Sugarpova venture an extension of tennis superstar’s sweet tooth

Having cultivated a love of candy at an early age, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova is putting her money where her mouth is. With an initial investment of $500,000, the 6’2” Russian beauty has seen her enterprise Sugarpova launch into success.

Image obtained from: http://www.sugarpova.com/

Image obtained from: http://www.sugarpova.com/

With the practice of a candy bar or lollipop as a reward for a good practice in childhood, a sweet tooth would follow her into a tennis career that saw her claim Wimbledon at the tender age of 17 years old. Dedicated she was in this venture as she would do final taste tests at the factory less than a day after winning the French Open. While Sugarpova is still in its infancy, the premium candy line features brightly colored gummies that have such tween-friendly names as Flirty, Splashy, Smitten Sour, Quirky and Sporty.

Of all the flavors, Sharapova’s favorite is actually Quirky. The candy is part of the licorice family but it has a marshmallow center and a sweet rainbow appearance on the outside. Manufactured in Murcia, Spain, the product was first launched in the United States. To coincide with the 2013 Australian Open, Sharapova launched the product in Melbourne to coincide with the grand slam event.

Photo credit: Mike Windle Getty Images

Photo credit: Mike Windle Getty Images

Ironically, she was not the one who came up with the name for the candy brand. Although she devoted 18 months of research and analysis into making the venture a reality, the genius behind the name was Jeff Rubin, co-founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar and the creator of FAO Schweetz (sold in FAO Schwartz stores).

Her agent at IMG Tennis, Max Eisenbud pulls double duty as Sugarpova’s Chief Executive Officer. Not only has he forecasted sales of one million bags of candy in the first year, but has mentioned profits on sales of each bag should reach $1.10. Of note, an undisclosed percentage of sales shall be donated to the Maria Sharapova Foundation.

Sharapova on the cover of the 2013 September edition of Shape Magazine

Sharapova on the cover of the 2013 September edition of Shape Magazine

As the tenth woman to capture the Grand Slam of Tennis, the sexy superstar may have a hit on her hands. With her appeal as a beautiful yet well-spoken and articulate athlete, her star status alone may help launch the Sugarpova brand into one of the most popular candies in the world.

While Sharapova has ambitions to launch into other passions such as cosmetics and fashion (there is no denying she looks like a fashion model), the motivation for Sugarpova stemmed from the fact that she had been involved with so many projects, collaborations and photo shoots, she wanted something that was completely her own.

Retailing at $5.99 per bag, the true test in determining the shelf life and viability of the product will be determined in its taste and quality. Being sold at upscale retailers such as Henri Bendel and famous department store Macy’s in the United States, Selfirdge’s in the United Kingdom and Colette in Paris.

Prior to the 2013 US Open, reports suggested that Sharapova made an application to the Supreme Court of Florida in order to temporarily change her name to Sugarpova. While it is debatable whether she would have actually gone through with the name change, her agent claimed it would have caused travel difficulties; it still generated a remarkable amount of publicity.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

Despite withdrawing from the event due to shoulder complications, the stir that the proposed name change caused in the news cycle made it a hot topic of debate among sports fans. Perhaps the biggest irony of the whole name change was the fact that Sharapova appeared on the cover of the September 2013 edition of Shape Magazine, which was on sale at newsstands. From promoting candy to being featured in a magazine discussing fitness and weight loss, it is a clash in societal values as obesity is one of the biggest problems among the young population.

Future star Kari Janes offers promising future for maligned Minnesota Valkyrie

In a season that saw a beleaguered and maligned Minnesota Valkyrie franchise take a step backward, there was one rookie that offered a glimmer of hope for the future; quarterback Kari Janes. The 23 year-old quarterback played with great heart and determination as she led one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the Legends Football League.

Standing at 5’7” and a lean 135 pounds, Janes was stoic during a difficult 0-3 start that saw the Valkyries outscored by a 103-20 margin. Despite a 37.5 completion percentage, along with seven interceptions, Janes looks very comfortable lined up behind center.

Like many of the competitors in the Legends Football League, Janes brings an athletic background to the gridiron. With a soccer background, she has the powerful legs and the endurance to keep up with the most vicious defenders in the league. The endurance and tenacity that she brings to the gridiron of the LFL was cultivated from her performances on the soccer field.

Having played with the Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears, she had several highlights in her career. From contributing two goals in a win over rival Northwestern College to competing in the first-ever athletic match at Sea Foam Stadium, she graduated from the Division II School in the top ten lists of numerous categories of the soccer program.

Some of the more notable categories that Janes ranked in with the program included sixth all-time with 32 points and fifth all-time with 13 goals. Testament to her toughness and determination includes ranking third in shots attempted, third in game winning goals, fourth in games started and second in minutes played.

She established herself as one of the league’s finest rushers. In only three games, was like a lioness as she challenged defenses. With 205 rushing yards on only 34 attempts (for an average of six yards per carry), she supplied 79 percent of Minnesota’s offense in 2013. The Valkyrie would outgain opponents in rushing yards by a 261-225 margin. Competing at the most demanding position in football, Janes ability to break out and emerge in the running game is reminiscent of fellow quarterbacks Nikki Johnson and Anne “Showtime” Erler.

While Minnesota’s dismal season was only natural with the losses of former LFL All-Fantasy selections such as Cydney Froehlich and Whitney Meierotto, Janes is a building block for the future. With veterans like Laurie Jo Miller and Leekplay Paye are still on the roster, it helps to ease the burden of expectation that may fall on Janes’ shoulders.

In her LFL debut, a rushing Janes tries to avoid Anne Erler of the Green Bay Chill (Image obtained from:  http://www.lflus.com/games/minnesota-valkyrie-vs-green-bay-chill/attachment/directorleague-photographer-78)

In her LFL debut, a rushing Janes tries to avoid Anne Erler of the Green Bay Chill (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/games/minnesota-valkyrie-vs-green-bay-chill/attachment/directorleague-photographer-78)

Her first game of the season was a baptism of fire as she competed on the road on May 11 against Anne “Showtime” Erler of the Green Bay Chill. Despite the 40-8 loss, Janes played with a dogged determination. With both bringing intensity to the game, the feeling of a passing of the torch to the next generation was predominant.

Displaying true tenacity, Janes evaded many would-be tacklers, while scoring her first career touchdown in the dying minutes of the game. In a show of irony, her final pass of the game was picked off by Erler (who also pulls double duty as a defensive back). Although her rookie inexperience showed against a proven performer like Erler, it was an admirable debut in the LFL ranks.

Despite a seven-week gap between their first and second games, Minnesota was crushed by the Seattle Mist on the road. Competing against one of the top-ranked teams in all of the LFL, Janes showed no fear. While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating,

Airing it out in a road contest against the unbeaten Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_2017-XL.jpg)

Airing it out in a road contest against the unbeaten Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_2017-XL.jpg)

While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating, she managed to lead the Valkyrie into the red zone. Unfortunately, the squad endured the typical growing pains of a rebuilding team as the failure to earn points in the red zone led to a lopsided loss.

