitaryan seals Manchester United win over Sunderland

All the title-chasing teams won.Here’s a look at what else happened away from Old Trafford:Chelsea 3, Bournemouth 0Two goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard’s penalty kick ensured Chelsea bettered a run of 11 victories set over two seasons in 2009.Only once – Arsenal in 2001-02, with 13 successive wins – has a top-tier club had a longer winning streak in one season since the Second World War.Hazard starred in the absence of suspended duo N’Golo Kanté and Diego Costa as the league leaders recorded their 10th clean sheet of the 12-match winning run.Hull 0, Manchester City 3City wore down last-placed Hull, with all its goals coming late in the game.Yaya Touré converted a penalty in the 72nd minute after Raheem Sterling was tripped as he drove into the area. It’s not anything you control.”Swansea is in next-to-last place, tied on points with Hull.Other resultsFormer England coach Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge of Crystal Palace ended in a 1-1 draw at Watford, Burnley beat Middlesbrough 1-0 to continue its strong home form, and Leicester lost 2-0 at home to Everton in the latest disappointing result of its stuttering title defence.Leicester is only three points above the relegation zone nearly halfway through the season. Liverpool plays its game in hand against Stoke on Tuesday.Arsenal 1, West Bromwich Albion 0Olivier Giroud marked his first league start of the season with a late winner as Arsenal avoided another stumble after back-to-back losses on the road.The France striker headed home Mesut Ozil’s cross in the 86th minute to end West Brom’s stubborn resistance at Emirates Stadium.Fourth-place Arsenal is tied for points with Liverpool.Swansea 1, West Ham 4American coach Bob Bradley’s future at Swansea looked increasingly fragile after the team lost again to remain in relegation trouble.Angry Swansea supporters turned on Bradley as Swansea slumped to the seventh loss of his 11 games in charge, with a chant of “We want Bradley out” reverberating around Liberty Stadium.“I don’t have regular dealings with the board,” Bradley said after goals by Andre Ayew, Winston Reid, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll sunk Swansea.“As a manager, when results go bad you understand there will be discussion. Up until that point, City lacked inspiration going forward as Hull defended valiantly and in numbers, but more spaces opened up to allow the visitors a second goal.Kevin De Bruyne played in David Silva, whose pinpoint cross was tapped home by Kelechi Iheanacho at the far post in the 78th.In the third minute of stoppage time, Sterling weaved his way into the area and sent in a cross that was deflected into his own net by Curtis Davies.It was a third straight win for City, lifting the team into second place ahead of Liverpool by two points. United might still be 13 points behind Chelsea, which won a club-record 12th straight game to extend its league lead to seven points, but a finish in the Champions League qualification places looks increasingly likely.Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided the cross for Mkhitaryan’s goal, set up Daley Blind for United’s 39th-minute opener and scored the other goal for his 16th goal of the season in all competitions.Mourinho will be delighted to see his trio of high-profile off-season signings – Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Pogba – looking the real deal.Monday marked the opening batch of games in the first of three Premier League rounds over the festive period. Paul Pogba was the first United player to celebrate with Mkhitaryan and walked away shaking his head in disbelief.It was a goal-of-the-season contender in the English Premier League, another piece of art from a player who is coming into his own after a tough start to life at United when he struggled to adapt to the fast pace of English soccer following a move from Borussia Dortmund.Mkhitaryan sealed a 3-1 win for United over Sunderland on Monday and a fourth straight league victory for a side that’s beginning to motor under Jose Mourinho. Toppling forward, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked like he’d misjudged the right-wing cross as he surged into the box seeking a clinching goal for Manchester United.What came next brought Old Trafford to its feet – and underlined Mkhitaryan as perhaps the next cult figure at the English giant.With an acrobatic flick of his right heel, the Armenian somehow managed to turn a ball that was behind him into the far corner from eight metres out, before plunging to the ground.

Olympic canoeist Larry Cain back on the water – as a paddleboard coach

Cain says 80 people signed up on the first day.“I’m basically making the money I made as a teacher doing this,” he said.“I think being a teacher for so many years has helped because I know how to communicate and explain things in various ways until someone understands.”Winning is good for the business as it creates demand for his clinics.Cain claimed his fourth Surf to Sound Challenge – a 10.5-kilometre race – in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., in November in a time of one hour 12 minutes 35 seconds.It was a one-two Canadian finish as runner-up Tamas Buday Jr., a 40-year-old former Olympic paddler, finished just six seconds back of Cain.Cain also won a 50k race on the Tennessee River – the Chattajack 31 – for a third straight year in October.Because of his canoe background, Cain excels at the hard slogging on the calmer waters of rivers, intercoastal sounds and inlets.Open surf racing, in which there’s less paddling and more catching waves to locomote, isn’t Cain’s forte. How crazy is that?” The explosion of people wanting to learn how to stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and get better at it means the 53-year-old can make a living on the water, where he always wants to be. Larry Cain never put his paddle down, even after a successful Olympic career.The gold and silver medalist in sprint canoe in the 1984 Summer Games continues to win, and beat paddlers younger than him, in the burgeoning sport of stand-up paddleboard racing.Cain’s prowess with a paddle combined with his 18 years of teaching high school phys-ed gave him the skill set to capitalize on a trend. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School in Oakville, Ont., in 2014 for a job helping coach Canada’s paddlers heading to the Olympics Games in Rio this past August.But Cain knew in 2015 there wouldn’t be enough money to extend his contract all the way to Rio.He and Beausang began plotting Paddle Monster just over a year ago. “You gear up properly and you go out and you’re toasty warm. Cain said he would have returned to teaching to pay his bills if the venture didn’t take off.It did, and that feels like a stroke of luck to Cain.“I look at myself as a retired teacher and have this other great business I’m doing in my golden years,” he said. Even when there’s ice forming on your board and your paddle.“I’m 53 and I still look forward to going paddling every day as much as I did when I was a teenager. He placed fourth in the 1,000 metres four years later in Seoul.Cain retired from the national team in 1996 when he didn’t qualify for a fourth Olympic Games. I started giving clinics at races.”Cain and American John Beausang co-founded Paddle Monster, a subscription-based coaching website, which launched in May. He competed in dragon boats for several years before switching to outrigger canoe racing.It was in 2010 at an outrigger event that someone selling paddleboards suggested he try it. “It’s one of those right-place, right-time, right-person type things.”Cain is on his racing SUP nearly every day, by himself or with buddies, on Sixteen Mile Creek in Oakville or on Lake Ontario, even when the temperature dips below zero.“Last winter was the best winter of my life because I could paddle every day,” Cain said. Cain was initially uninterested, but agreed to take one as a loaner and give it a spin.“The more I actually tried it, the more I realized it was like C-1, my sprint canoe, just standing up,” Cain said.“I’d been kind of waiting my whole life to have something to do in big water where I could bring my C-1 skills.“I’m able to do well in flatwater because my paddling skill and paddling fitness are still at a really high level, because I’ve never really let it drop.”He quit teaching at the all-girls St. “It’s become what I do,” Cain told The Canadian Press from his home in Burlington, Ont.“I’m fortunate because the whole Olympic canoeing thing has meant that people were really interested in my perspective on technique and how to paddle because it’s so similar to canoe. He’s working on it.“When I race in the ocean, I’m racing largely against kids that have grown up in the ocean,” Cain said.“Their skill level is off the charts and I grew up on Sixteen Mile Creek that has barely a ripple, so I’m learning all the time.”Cain won gold in the C-1 500 metres and silver in the 1,000 in Los Angeles in 1984.

Minsk tops Canada in opening game of Spengler Cup

Komarov than added some extra insurance with an empty-net goal with 1:35 left to play. Alexander Materukhin and Evgeny Lisovets had goals in the first period for the Kontinental Hockey League team. Evgeny Kovyrshin scored twice, including the winner near the midway point of the third period, as HK Dinamo Minsk beat Canada 7-4 on Monday as both teams opened up the Spengler Cup.Dmitry Korobov, Sergei Drozd and Nikita Komarov also scored in the third as Minsk reeled off four unanswered goals. Noreau scored again early in the third to give the Canadians a short-lived 4-3 lead.Noreau put the puck on his backhand and slid it past Minsk goalie Ben Scrivens, who bit hard on a deke, to make it 4-3 just 33 seconds into the third period.Korobov tied it 4-4 minutes later. Andrew Ebbett, Maxim Noreau and Mason Raymond gave Canada a 3-1 lead by the 13 minute, 58 second mark of the first period, but the defending Spengler Cup champions couldn’t hold on. He drove to the net on a give-and-go with Komarov, deflecting the pass past Canada’s Drew McIntyre.An unlucky bounce for Canada gave Minsk a 5-4 lead as the puck bounced off the skate of defenceman Mark Flood and settled in the Canadian crease before Kovyrshin knocked it into the net.Drozd put away a rebound on McIntyre’s doorstep, giving Minsk a 6-4 lead.