With the Mist having been in the league for only five seasons, their dominance is a sign of encouragement for Janes and a Valkyrie teammate that is in a rebuilding mode.

Rushing against the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-H45dF3g-XL.jpg)

Rushing against the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-H45dF3g-XL.jpg)

Her confidence improved in her home debut, a 25-12 loss to the Chicago Bliss. With an enthusiastic crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Janes fired up the crowd as she hopes to renew the Northeast Division rivalry with the Bliss.

Competing against Heather “Rockstar” Furr, Janes was up against another of the league’s elite quarterbacks. As Furr is another star quarterback whose ability to run and make plays makes her time a contender, it was another lofty opponent for Janes to compete against.

Looking for an open receiver downfield versus the Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1525-XL.jpg)

Looking for an open receiver downfield versus the Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1525-XL.jpg)

With the home crowd behind her, Janes replied to Chicago’s first score of the game. Assembling an 8-play drive that consisted on 35 yards and a time-consuming 4:38 to frustrate the Bliss defense, Janes helped lead the Valkyrie to only their second touchdown of the season. With 38 seconds remaining in the first half, Janes displayed the poise that should transform her into one of the league’s elite field generals.

Hyped for pre-game introductions as she makes her home field debut in front of the Valkyries faithful at Target Center (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-GKbtCxx-XL.jpg)

Hyped for pre-game introductions as she makes her home field debut in front of the Valkyries faithful at Target Center (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-GKbtCxx-XL.jpg)

Despite tying the score, Furr showed why she is one of the most feared players in the league. She would only need five seconds to connect with ChrisDell Ferrari on a touchdown pass to head into halftime with the 12-6 advantage.

Although the seasoned Furr managed to bring Chicago to a 25-6 advantage, Janes showed tremendous character. Not giving up, she assembled a nine play drive consisting of 35 yards. With 2:12 remaining, she would run for three yards to score Minnesota’s second touchdown of the game. While Chicago would run out the clock for a win, Janes made a strong impression in front of the hometown crowd.

High fiving the fans after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-LvRzqt4-XL.jpg)

High fiving the fans after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-LvRzqt4-XL.jpg)

Although Janes was looking to win the final game of the season (a home date versus the Los Angeles Temptation), the contest had no implication on the league’s playoff picture. While the cancelleation prematurely ended the Valkyrie season, it was done as a preventative measure out of concern for injury.

For the disappointed fans, they can find solace in knowing that Janes is a future superstar and franchise player in the making. Her top five ranking in LFL rushing brings optimism to a franchise that can use it. While the rebuilding Valkyrie will likely have to endure another season or two of losing, the road to success may be one well worth it.

Halifax Xplosion show civic pride by participating in Halifax Pride Parade

As the only Nova Scotia-based franchise in the Maritime Women’s Football League, the Halifax Xplosion is working towards establishing itself as a contender. While it works towards achieving its championship ambitions, the nascent franchise has also worked towards establishing itself in the community.

One such event was the 26th Annual Halifax Pride Parade on July 27, 2013. A handful of Xplosion members participated in the event as a gesture of support.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

While many of the participating athletes have earned MWFL All-Star nods in their careers, they emerged as great pillars of the community by participating in the parade. Women’s football is a unique example of women competing in traditionally male dominated fields. Their participation in the parade showed that while the challenge for inclusion can be difficult, heart and determination comprise a winning formula.

Quarterback Ashley Howatt leads the way for the Xplosion as a four-time All-Star selection. Abbi Hennigar earned consecutive All-Star nods for defensive play in 2009 and 2010.

2012 was a banner year for Lindsay Bennett as she was named an Offensive All-Star while earning the Xplosion Unsung Hero Award. She was joined in the parade by Niamh Bermingham, a two-time All-Star selection on offense.

Ashley Howatt (left) and Lindsey Bennett (Image obtained from Facebook)

Ashley Howatt (left) and Lindsey Bennett (Image obtained from Facebook)

Terri Smith-Fraser was named to the MWFL All-Stars in 2011. In 2010, Karen Lalonde was an offensive All-Star and was joined by Holly Arthur on defense. Although members Marlene Chickness, Lyndsay Corbin, Angela Howell and Leah Wofsy have no football All-Star status to boast of, their presence in the parade will certainly make them stars in the eyes of many.

Lyndsay Corbin  (Image from Ashley Humboldt Photography http://www.ashleywambolt.com/)

Lyndsay Corbin (Image from Ashley Humboldt Photography http://www.ashleywambolt.com/)

While the players donned their traditional navy blue jerseys, an element of fun was added by wearing clown wigs, sunglasses and multi-colored knee-high socks. The socks held special meaning as it meant to represent the rainbow theme that is the symbol of gay pride, one that celebrates and cultivates the optimism that hope, diversity and inclusion will be recognized.

Left to right: Marlene Chickness, Lyndsay Corbin and Sarah Ingraham (Image by Shaun Simpson)

Left to right: Marlene Chickness, Lyndsay Corbin and Sarah Ingraham (Image by Shaun Simpson)

Marking their first-time in the parade, the route started on Barrington Street and moved down to Spring Garden Road and up to Garrison Grounds. Using their helmets as baskets to give out goodies to the children lining the sides of the Halifax streets, Xplosion players donned smiles throughout the event. From miniature flags adorned with the Xplosion logo to candies, t heir souvenirs likely created new fans on this special day.

Another essence of humor was added to the event with some homemade signs that some of the players carried in the parade. With messages that read Girl on Girl Action is All Part of the Game to another that stated Check out our Tight Ends, the signs were another aspect of what made the event a treasured one for the players.

During past parades, the franchise encountered problems with timing that prevented their participation. As some members of the Xplosion have friends, family and athletic associates that are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgendered Community, the chance to join other members of the community in a show of support was a tremendous source of pride.

Holly Arthur (Image from Ashley Humboldt Photography)

Holly Arthur (Image from Ashley Humboldt Photography)

Helping make the idea a reality was Holly Arthur. An alumnus from St. Mary’s University, she also serves on the MWFL executive as the secretary. In looking to help increase awareness of the club’s existence, Arthur was aiming to find an event that would be fun while helping to contribute to the community. The Halifax Pride Parade met all those requirements.

While the unexpected but pleasant surprise was the fact that the Xplosion were recognized as the ‘Best Community Group’ in the parade, the franchise already has plans to participate next season.

Play with AJ adds a new dimension to the sports talk show genre

Blending elements of popular culture, fashion, social media and of course sports, Play with AJ is one of the freshest and entertaining sports talk shows on the air. Hosted by Aliya Jasmine, who cut her teeth on other MTV programs such as 1 Girl, 5 Gays, she brings a strong sporting background. The 30-year old native of Ottawa was also named to Hello magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful Canadians in 2013.

On the 2013 ESPY Awards red carpet discussing Colin Kaepenick’s appearance in the ESPN Body Issue (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AliyaJasmine)

On the 2013 ESPY Awards red carpet discussing Colin Kaepenick’s appearance in the ESPN Body Issue (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AliyaJasmine)

Jasmine has co-hosted the Juno Cup, a hockey event featuring professionals against musicians, reported on the Vancouver Winter Games and is a self-professed sports junkie. In July 2013, she joined Cabral “Cabbie” Richards in Los Angeles as part of TSN’s red carpet coverage for the ESPY Awards. She would speak to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick about his appearances in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue. Her love of the game clearly comes across as the program provides another strong venue for women to stake their claim in the ultra-competitive world of sports journalism.

Promotional shot for Play with AJ (Image obtained from: http://news.mtv.ca/photos/)

Promotional shot for Play with AJ (Image obtained from: http://news.mtv.ca/photos/)

The most endearing aspect of the program is that it does not take itself too seriously. While some sports programs believe they can solve all of sports problems and prognosticate with self-proclaimed expertise, Play with AJ approaches sport from a perspective of humour and nonchalance.

Opening the program with a monologue, AJ covers the intersection where pop culture and sport collide. She also pays homage to social media by acknowledging the unique sporting tweets of the week. One recent episode featured a tweet from Justin Bieber where he is photographed shirtless among the likes of Tyson Chandler and Kevin Durant.

One subject from her monologue is always segued one of her subjects into the TSN Talkback. With an on-air personality from The Sports Network, her subjects range along the lines of discussing Justin Bieber with Darren Dutchyshen to the Fame Game of NFL Quarterbacks (like Colin Kaepernick making the GQ cover) to A-Rod’s douchebag status with Jennifer Byrne.

Interviewing reality star and diehard New York Mets fan Snooki (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Interviewing reality star and diehard New York Mets fan Snooki (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Channeling the energy of skits from Pardon the Interruption, 30 Seconds of Fame is a segment filled with self-effacing humor that steals the show. Featuring a panel consisting of three bloggers and sports writers, they have to think fast on their feet as they are presented with numerous scenarios.

The segment goes through two rounds of hilarious elimination as each eliminated panelist is exiled to the infamous Shame Zone where they are booed by a group of hecklers and sprinkled with popcorn. The eventual winner earns 30 seconds of face time and is able to speak whatever is on their mind.

An added bonus of the segment is that viewers can participate as well. Viewers can tweet their own view on the scenarios discussed in 30 Seconds of Fame.

Perhaps its greatest asset is the fact that the segment tends to feature at least one female on the panel. Ranging from the likes of Missy Deyo, who covers Major League Baseball for the Kingston Whig-Standard, Nadine Liverpool, broadcast associate at Rogers Sportsnet and Miranda Furtado, these women all have something unique to offer.

Babes Dig Balls founder Miranda Furtado on 30 Seconds of Fame (Image obtained from: http://babesdigballs.com/the-babely-boss-makes-an-appearance-on-mtvs-play-with-aj/)

Babes Dig Balls founder Miranda Furtado on 30 Seconds of Fame (Image obtained from: http://babesdigballs.com/the-babely-boss-makes-an-appearance-on-mtvs-play-with-aj/)

Furtado, the founder of Babes Dig Balls, a sports site organized by women for a target audience of women was one of the winners. Megan Ann Wilson, a stylist and columnist with a love of basketball, is a two-time champion at 30 Seconds of Fame. Had she won her third appearance at 30 Seconds of Fame, she would have been the first recipient of the Play with AJ Bobblehead.

Liverpool was another fantastic female who prevailed on her respective panel and shared a powerful and moving 30 seconds in which she states why women need to believe in themselves and that they can succeed in sports.

Former hockey enforcer turned fashion guru Steve Avery in a one-on-one interview with AJ (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

Former hockey enforcer turned fashion guru Steve Avery in a one-on-one interview with AJ (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliyaJasmine)

From interviewing the likes of pop culture icon Snooki and country star Tim McGraw, the final segment of her program is a one-on-one interview which is a hybrid of topics ranging from sports, fashion, popular culture and music. Serving as the portal in which sporting personalities and celebrity figures can discuss non-traditional topics (such as Snooki’s devotion to the New York Mets and her newfound boxing promotion), the interviews come across as fresh and interesting.

While a hockey flavor is sprinkled into the feature, it is not the typical hockey interview. Although Jasmine once worked for the NHL Network, her Play with AJ interview with Sean Avery focused on his love of fashion and his reluctance to talk trash about Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Perhaps the best aspect of the Avery interview was the discovery that one of the cameramen on set was his cousin.

Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Joffrey Lupul spoke on the show about how he likes to play guitar. With his love of music, he discusses the difference between rock-star fame and hockey fame. When pressed by Jasmine, he stated that the various bands Jack White played with are the only type of music he would listen to.

Only on Play with AJ could Lupul declare that the Arcade Fire are one of Canada’s best bands while talking about being booed by the hockey patrons in the domiciles of divisional rivals such as Ottawa, Montreal and Buffalo.

More than just an on-air personality, she also helped to write and produce a video on breast cancer awareness which went viral and made news world-wide. With hundreds of thousands of hits, the video was meant to be a public service announcement.

Packaged to look like a typical beer commercial in which a buxom beauty walks in slow motion, admired by various voyeurs, the tone of the PSA is geared towards increasing cancer awareness for a younger demographic. A close-up of a chest states with tongue in cheek, it is time to save the boobs.

Still from AJ's viral video

Still from AJ’s viral video

In the effort to help promote Boobyball, a cause started by two remarkable women, Amanda Blakely and Ashleigh Dempster, Jasmine’s PSA helped to educate by sending the message that breast cancer is a leading cause of illness among women in their twenties.

Executed with the help of volunteers, the PSA also hit home for Jasmine, as her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. By donating her time to the Boobyball event, funds have been raised for the Rethink Breast Cancer cause.

Through her wit, compassion and love of sport, to call Jasmine the total package would be an understatement. Her star only rises with this new program on MTV Canada. In an era when women in sport, whether it be in athletic competition or in journalism, are still struggling for their opportunity to be considered equal, Play with AJ motivates a young generation of female sports fans to believe that they can shatter the glass ceiling.

Sporting world to catch up with women’s hockey star Hilary Knight

Quite possibly the finest American-born women’s hockey player competing today, the year 2013 has brought with it a year of great milestones. The first three months saw Knight carve a great legacy within the ranks of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Although Knight finished third in the CWHL scoring race, and second among rookie scorers, she did manage to lead all American-born players in scoring. Perhaps more impressive, Knight, a CWHL rookie no less, became the first American to win the CWHL Most Valuable Player Award.