Drouin hits pace, finds place on Tampa Bay Lighting

1sFrederik Andersen has found his way for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but a few other new No. Jonathan Drouin’s future with the Tampa Bay Lightning looked particularly bleak at this point last year.The third overall pick of the 2013 draft was unhappy in Tampa then amid inconsistent opportunities under head coach Jon Cooper and had requested a trade from the club in November. It’s probably too early to say. 1 goaltenders have yet to get on track.Jake Allen, who signed a four-year extension worth $17.4-million (U.S.) last summer (which starts next season), has a .905 over all save percentage and a .907 mark at even strength which ranks as the worst among goalies with at least 20 starts.John Gibson, who inherited Anaheim’s top gig following Andersen’s departure, has a .907 save percentage, including an .897 mark in December.Petr Mrázek has a .899 save percentage after resigning in Detroit for two years and $8-million while Connor Hellebuyck has given up three goals or more 13 times in 26 appearances, much of the damage coming when the Jets, the league’s third-worst penalty kill, are shorthanded.Only Mrázek’s job has been threatened with Jimmy Howard re-emerging before a recent injury (.934 save percentage).Andersen, meanwhile, has the NHL’s second-best save percentage (.938) since the start of November, registering his first shutout with the Leafs in their second-last game before the break, a 38-stop blanking of the Colorado Avalanche.Early returnsOne of the more intriguing trades last summer saw 23-year-old Mika Zibanejad shipped from Ottawa to New York for 29-year-old Derick Brassard. The Lightning ultimately opted against dealing their frustrated winger ahead of the Feb. He’s not expected back until after the New Year.Brassard, the former Blue Jackets first rounder is well off the near-60-point pace he managed in each of the previous two seasons, totalling only seven goals and 15 points in 34 games (a 36-point pace) for the Senators. The 27-year-old trails only Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with 15 points in December, tied for sixth in NHL scoring on the season.The five-foot-eight, 182-pound Atkinson has done the majority of his damage on the league’s top power play, currently tops among all NHL players with 17 power-play points this year, already a career high.No. He was demoted to the American Hockey League by January and later suspended indefinitely without pay as trade speculation swirled. For the Senators it was an injection of veteran stability, the Rangers an infusion of youth.How’s it worked for both sides so far? Brassard did score in three straight games last week and boasts a strong 54-per-cent puck possession mark, tops among Ottawa regulars.The Associated Press Atkinson, who leads the sizzling Blue Jackets with 35 points in 32 games, has quietly scored at least 20 goals in each of his three full NHL seasons, including a career-best 27 goals and 53 points last year. 29 trade deadline and by playoff time, Drouin had emerged as a crucial element in the Bolts’ attack, totalling 14 points in 17 games en route to the club’s second straight Eastern Conference final.After a sluggish start offensively this season (seven points in 17 games), the 21-year-old is flying again.Drouin has seven goals and 13 points in 10 games this month, including a combined five points in back-to-back wins last week. Zibanejad was living up to last season’s career-best production (21 goals, 51 points) before breaking his fibula last month, totalling five goals, 15 points, a 52-per-cent possession and 53.7-per-cent success rate in the face-off circle in 19 games. 1 goaltender Ben Bishop because of injury.The Ste-Agathe, Que.-native may soon join that group after exiting Tampa’s final game before the holiday break with an undisclosed injury. Regardless, Drouin’s future with the Lightning would appear secure, quite the turnaround from one year ago.Meet the Jackets’ leading scorerEasily the least known leading scorer of the NHL’s most surprising team this season, Cam Atkinson was the 157th overall pick of the 2008 draft, a smallish winger plucked out of Avon Old Farms high school in Connecticut. His offensive emergence has been timely for Tampa, which has been without Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, Vladislav Namestnikov and No.