Knight becomes first American born player to win CWHL MVP Award. Photo credit: Brandon Taylor

Knight becomes first American born player to win CWHL MVP Award. Photo credit: Brandon Taylor

She would follow up the accolade by leading all players in scoring during the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Her scoring touch helped her club team, the Boston Blades, prevent the Montreal Stars from claiming their third consecutive Cup.

Knight celebrating the Clarkson Cup win with Meaghan Duggan. This dynamic duo has also won the NCAA Frozen Four and IIHF Women’s Worlds as teammates too. (Photo by Brandon Taylor)

Knight celebrating the Clarkson Cup win with Meaghan Duggan. This dynamic duo has also won the NCAA Frozen Four and IIHF Women’s Worlds as teammates too. (Photo by Brandon Taylor)

A few weeks after her Cup win, she would duplicate the feat with the US National Team at the 2013 IIHF World Championships in Ottawa, Canada. Facing an undefeated Canadian rival in the gold medal game (who had never lost a gold medal game on home soil), Knight helped the US contingent to its fourth gold medal in the last five IIHF Women’s Worlds.

While Knight has left an incredible legacy in women’s hockey, she also has an affinity for the great summer pastime of baseball. Two great baseball moments would help define Knight’s off-season.

Despite rainy conditions, Knight proudly joined her Blades teammates as part of a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park in Boston. Recognizing the Blades’ Clarkson Cup victory, the team was allowed onto the hallowed field for a pre-game ceremony.

Photo credit: Harry How at Getty Images

Photo credit: Harry How at Getty Images

A second baseball event would follow a few weeks after the Fenway ceremony. Back in her home state of California, Knight caught a game at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Joining her were four USA Hockey teammates; team captain Julie Chu (who played against Knight in the Clarkson Cup finals), Amanda Kessel and the Lamoureux Twins, Jocelyne and Monique.

These five fantastic hockey players were in Hollywood with Harry How, a photographer for Getty Images. As part of a photo shoot to help promote the efforts of the United States Olympic Committee at the 2014 Sochi Games, Knight and her teammates proudly represented the growing game of women’s hockey.

Even in the warm sun of California, Knight cannot escape hockey. Along with a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, Knight and her teammates were welcomed to Staples Center to catch a postseason sporting event. With the NHL Conference Semi-Finals underway, they had the opportunity to catch the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in a playoff tussle. In addition, Knight had the opportunity to be featured on the NBC Sports Network talk show, The Crossover with Michelle Beadle.

Taking in an LA Kings playoff game with USA teammates the Lamoureux twins (Jocelyne and Monique) along with Amanda Kessel

Taking in an LA Kings playoff game with USA teammates the Lamoureux twins (Jocelyne and Monique) along with Amanda Kessel

While Knight will be looking help end the United States gold-medal draught in women’s hockey at the Winter Games, she will also be part of another unique way to promote the Sochi Games. Following on the success of their trading card series which recognized athletes competing at London 2012, the Topps trading card company (known for their baseball cards) has immortalized Knight on cardboard.

Along with Lamoureux twins, the three shall be featured on their own trading cards in said set. Other Winter Games hopefuls and heroes that shall appear in the Sochi trading card set include Gracie Gold, Julia Mancuso and autographed cards of Mike Eruzione.

Quickly becoming the face of US women’s hockey (following in the steps of other legends like Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero), a gold medal would help to transform Knight into an American sporting hero.

Having already won a Clarkson Cup, IIHF Gold and an NCAA Frozen Four, Winter Games gold would provide her with a unique grand slam. Of note, the only other woman to have won all four was Jenny Schmidgall-Potter.

While the sporting world is catching up to the greatness that is Hilary Knight, she may become more than just a household name, but a glowing example of women proving that they too can become sporting heroes. After Sochi, there is no question that the next generation of young female hockey players may grow up wanting to be like Knight.

Brianne Theisen Eaton emerges as Canada’s sweetheart at World Track and Field Championships

Having recently tied the knot to American-born world champion decathlete Ashton Eaton, 24 year-old Brianne Theisen-Eaton emerged as Canada’s sweetheart during the 2013 World Track and Field Championships. Her silver medal in the Heptathlon event catapulted her into the national spotlight. Having battled with a cold during part of her stay in Russia, she displayed remarkable character as she competed in seven events over a two-day span.

It was a notable event in Canadian sporting history as she became only the third Canadian female to grab a medal at the World Track and Field championships, following Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien. Hailing from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, she is the Canadian record holder in the indoor pentathlon with 4555 points.

Proudly displaying the Maple Leaf after her silver medal win (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Proudly displaying the Maple Leaf after her silver medal win (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Luzkniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia would serve as the backdrop for the first medal of her international career. Despite winning the 800-meter race (the final event), she finished a visceral 56 points behind champion Ganna Melnichenko of Ukrane, who accumulated 6586 points for the gold. Two days before she grabbed the silver, her husband grabbed the gold in the decathlon.

Of note, the 6530 points was a personal best for Theisen-Eaton. The day that she grabbed the silver marked exactly one month since the new power couple in track and field tied the knot. Earlier in the year, she accumulated 6376 points to win the 2013 Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria.

Competing in the long jump (Image by Matt Dunham)

Competing in the long jump (Image by Matt Dunham)

Although she has become an overnight sensation, the road to getting there was one that consisted of great commitment. In 2007, she was the Pan American Junior Heptathlon Champion. Her first appearance in the World Championships came in 2009. Contested in Berlin, Germany, she ranked fifteenth in the Heptathlon. Three years later, she would make her Summer Games debut. Competing at London 2012, she would manage an eleventh place finish in the same event.

Competing in the long jump as Thiesen-Eaton works her way through the heptathlon events (Photo by: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Competing in the long jump as Thiesen-Eaton works her way through the heptathlon events (Photo by: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

While her July 13 marriage to Eaton is a sporting match made in heaven, their relationship dates back to their athletic tenure at the University of Oregon. Ironically, both share the same coach, Harry Marra. Of note, Marra is such an integral part of their lives that he was the pastor at their wedding ceremony. A former coach with San Francisco State for 12 years, he helped coach both of them to NCAA titles in 2010. In addition, former Oregon pole vaulter Melissa Gergel was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding, representing the strong ties to the Ducks program.

With her husband, Image from: Claus Anderson/Athletics Canada

With her husband, Image from: Claus Anderson/Athletics Canada

Her tenure at Oregon was one filled with numerous championships. The eight-time All-American at Oregon also set five school records (heptathlon, 100-meter hurdles, pentathlon, 60-meter hurdles and high jump). From 2010 to 2012, she was the NCAA Indoor Champion in the Pentathlon. In 2011, she set an NCAA record with 4,540 points.

Competing with the Oregon Ducks track and field program

Competing with the Oregon Ducks track and field program

Wearing red (third from right) as the Oregon track team graced the football field. (Image obtained from: http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&ATCLID=1279849)

Wearing red (third from right) as the Oregon track team graced the football field. (Image obtained from: http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&ATCLID=1279849)

During the NCAA Outdoor Championships, she grabbed titles in the Heptathlon from 2009-10 and 2012. The back-to-back victories made her the first Oregon Duck athlete to win heptathlon titles consecutively. It was a banner year in 2009 as she helped Oregon to the first conference title in track and field since 1992. She would also grab a title in the Women’s 4 X 400 meter relay during 2010 and earned the 2010 and 2011 USTFCCCA national Women’s Field Athlete of the Year Award.

With the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, Theisen-Eaton will have the opportunity to try and win her first international gold medal in front of fellow Canadians. Such a win would surely stand as one of the most cherished in her career.

Seattle Mist capturing the imaginations of fans in 2013 LFL season

After knocking on the door for so many seasons, the Seattle Mist has knocked it down in 2013. Coming off a victory in the inaugural Pacific Cup against the BC Angels from LFL Canada, the stars seemed to be aligned for the ambitious fifth-year squad.

From LFL Images

From LFL Images

Building on the momentum of a Cup triumph, the Mist has stormed out to a dream season in 2013. Playing out of the ShoWare Center, the Mist was the only undefeated team during the regular season. Capturing their first-ever Pacific Division crown, Seattle scored a league-best 169 points.
Complemented by a Conference title, the Mist are hoping for a triple crown with their first-ever Legends Cup.

A significant aspect from their success starts at the quarterback position. Laurel Creel, who was named Most Valuable Player of the inaugural Pacific Cup, has shown remarkable grace and poise at the position. With the second-best total offense in the league (behind Anne Erler’s Green Bay Chill), Creel helped the Mist register a league-high 24 touchdowns.

Having thrown for 460 yards and 14 touchdowns (compared to only three interceptions), she has served as the catalyst of the Mist’s high-octane offense. With a proficient passer rating of 100.3, Creel ranks third in the league behind Chicago’s Heather Furr and Baltimore’s Morgan Spencer.

Other leaders on the offensive contingent include rookie running back Mele Rich and Shuree Hyatt. With 182 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Rich accounts for 57 percent of the rushing attack. Hyatt has accumulated 9 receptions for 123 yards as she is one of five Mist receivers to have at least 50 receiving yards.

Defensively, Lashaun Fowler is having a season to remember. Leading the Mist with 18 tackles, she was also the LFL regular season sack champion with 3.5.

Kerry Warren applying pressure on Green Bay quarterback Anne Erler (Image obainted from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=546)

Kerry Warren applying pressure on Green Bay quarterback Anne Erler (Image obainted from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=546)

Their road to glory began on April 6 versus the Green Bay Chill. Facing Anne “Showtime” Erler, the Mist were facing one of the most versatile and athletic quarterbacks in the LFL. Their showdown with Erler would signify a season marked by tests against elite members of the league.

While Rich would score the first touchdown of the season for the Mist, no lead is safe against Erler. Although Seattle jumped out to a convincing 20-6 lead, Erler was not intimidated by the boisterous crowd at ShoWare. With a little over two minutes in the first half, Erler helped lead the Chill to the end zone twice as the Mist only had a two-point lead at halftime.

Hyatt would emerge as the story of the game. With two touchdowns in the third quarter, her biggest contribution may have been an interception against Anne Erler. The pick helped to change the momentum as the Mist held off the potent Green Bay offense for a 55-36 final.

Jessica Hopkins breaks a tackle from Los Angeles Temptation defender Jasmine Byndloss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=580)

Jessica Hopkins breaks a tackle from Los Angeles Temptation defender Jasmine Byndloss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=580)

Facing the three-time defending LFL champion Los Angeles Temptation on May 4, the contest would truly make or break the Mist’s season. With Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California serving as the backdrop to this titanic struggle, it was the moment of truth for the Mist.
With the Temptation featuring the likes of Ashley Salerno and Liz Gorman, a road-win against them (something Seattle never did) would be hard earned.

Having emerged as the first dynasty in league history, the Mist was eager to overtake them and beat them on their own field. Nerves were evident as the Mist fumbled early in the game, leading to an Ashley Salerno touchdown pass to Melissa Margulies for an early lead.

An interception by Monique Gaxiola extended the Temptation’s lead with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Despite the strain of facing a high-powered on the road, Mele Rich help to set the tone for the Mist. Before the half expired, she scored a touchdown which helped give Seattle much-needed confidence.

A third-quarter interception of Salerno by Shuree Hyatt provided Seattle with their first lead of the game as the score was now 18-14. While Salerno would redeem herself by reclaiming the lead with a rushing touchdown, Creel would not be outdone. Despite being sacked by Chloe Butler, Creel kept her composure. A touchdown pass to Riki Creger-Zier would emerge as the winning touchdown, as Creel was recognized with Game MVP honors.

Donning number 12, Christine Moore lines up against the Minnesota Valkyries (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1394-XL.jpg)

Donning number 12, Christine Moore lines up against the Minnesota Valkyries (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1394-XL.jpg)

Winless Minnesota would serve as the next opponent for the Mist. The July 6 contest featured a pre-game Fourth of July ceremony as a victory would provide the franchise with its first division title. Minnesota rookie quarterback Kari Janes was intercepted twice in the first half as Seattle jumped out to a 22-0 lead.

Minnesota’s rookie quarterback continued to struggle in the second half as she was intercepted twice again. With only five completions, the 23 year-old was overwhelmed by a more experienced squad in a hostile arena. Seattle touchdowns by Shuree Hyatt and Riki Creger-Zier provided the squad with a convincing 38-0 win and a historic first; the Pacific Division crown.

Trying to contain legendary Las Vegas quarterback Nikki Johnson (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-SP747dD-XL.jpg)

Trying to contain legendary Las Vegas quarterback Nikki Johnson (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-SP747dD-XL.jpg)

Emotions ran high in the final game of the regular season versus the Las Vegas Sin. The July 20, 2013 contest at Orleans Arena featured former Seattle player Danika Brace competing against her former team.

With rookie runner Carmen Bourseau providing Las Vegas with a 7-0 lead, as the club was still looking for a postseason berth. As Jessica Hopkins sat out the contest with an injury, it would only have been natural to expect Sin quarterback Nikki Johnson, one of the greatest quarterbacks in LFL history, to pick apart the Mist defense.

Instead of a great quarterback match-up between Johnson and Creel, the outcome of the match was settled before halftime. On one of her first pass attempts, Johnson was picked off by Mele Rich who ran it back for a touchdown.

Although Johnson played valiantly and displayed tenacity, she could not help the Sin regain the lead. A touchdown pass to Kelley Schroeder pulled the Sin to within 8 points, with a 22-14 score. Before halftime, Megan Hanson and Mele Rich would score touchdowns for the 36-14 advantage.