Human error led to Colombia soccer plane crash: authorities

He also says he is innocent.Criminal charges have also been brought against LaMia co-owner Marco Antonio Rocha Benegas, whose whereabouts are unknown, and air traffic controller Celia Castedo, who fled Bolivia after the crash and is seeking asylum in Brazil.Bolivian authorities have said the crash was an isolated incident, but that the government will accelerate the process of implementing a new safety system. Colombian investigators have the final word on causes of the crash, Bolivian authorities have said.The aircraft had been transporting the Chapecoense team to the biggest game in its history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana.All but three of the players and staff onboard were killed. “No technical factor was part of the accident, everything involved human error, added to a management factor in the company’s administration and the management and organization of the flight plans by the authorities in Bolivia,” Colombia’s Secretary for Air Safety Colonel Freddy Bonilla told journalists.Aviation authorities in Bolivia and the airline “accepted conditions for the flight presented in the flight plan that were unacceptable,” Bonilla added.Besides a lack of fuel, the plane was over its weight limit by nearly 400 kilograms (881 lbs) and was not certified to fly at the altitude at which the journey took place, Bonilla said.The preliminary conclusions of Colombia’s investigation coincide with assertions by Bolivian authorities last week that LaMia and the plane’s pilot were directly responsible for the accident.Pilot Miguel Quiroga was also a co-owner of the airline and was killed in the crash.Gustavo Vargas Gamboa, LaMia’s chief executive, was jailed pending trial earlier this month on manslaughter and other charges, which he has denied.His son Gustavo Vargas Villegas, a former official with Bolivia’s aviation authority, is also being held on charges that he misused his influence in authorizing the license of the plane that crashed. Two crew members and one reporter also survived. Errors by the pilot, airline and Bolivian regulators are to blame for a plane crash in Colombia that killed 71 people last month, including most of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team, Colombia aviation authorities said on Monday.The plane, operated by Bolivia-based charter company LaMia, crashed on a wooded hillside near Medellin because the pilot failed to refuel en route and did not report engine failures caused by the lack of fuel until it was too late, officials said.

New York Giants win playoff berth after Saints best Buccaneers

But each step requires focus on the task at hand, and our focus right now is on learning from Thursday night’s [loss at Philadelphia] and moving on and getting better.“It’s all in front of us, and we are still working toward playing our best, most complete game.”This will be the Giants’ 32nd postseason appearance, tying them with Dallas for the most in NFL history. But they haven’t been much of a road team, going 3-4, with one victory a “home game” for the Rams in London. The running attack has improved recently, but it was so weak for much of the schedule that it had nowhere else to go but up.The offensive line is the weakest spot on the roster, forcing Manning to throw too many times before he has wanted.But as in their 2007 and 2011 championship seasons, the Giants have developed a dynamic pass rush, even without star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. 7 or 8 for a wild-card game. Two of those wins came in their most recent Super Bowl years.As for McAdoo, he is the fourth coach in Giants history to lead the team to the playoffs in his first season, joining Allie Sherman (1961), Dan Reeves (1993) and Jim Fassel (1997). They must wait until after the season finales to find out where they will head on Jan. And barring a bevy of upsets, they won’t be playing any postseason games at MetLife Stadium as the No. The Packers will also participate in their 32nd postseason should they qualify.New York could face Green Bay, which it lost to on Oct. “There is a process in progressing to your ultimate objective,” said coach Ben McAdoo, who replaced Tom Coughlin this year. It could also be at Atlanta or Seattle, neither of which it played this season.The Giants need their offence to come alive. “This is the next step in the process. 9, or Detroit, which it beat on Dec. Eli Manning has been inconsistent, often rescued by the super pass-catching and tackle-avoiding skills of Odell Beckham Jr. Had the Bucs won, the Giants would have needed their archrivals from Dallas to beat Detroit on Monday night to secure a postseason berth.Instead, the Giants (10-5) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they won the Super Bowl. 5 seed in the NFC.In wild-card matches, the Giants are 6-4. At least now the Giants don’t have to root for the Cowboys.After Tampa Bay lost to New Orleans on Saturday, New York advanced to the playoffs. 18. Their secondary, a question mark when the season began, has become a strength as safety Landon Collins blossomed into a Pro Bowler and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have performed well.The Giants certainly won’t fear the Cowboys, whose only two losses this season were against New York.