Overwhelmed throughout the match by an aggressive Mist defense, Johnson was helpless as her team was simply not capable of matching up against Seattle. The game would signify the worst performance of her legendary career, as she went 9-for-21, while racking up three interceptions. The 52-14 final score represented several franchise milestones for the Mist; most points in one game and highest margin of victory in a game.

Left to right: Riki Greger-Zier, Jessica Hopkins. Christine Moore and Shea Norton (Imgae obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/seattlemist)

Left to right: Riki Greger-Zier, Jessica Hopkins. Christine Moore and Shea Norton (Imgae obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/seattlemist)

While the next stop in Seattle’s breakthrough season shall be the Conference Championship on August 24 in Los Angeles, confidence is high as the club brings an offensive attack that shall prove to be difficult for any offense to contain. Super rookies such as Mele Rich and Shuree Hyatt have added a new dimension to the offensive attack, while complementing Creel’s emergence as an elite quarterback.

The maturity of players such as Riki Creger-Zier and Christine Moore has also been a key aspect in the Mist’s unprecedented success. Along with veterans Jessica Hopkins, the three have provided absolute consistency, versatility and leadership for the Mist.

Defensively, the three have combined for 42 tackles and three sacks. Their presence on offense has also been of great boon for the Mist. Hopkins has a combined 140 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, making her one of the most valuable members of the roster. Creger-Zier has 78 yards and two touchdowns, while Moore has 49 yards and two scores.

While no championship is guaranteed, the 2013 campaign emerged as a validation for the hard work that the Mist has put into the game and towards building strong bonds within their community. For their enthusiastic fans, their loyalty and devotion has reinforced their standing as the best fans in the league. Regardless of the outcome of the postseason, the Mist has emerged as a model franchise in the LFL, paving the way for the other expansion teams to follow.

Remarkable women’s football talent recognized at 2013 WFA Awards

One of the most historic and exciting seasons in Women’s Football Alliance history ended with the announcement of its League Award winners. With so many remarkable milestones accomplished throughout the season, the hardware heroes were all women that helped transform the game and elevate it to a new level of competition

Postseason honors featured the Most Valuable Player award from the WFA Championship Game. Three players were recognized; quarterback Sami Grisafe and wide receiver Jessica Javelet from the Chicago Force, along with Brittany Satterwhite from the Dallas Diamonds.

Having ended her spectacular career with a championship, Sami Grisafe was the emotional favorite heading into the WFA championship game at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. She would score the first touchdown of the game and set the tone throughout. Having thrown for over 1,000 yards in the 2013 postseason, her precise passing made the difference as the Force captured their first-ever WFA crown with a convincing 81-34 victory.

Coming off a 2012 title with the San Diego Surge, Javelet would prove to be the best free agent pickup of the offseason. A former field hockey legend (who currently coaches with St. Joseph’s University), she paid remarkable dividends for the Force. In the WFA title game, she would log an incredible 225 receiving yards, complemented by 11 receptions and four touchdowns.

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

Christine Webb of the St. Louis Slam garnered Rookie of the Year honors. Also earning a nod as WFA Second Team All-American, Webb helped the 7-4 Slam to a postseason berth. The club would be eliminated in Week 13 at the hands of the eventual conference champion Dallas Diamonds by a 35-20 score.

Webb would lead all Slam players with 87 tackles, while ranking tenth overall in the league. Her 7 tackles for loss ranked third on the Slam while she
tied for second with 3.5 sacks, respectively.

The New Orleans Mojo were recognized as the WFA’s Rookie Team of the Year. Their first victory in franchise history would come during Week 4 as the Mojo bested the Acadiana Zydeco by a 32-12 tally.

While the team struggled through a 1-7 record in which they were outscored by a 300-38 total margin, there were some strong performances on defense. Allison Bott would lead the expansion franchise with three interceptions.

Sandra Scherberger and Yvette Schubert would emerge as defensive stars. Scherberger led the Mojo with 36.5 tackels, while Schubert was a defensive leader in three categories (tackles for loss, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries). Both would finish the season as All-America selections, with Schubert grabbing First-Team nods and Scherberger earning Second-Team accolades, respectively.

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Having led his team to the WFA Championship game, Matthew Russell of the Dallas Diamonds was chosen as WFA Coach of the Year. His greatest legacy of the season may have been the sterling performance of the Diamonds defense. Having allowed only 20 points throughout the regular season, Russell coached the league’s number one ranked defense.

Owner of the Year honors was shared between two individuals; Linda Bache of the WFA Champion Chicago Force and Paul Hamlin of the DC Divas.
American Conference honors featured players from three different teams earning accolades. The one common factor between the three award recipients is that all three were First Team American Conference All-America selections.

Defensive Player of the Year nod went to Tarrah Philpott of the Pacific Warriors. Known affectionately as Tank, Philpott logged another solid season. Ranking third on the Warriors with four sacks and 59 tackles, of which 13.5 were for a loss, she also pulled double duty as a punter. In addition, she forced one fumble while recovering another.

Fundamentally sound, she is one of the rare women in professional football that is a second generation star. Her father, Ed Philpott, was a former competitor in the AFL and NFL with the Boston Patriots and San Diego Chargers.

Quarterback Chantel Wiggins of the Central Cal War Angels took home the Offensive Player of the Year Award. A former tennis star and coach with the Fresno State Bulldogs, she graduated with 63 career wins in 2002.

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Ranking tenth in the WFA with a 94.0 passer rating, Wiggins’ 1,648 passing yards was third-best. She displayed great versatility with a storng running game that resulted in 17 rushing touchdowns, which ranked eighth overall.

The highly versatile Odessa Jenkins of the Dallas Diamonds grabbed the American Conference Most Valuable Player Award. Pulling double duty as running back and backup quarterback, she helped the Diamonds to a perfect 10-0 regular season mark.

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Tying for seventh in the WFA with 18 rushing touchdowns, her 93.5 passer rating would rank 11th overall. During the regular season, she compiled 461 passing yards and 401 rushing yards, complemented by an impressive 9.8 yards per carry.

There was very little surprise when the recipients of the National Conference awards were announced. Defensive and Offensive Player of the Year Awards both went to members of the Chicago Force.

Darcy Leslie would earn the Defensive Player of the Year nod while being named First Team National Conference All-America. As she contributed to a defense that only allowed 60 points during the regular season, she racked up 49 tackles, an impressive 14 were for a loss. She would also lead the Force defense in forced fumbles while ranking second in interceptions.

The aspect that made Leslie even more valuable to the Force was her ability to also contribute to offense. Platooning at the running back position, Leslie logged 377 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, respectively.

Adding another award to her trophy case was First Team All-America Sami Grisafe. The WFA passing yards champion in 2013, she was named Offensive Player of the Year. The Force pivot led all passers with 2,582 yards, 780 yards more than second ranked Lisa Horton of the Pittsburgh Passion.
With an astounding 32 touchdowns, compared to only 3 interceptions, Grisafe led the Force to the number-one ranked offense in the WFA. Receivers
Jeanette Gray and Brandy Hatcher would rank first and second in the WFA in receiving yardage. Having racked up 495 total points, the Force offense averaged 529.4 yards per game.

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

As the first woman in professional women’s football history to accumulate a 2,000-yard rushing season, Whitney Zelee from the Boston Militia was a consensus choice. In only ten regular season games, Zelee pounded out 2,326 rushing yards.

Her 37 rushing touchdowns were far and away the gold standard among runners. Atlanta Phoenix running back Launa Sims was second overall with 24 touchdowns. Along with three receiving touchdowns, Zelee’s 40 total touchdowns also ranked first in the league.

ESPN Body Issue features several influential female athletes

For the fifth time in its publishing history, ESPN: The Magazine is publishing its Body Issue. Featuring male and female athletes that appear nude, eight different covers are available. The female athletes which grace the variant covers include funny car driver Courtney Force, X-Games participant Tarah Gieger, soccer player Sydney Leroux and beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh-Jennings.

Basketball legend Swin Cash, currently with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky appears in the magazine. She follows in the footsteps of other WNBA athletes such as Diana Taurasi (2010) and Candace Parker (2012). Of note, Taurasi and Cash both played collegiately with the Connecticut Huskies.

Of all the female athletes that appear in the issue, the most artistic and unique photo belongs to Kerri Walsh-Jennings. Having won three consecutive gold medals in beach volleyball in the Summer Games (2004, 2008 and 2012), Walsh-Jennings gave birth in between two photo shoots for the magazine.

One photo shows Walsh-Jennings while pregnant, and the other shows her holding her newborn baby in her arms. While she is not the first pregnant athlete to pose for the magazine, softball hero Jessica Mendoza appeared in the inaugural edition of the Body Issue, her images side-by-side reflects pure art.

KerriWalsh

A pair of X-Games competitors, Tarah Gieger and Elena Hight is both part of the 2013 edition. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Florida, Gieger started racing professionally as an 18 year-old. The first gold medal of her X-Games career would come in 2008 during the first-ever women’s super cross event.

Tarah Gieger photographed by Peter Hapak

Tarah Gieger photographed by Peter Hapak

Hight is a competitor in the winter version of the X-Games. Having started snowboarding at six years old, she would participate at the 2006 Torino Winter Games and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Her greatest legacy in the sport is becoming the first-ever snowboarder to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo in halfpipe competition. She would brave the elements wearing only her snowboarding boots during the photo shoot for the Body Issue.

The youngest daughter of Funny Car national champion John Force, Courtney becomes the second member of the Force family to appear in the Body Issue. Her father actually appeared in the publication in 2011. At the age of 21, she won her first competition in the Top Alcohol Dragster category during an event in Seattle.

Three years later during 2012, Force would become the third woman to win a TF/FC (Funny Car) race by winning The Northwest Nationals. In 2013, she would make more history as the first woman to claim first place in the O’Reily Auto Parts Winternationals. For her photo shoot, Force is stranded in the middle of desert with only an empty gas can. She would have no trouble finding someone to help fill her tank.

As one of America’s female boxing heroes, Marlen Esparza forgets her trunks but brings her gloves for the Body Issue. A bronze medalist from the 2012 London Summer Games, she is only 24 and is poised for a great career ahead. As a role model for the Latina community, she also has endorsements with Cover Girl and was featured in TV ads for Coca-Cola and McDonalds.

Scottish golfer Carly Booth is a 20 year-old phenom that represents the future of the sport. Her photo shoot involved some driving practice wearing only her golf shoes at the scenic Chelsea Piers in New York City.

Carly Booth photographed by Williams and Hirakawa

Carly Booth photographed by Williams and Hirakawa

The 2006 Ladies Scottish Open marked her professional debut while in 2008, she would be the youngest player ever to compete with the British team in the Curtis Cup. At the tender age of 17, she qualified for the Ladies European Tour, the youngest Scot ever.

Appropriately, the 2012 Ladies Scottish Open represented her professional tournament win. During the three-day event, she wouild prevail by only one storke as she finished with a score of -4. Forty-two days later, she would emerge victorious again. In a playoff victory over Caroline Masson and Anja Monke, she won the Swiss Open with a -12 score.

Of all the female athletes that have appeared in the Body Issue, Agnieszka Radwanska suffered controversy for it. The number-four ranked women’s tennis player in the world is part of a religious cause in her native Poland. It was a campaign aimed at Catholics to not be ashamed of their beliefs.

Having also served as a WTA ambassador for Habitat for Humanity, the compassionate tennis player found herself disqualified from the cause.
Voted as the Most Popular Player in the WTA in 2011 and 2012, her legacy in tennis is one where she has made history for her homeland. In 2007, she became the first Polish player to win a WTA title and the first to be ranked in the WTA Top 10. Having also reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2012, she was the flag bearer for Poland at the 2012 London Summer Games. In 2013, she would become a receipient of Poland’s Gold Cross of Merit.

One of Ronda Rousey’s biggest rivals, Miesha Tate will challenge her for the Bantamweight title on December 28. While Rousey appeared in the 2012 edition of the Body Issue, Tate’s appearance marks the second consecutive year that a female UFC fighter is featured. As fans anxiously await the renewal of the most intense female rivalry in mixed martial arts, Tate also challenges Rousey in the looks department.

Miesha Tate photographed by Ben Watts

Miesha Tate photographed by Ben Watts

Having started their rivalry with the Strikeforce promotion, a title match between the two was the main event of a March 3, 2012 card in Columbus, Ohio. While Rousey defeated Tate for the title, it proved that women could headline a mixed martial arts card.

Born in Canada, Sydney Leroux is a competitor with the US women’s national soccer team. Her American father, Ray Chadwick was a former baseball player with the California Angels. Having also played for the Canadian Under-19 team, her associations changed in 2008.

Sydney Leroux photographed by Peter Hapak

Sydney Leroux photographed by Peter Hapak

Having played at the NCAA level with the UCLA Bruins, her career in the W-League was impressive. With the Vancouver Whitecaps, she was the youngest player ever to debut for the team at 15. A stint with the Seattle Sounders was followed by her current role with the Boston Breakers in the National Women’s Soccer League.

During the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, she scored five goals in a 13-0 whitewash of Guatemala. Perhaps more impressive was the fact it was only her second cap with the US team. As the youngest member of the squad during 2012, she would help them to a gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games.