Jamie Oleksiak tries to establish himself as an NHL regular

A playoff MVP award followed by a World Cup MVP award is not easy to dismiss, but Oleksiak knows where his vote would have been cast.“There are so many great athletes in Canada, and obviously, I’m a little biased, but I think my sister was the best athlete in Canada this year,” Oleksiak said. He was chosen in the first round, 14th overall, by Dallas in the 2011 NHL draft, and played at the world junior championship. Louis Blues’ all-star defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, which put him in position to roof a shot past goaltender Jake Allen for the Stars’ opening goal. From there, he went to play for Chicago and Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League. “It’s real competitive.”Competition is not something the Oleksiaks shy away from. However, when he and his sister get together, generally what he’s offered is brotherly advice, not media training.“Most of the time, we don’t talk about sports,” he said. 21, has been in the spotlight far longer than his sister, albeit on a smaller scale. I was so fortunate to be able to do that.”Jamie Oleksiak, who turned 24 on Dec. For a big man – 6-foot-7, 260 pounds – it was an exceptionally deft display. Penny Oleksiak, then just 16, won four medals – a gold, a silver and two bronze – which earned her the 2016 Lou Marsh trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year. Then, in the final minute of play, Oleksiak added a second goal to force overtime and earn the Stars a point. To see what they did for us, it made us want to do well.”Once Penny started appearing on the Olympic podium, the cameras were constantly trained on her family in the seating area, cheering her on. It’s something I’ll never forget. She’s still our little sister, and we treat her as such.“It’s one thing for me to say something to her, but my parents were there on a daily basis and they did a really good job making sure she stayed a kid. I thought, ‘how many times am I going to get this opportunity?’ I went down for six days. She’s so occupied with school and friends, and that’s a good release for her.”On the day Penny won the Lou Marsh, Jamie tweeted out his congratulations to his sister and then added: “Next big step is getting that drivers license and a bday present for the bro in a week #casualbirthdaydrop.” Penny tweeted right back at him: “Drivers licence for sure. It was a big night for Oleksiak, as he tries to establish himself as an NHL regular.“Hopefully, I’ll get a little more opportunity here and try to make the most of it,” Oleksiak said with a laugh, “and help me get out of my little sister’s shadow a bit.”Up until that breakthrough night, most Canadians were probably familiar with Oleksiak mostly because he’s the older brother of swimmer Penny Oleksiak, one of Canada’s two breakout stars at last summer’s Olympics in Rio. They have been consistently in and out of gyms, rinks and pools.“Growing up, our parents didn’t really push us too much. Jamie says it was always his intention to go to Rio to support his sister, even though they couldn’t possibly have imagined the success she would ultimately have.“The thing that worked in my favour was the World Cup, which pushed our training camp back,” he said. To win, Penny Oleksiak defeated an exceptional class of contenders – from sprinter Andre De Grasse, whose memorable races with Usain Bolt also produced high drama, to hockey star Sidney Crosby, golfer extraordinaire Brooke Henderson and tennis sensation Milos Raonic, all of whom had outstanding years.Jamie Oleksiak plays against Crosby in the NHL and knows, from ice level, the magic he can conjure up. It was just such a proud moment for us.”Given how well Penny Oleksiak performed, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll get to watch her compete in Tokyo in 2020. #dunnoaboutthatbdaygift.”Jamie Oleksiak moved away from Toronto when he was 16 to play for the Detroit Little Caesars. We were always competitive, but the big thing was to always enjoy what you did and commit to it and [we] did the best we could. “Just from being there personally, it was such an incredible experience. “Right now, she’s talking to me about getting a car, and I said, ‘you’ve got to get your driver’s licence first.’ That’s her thing right now. My sister was pretty young. In the meantime, he is trying to assert himself on a Stars’ team that has a logjam of talented young defencemen in the pipeline.But he showed a couple of weeks ago what he’s capable of and now just needs to do it on a more regular basis. “It gave me two extra weeks to train in the summer. There was a night, a few weeks back, when Dallas Stars defenceman Jamie Oleksiak found himself on all the nightly highlight reels, after the splashiest game of his NHL career.First came a dipsy-doodle-dandy of a goal. “We’ve got a young squad and we’re trying to get a little more consistent, and a little more flow going,” he said. Oleksiak neatly executed a toe drag around St. After his freshman year of college at Northeastern University, Oleksiak played a year of major junior and then turned pro.“Penny got into swimming by swimming in a neighbour’s pool – and I wasn’t even in the house anymore when she started,” Oleksiak said. A lot of this can be overwhelming, but she has such a good head on her shoulders. “It was just trying a variety of things, and our parents going out of their way to do the sports we wanted to do and make sure we enjoyed it.”There were five children in the Oleksiak household, so it was a challenge for his parents to juggle all of their various sports interests.“Honestly, a credit to the sacrifices they made for us, especially since we were all in and out of the house at different times. They did a really good job of feeding our enthusiasm for sport. As a result, he is familiar with the challenge of performing in the spotlight. I was still pretty active when I was down there, but I got a chance to watch her and I’m really glad I went.