While these remarkable women cover a wide range of sporting endeavors and unique backgrounds, all of them have broken ground in their respective sports. Although the exposure of one’s physique may not be for everyone, it is the utmost representation of sacrifice and hard work. Sending an empowering message, the barriers these women have shattered, and the odds they have overcome makes them role models and symbols of a great future in women’s sport.

Toronto Triumph to take a breather for 2013 LFL Canada season

As the first Canadian franchise in the history of the Legends Football League, the Toronto Triumph will not be part of the upcoming season. Instead, the fourth franchise in LFL Canada for 2013 shall be the Calgary Fillies. The emergence of the Fillies rounds out the number of Western Canadian based franchises as the league continues to build strong roots in that region.

Donna Paul and Alicia Bell

Donna Paul and Alicia Bell

Having participated in the Eastern Conference of LFL US in 2011, the double blue went 0-4 with its home base being Ricoh Coliseum. In a season riddled with controversy, which included a bench clearing brawl against the Philadelphia Passion along with team captain Krista Ford quitting the team, optimism was abound.

A group of Triumph players pose for the famed Sunshine Girl feature in the Toronto Sun (Image by Jack Bolland – Sun Media)

A group of Triumph players pose for the famed Sunshine Girl feature in the Toronto Sun (Image by Jack Bolland – Sun Media)

One positive aspect from the 2011 campaign was the emergence of Donna Paul. Having once played women’s hockey in the now-defunct National Women’s Hockey League, she emerged as the team’s quarterback once Ford left the squad.

Triumph players hosting a meet-and-greet at St. Louis Bar and Grill in downtown Toronto, Left to right: Andrea Critch, Sylvie Manaigre, Donna Paul and Marife Villagonzalo (Image obtained from Twitter)

Triumph players hosting a meet-and-greet at St. Louis Bar and Grill in downtown Toronto, Left to right: Andrea Critch, Sylvie Manaigre, Donna Paul and Marife Villagonzalo (Image obtained from Twitter)

Educated at the prestigious University of Toronto (where she helped the team win a national women’s hockey championship), Paul was also a school teacher. Her maturity and strong athletic background made her a natural leader for the double blue.

Despite the setbacks, the Triumph was the centerpiece for the newly created Canadian division of LFL for 2012. Players from the Philadelphia Passion of LFL US, such as Jaleesa McCrary and Whitney Paronish were loaned to the Triumph. While there was hope for strong momentum, the team stumbled. An 0-3 start placed the franchise was out of the 2012 postseason picture.

Holding a rooftop interview with Canadian cable television network The Score

Holding a rooftop interview with Canadian cable television network The Score

With one game remaining in the season, the Triumph pulled off a dramatic upset of the eventual LFL Canada champion BC Angels. Contested at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre, their home turf for 2012, their first win in franchise history represented a great turning point. Receiver Crystal Hall would be selected as one of the game’s Most Valuable Players.

Getting pumped up for player introductions (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyTorontoTriumph)

Getting pumped up for player introductions (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyTorontoTriumph)

The season produced promising stars such as Tiffany Russell and Petshauna Pinnock. Like Paul, Russell was also educated at the University of Toronto. She was part of a women’s flag football movement at the University which spawned similar programs throughout universities all over Ontario.

Marife Villagonzalo taking a snap from Tiffany Russell (Image obtained from Facebook)

Marife Villagonzalo taking a snap from Tiffany Russell (Image obtained from Facebook)

As a remarkable rookie, Russell would be named as an LFL Canada All-Fantasy Selection, making her eligible for the LFL All-Star tour of Asia. Of note, Russell also converted half of her receptions for touchdowns. Pinnock would emerge as the rushing leader for Toronto while playing valiantly with a 49-yard performance in a loss to the BC Angels.

When she was not wearing number 13 for the Triumph, Roxy Rowe had tremendous development as a bodybuilder (Photo by Masha Cavalier, Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TrainerRoxy)

When she was not wearing number 13 for the Triumph, Roxy Rowe had tremendous development as a bodybuilder (Photo by Masha Cavalier, Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TrainerRoxy)

Roxy Rowe joined the aforementioned Paul among some of the two-sport stars on the roster. Both hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, Rowe is a competitive bodybuilder, while Paul’s hockey skills resulted in strong team building for the Triumph.

Unfortunately, logistical and broadcast requirements were not being supported in either venue that the Triumph called home. With the need to reassess the arena situation for the Triumph, the visceral decision was made to suspend operations for 2013.

Danisha Payne: Image obtained from LFL Canada

Danisha Payne: Image obtained from LFL Canada

Despite the difficult decision, there are many things for the franchise to be proud for. Currently, Donna Paul is conducting an after-school program in which she teaches kids the values of fitness and exercise. Alicia Bell was one of four Triumph athletes that braved the cold December weather in front of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. The valiant foursome was part of an initiative with PETA to discourage individuals from purchasing fur as a holiday gift.

December 2011: Triumph players participating in the Tackle Cruelty, Bench Fur! campaign. Braving the elements, they are spreading holiday message about not purchasing fur as a gift. (Image by PETA Images)

December 2011: Triumph players participating in the Tackle Cruelty, Bench Fur! campaign. Braving the elements, they are spreading holiday message about not purchasing fur as a gift. (Image by PETA Images)

Well-known personal trainer, fitness model and track coach Alicia Bell from Train It Right getting in game-shape for the Toronto Triumph. (Photo credit by Paul Trepanier for http://trainitright.com)

Well-known personal trainer, fitness model and track coach Alicia Bell from Train It Right getting in game-shape for the Toronto Triumph. (Photo credit by Paul Trepanier for http://trainitright.com)

While fans in the Greater Toronto Area are forced to wait for the Triumph to return, the double blue’s valiant performance in the final game of the 2012 season provided fans with the hope and optimism that this was a team headed in the right direction. In defeating the eventual league champions, it helped to prove that the Triumph are talented enough to succeed.

Despite being sidelined for the 2013 season, there is no question that the Triumph left an impression on the Toronto sporting landscape. With so few professional women’s sports teams, the Triumph were an empowering group of athletic yet character women. The publicity that the team generated and the ink that newspapers devoted to the club represented a break-through for women’s sport that fans can only hope shall be sustained.

Once a new arena is found for the budding franchise, the momentum of that key win and the hopeful return of its stars should comprise a bright future. Until these fearless, female warriors from the gridiron return to represent the city of Toronto, the only thing the fans can do is provide the members of the Triumph with a heartfelt “Thank you.”

Team Leaders from the 2012 season:

* Interceptions: Jaleesa McCrary, Whitney Paronish, Alicia Bell (1)
* Passer Rating: Marife “Mousey” Villagonzalo (56.3)
* Rushing: Petshauna Pinnock (150)
* Rushing Touchdowns: Marife Villagonzalo (4)
* Receiving: Crystal Hall (7)
* Receiving Touchdowns: Tiffany Russell (3)
* Tackles: Jaleesa McCrary (23)