In a year marked by loss, Chicago Cubs’ victory stands out in 2016

The death of Muhammad Ali after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease was second with 427 points, while LeBron James leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise’s first NBA title took third with 425 points.In a year that seemed to be more about people we lost (Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Pat Summitt, Jose Fernandez and the plane crash that killed most of the Brazilian club soccer team Chapecoense) than the winners on the field, the Cubs provided a feel-good moment that warmed at least the north side of Chicago well into the winter. “But when they tuned in, they saw a talented team full of young, exciting players who are also team-first, high-character people.”As baseball stories go, the 2016 Cubs had it all. The Cubs drew huge ratings throughout the playoffs, with much of the continent tuning in to see if it finally was the year – and it was.“I think a lot of casual fans were initially drawn to the Cubs in the postseason because of the 108-year drought and the curse narrative,” said the team’s president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein. The story of so many lifetimes is The Associated Press’s sports story of the year. An eccentric personality in Maddon, who cemented his status as one of the game’s best managers.There was history, for the franchise and its front office, with Epstein helping end two of baseball’s biggest droughts. See the Boston Red Sox of 2004.Ali was mourned all over the world after his death in June at age 74. Loads of bright young stars, with Kris Bryant turning in an MVP performance. One last stand for David Ross, a retiring catcher who became a key figure in Chicago’s clubhouse. U.S. “The burden has been lifted,” manager Joe Maddon said.The Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908 is the runaway winner for top sports story of 2016, collecting 48 of 59 first-place votes and 549 points in balloting by AP members and editors. President Barack Obama called Ali’s wife, Lonnie, to express condolences, and a public memorial in the boxer’s hometown of Louisville, Ky., drew an eclectic mix of celebrities, athletes and politicians.“He was a tremendous bolt of lightning, created by Mother Nature out of thin air, a fantastic combination of power and beauty,” comedian Billy Crystal said. Everything changed for the Chicago Cubs on a rainy November night. A century-plus worth of heartache washed away by a wave of pure joy.There were hugs, cheers and tears – and bottles and bottles of booze, sprayed everywhere from Cleveland to the shadow of Wrigley Field.Lovable losers, no more.

Lions’ Matthew Stafford on home turf leading Detroit into Texas

Dallas did it without playing thanks to Philadelphia beating the New York Giants on Thursday.Detroit (9-5) got a similar boost on Christmas Eve with Tampa Bay’s loss to New Orleans.The Lions can’t clinch the NFC North. Matthew Stafford doesn’t dwell on Detroit’s loss to his hometown Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs two years ago.The Lions quarterback focuses on the good memories as he prepares for another homecoming Monday night, knowing his team can clinch a postseason berth with a victory.“I really like coming home and playing in Dallas,” Stafford said. “We’re going to go out and prepare like we normally prepare and play like we normally play.”Stafford will play at the $1.2-billion (U.S.) home of the Cowboys a little more than a week after his high school, Dallas Highland Park, celebrated on that field after winning its first state title since Stafford led the way 11 years ago.Highland Park’s quarterback is John Stephen Jones, the grandson of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. His Jones-owned “home” field was old Texas Stadium, and he remembers playing there as a 15-year-old sophomore.Now, the 28-year-old Stafford credits those days for helping him handle being a walk-in starter as a top recruit for Georgia, and again after he was drafted by the Lions.“Playing against Ennis and a bunch of really good football teams, a bunch of cameras on you after the game,” Stafford said. While Highland Park binds Stafford and the Jones family, the quarterback said he doesn’t know the younger Jones and hadn’t reached out to his dad, Cowboys executive vice-president of personnel Stephen Jones.“Obviously proud and happy for him and the team, but my relationship with the Jones family is just very limited,” Stafford said. “We know each other, obviously live in the same area, but that’s about it.”The last time he was on that field, Stafford had to watch one of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s signature celebratory moments – face down on the turf, arms outstretched in exuberance after throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter in the Cowboys’ 24-20 win.The loss dropped Stafford to 0-2 in the playoffs, but he’s 2-0 against Dallas in the regular season, averaging 364 yards per game.Stafford didn’t play in the Cowboys’ retractable roof stadium in high school because it opened four years after he graduated. “I think that kind of puts you in the spotlight early and lets you understand what it’s all about.”Now it’s about clinching the playoffs with his Lions. I played a lot of football in the state of Texas and in Dallas in my life. But they’re in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under coach Jim Caldwell if they beat Dallas for the third straight time in the regular season.Caldwell said before the Bucs lost that none of the scores would affect his team’s approach.“That’s the short answer,” he said. That will have to wait until the finale at home against Green Bay. “It’s where I grew up. It’s a lot of fun going home, seeing friends and family, but at the same time just trying to win a ballgame against a really good team.”

The Cowboys (12-2) have clinched the NFC East title and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ offence rolls to take AFC North over Baltimore Ravens

Those picks allowed the Ravens to take a 20-10 lead on Justin Tucker’s fourth field goal with 14:21 to play.“I kind of dug [us into] a hole,” Roethlisberger said. Brown caught Roethlisberger’s pass just short of the goal line and stretched the ball into the end zone with his left hand to cap off a wild fourth quarter and give Pittsburgh (10-5) its second division title in three years. Le’Veon Bell ran for 122 yards and a seven-yard touchdown kick-starting Pittsburgh’s rally during a fourth quarter that featured 31 combined points and three lead changes in the final 7:16.Flacco passed for 262 yards, including a pretty 18-yard dart to Steve Smith Sr. “I take all that blame. Guys fought back.”Indeed, with a season once filled with such promise slipping away, the Steelers turned to their three big stars.Brown caught 10 passes for 96 yards to join Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as the only players with four straight seasons with at least 100 receptions. Their defence put up little resistance as Roethlisberger clinically got his team in position to get back to the playoffs. The Ravens took the lead on Kyle Juszczyk’s 10-yard burst up the middle with 1:18 remaining. Smith Sr. ended up with seven receptions for 79 yards, but the Ravens crumbled late. We never quit and never gave up. The Pittsburgh Steelers rode Ben Roethlisberger’s right arm and Antonio Brown’s left arm to the AFC North title.Roethlisberger shook off a pair of interceptions to throw two late touchdowns, including a four-yard strike to Brown with nine seconds remaining to lift the Steelers to a 31-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. But Roethlisberger calmly led the Steelers 75 yards downfield in 10 plays, the last four coming as Brown fought through a pair of tacklers to assure the Steelers of a third straight playoff berth.“Right before we went out,” Brown said, “we said, ‘Let’s get the game-winning touchdown and get out of here.’”The Ravens (8-7) were officially eliminated when Joe Flacco’s pass near midfield was intercepted on the final play.Kansas City secured a playoff berth with the Baltimore loss.With the win, the Steelers recorded their sixth straight victory and snapped a four-game losing streak against Baltimore.Roethlisberger finished with 279 yards passing and three touchdowns to overcome two third-quarter interceptions. that put Baltimore up 14-10 early in the third quarter.

BCHL and U.S. colleges create an alternate route to the NHL

schools on scholarships, a number that has roughly doubled during the decade-plus tenure of BCHL commissioner John Grisdale.“It’s proven that kids can develop anywhere,” Grisdale said.The BCHL is also the Junior-A leader in producing NHL draft picks.Of 402 players drafted directly from Junior A, 153 of them were in the BCHL, according to hockeydb.com. Colleges/universities follow at 1,517, and European elite leagues are at 1,260.)Scouts have an eye on the evolving prospects landscape, investing time at Junior-A rinks.“We have to give those players their due,” said Judd Brackett, director of amateur scouting for the Vancouver Canucks. THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Team Canada’s captain at world juniors counts the lessons learned this ‘weird’ year

The British Columbia Hockey League is at the centre of the shift.Last season, the BCHL featured 123 players who had been recruited to play at NCAA Division I schools. It’s a different route. You can take any route and you can find your way. He landed at the University of North Dakota, where the team won a national title last season, in his third year. “Jost and Fabbro showed if you’re a good hockey player in a good program, they’ll find you.”Kirk Lamb, chairman of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, said: “It’s becoming much more of an option for high-end players.”In the past, it was rare to see a big name emerge from the Junior A-NCAA route. On this path, aspiring teens in Canada play Junior A hockey – long considered second-tier – before collegiate hockey and a possible career in the NHL. The drafting of Jost and Fabbro added to Penticton’s profile.Harbinson has been getting calls from highly ranked bantam prospects about their next step in hockey.“A lot of players worry about: ‘Will I still get opportunities with Team Canada, will I still get drafted?’” Harbinson said. The likes of Brett Hull and Paul Kariya were exceptions. Some of the best young players who will soon be in the NHL spent this past month writing college exams in the United States.The established road to hockey success for Canadian teenagers has always been the major-junior leagues across the country. I’ve been blown away.”The primacy of major junior as the stepping stone to the NHL is not in jeopardy.But the rising number of NHL players coming out of U.S. Canada’s Dylan Strome is seen during a practice session ahead of the IIHF World Junior Championship, in Toronto on Saturday, December 24, 2016. Jost and Vees teammate Dante Fabbro, who was picked 17th over all by the Nashville Predators last June, were the latest.Fabbro, a defenceman, will be another important player for Canada at the world junior tournament and is making his mark as a freshman at No. He played three seasons for Penticton but went undrafted. But an alternative route has quietly gained ground, one that runs through the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Then, in June, the league scored its best-ever showing at the NHL draft, when three of its players were selected in the first round, led by Tyson Jost, chosen 10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche.“I knew where I wanted to go with my hockey career,” said Jost, who played for the BCHL’s Penticton Vees and is currently a star freshman at the No. Collegiate alumni account for about 30 per cent of NHL players, up from around 20 per cent in the early 2000s.Troy Stecher, a 5-foot-10 defenceman, has made the leap from Junior A-college to the NHL. More and more, guys are deciding to go to college.”The BCHL has long been a leader among Canadian Junior-A leagues in sending its players to U.S. 8-ranked University of North Dakota.He is the sixth-leading scorer among Division I freshmen and is set to be a key player on Canada’s world-junior team later this month.“I have nothing against major junior. universities has changed the game for some players.Major-junior contracts disqualify players from NCAA scholarships, so to eventually play and study south of the border, Junior A is becoming a more attractive option for teenagers.“You’ve got to make some lifetime decisions when you’re young,” said Jost of his choice in his mid-teens.The Vees in the BCHL have been a leader in establishing the viability of Junior A for promising prospects.Fred Harbinson is in his 10th season as Vees coach, general manager and president, and has had more than two dozen players chosen in the NHL draft. But the number of players in the NHL coming from the college ranks, the preferred route for many American players, has climbed significantly. I wouldn’t say it [Junior A] is lower. But a lot more kids should take a harder look at the NCAA. He has gone on to solidify his status as a top player on the Canucks roster, as the team struggles through another difficult season.“Nowadays,” Stecher said, “hockey is such a big global market. (Major junior of course is the leader by far, with 5,909 players. 6-ranked Boston University.An important demarcation point for Harbinson and the Vees was 2011-12, when the team went on a record 42-game winning streak and eventually won a national title. Before signing with the Vancouver Canucks, the 22-year-old fielded interest from about 20 NHL teams.Stecher started the season in the AHL but was quickly called up when the Canucks dealt with early injuries.In his first NHL game, Stecher was arguably the Canucks best player, named third star of the game in a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators.