Famed designer Vera Wang makes statement with new uniforms for Eagles cheerleaders

One of the most intriguing storylines of the 2013 NFL season in Philadelphia overshadowed the arrival of new head coach Chip Kelly or the drafting of USC quarterback Matt Barkley. While the new era in Eagles football is one that brings with it great promise, the biggest story came from the sidelines. Famed fashion designer Vera Wang made a statement by providing her expertise in creating new uniforms for the highly popular Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders.

MICHAEL PEREZ/AP PHOTO

MICHAEL PEREZ/AP PHOTO

The first-ever group of NFL cheerleaders to have their uniform designed by a renowned designer such as Wang, she is expanding on a previous design. Back in 2003, she was first hired by the Eagles to design uniforms. A friend of Eagles owner Jeffrie Lurie, Wang has also designed outfits for figure skaters such as Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

With a grouping of colors which feature white, black and midnight green, the new uniforms made their debut on September 15 as the Eagles faced the San Diego Chargers in their home opener. Said uniforms are a hit with Christina Weiss Lurie, the Presidnet of the Eagles Youth Partnership and Eagles Social Responsibility.

HUNTER MARTIN/GETTY IMAGES

HUNTER MARTIN/GETTY IMAGES

Of note, Wang was once an athlete herself. A former figure skater, she was featured in Sports Illustrated’s famous Faces in the Crowd section over four decades ago. Renowned as a bridal and wedding dress designer, Wang has certainly acknowledged the athleticism and glamour that comes with being an NFL cheerleader.

The cheerleaders’ signature pieces include crop tops, low-rise skirts and sleek shorts. Along with shrug sweaters, a zip-up track jacket and black sparkle sneakers for when the temperature lowers, the Eagles cheerleaders shall likely remain the most popular in the NFL. Combining function and elegance, Wang scores a touchdown.

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Jessica MacDonald unable to repeat as world champion

With the announcement that wrestling will be back on the Summer Games events list, there was an air of excitement as defending world champion Jessica MacDonald was hoping to repeat as world champion. Budapest, Hungary set the stage for what Jessica MacDonald was hoping would cement her legacy as one of the greatest women’s wrestlers in modern history.

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Instead, she had to find solace in a bronze medal in the freestyle women’s 51-kilogram weight class. Of note, it marked a unique milestone in her career as she has claimed a medal at three consecutive FILA world championships.

At the 2011 championships in Istanbul, Turkey, she grabbed the bronze, while the 2012 championships would serve as her defining moment. As the event was held at Millennium Place in Strathcona, Alberta, Canada, winning the gold medal on home soil was an exciting moment for her. The win that set the tone at that tournament involved defeated defending world champion Zamira Rakhmanova to advance to the semis.

With the gold medal, she became the third woman to win a world title, following Martine DuGrenier and Christine Nordhagen-Vierling. As a member of the Brock University Wrestling Club out of St. Catharines, Ontario, it marked the first world champion in the university’s history.

Despite being victorious in her first three matches at this year’s worlds, she was bested by Yanan Sun in the semifinals. The two had grappled in the gold medal match at the 2012 world championships.The final score in the loss was a discouraging 7-0 mark.

She would prevail over Ukraine’s Yuliya Blanhinya by an 8-6 score to grab the bronze-medal. After the first period, she was actually down by a 4-0 margin. She would then face a 6-2 deficit where she showed her mettle by registering six unanswered points. Although it was a hard earned bronze, the qualities of perseverance and determination defined her remarkable comeback victory.

This season, MacDonald has enjoyed tremendous success. Impressively, she has won a medal at every event that she has participated in. She captured the gold medal at four events including the World Cup, Pan-American Championships, Grand Prix of Spain and the Battle at the Falls.

Carly Dupont-Hill ready for breakout 2013-14 season

As one of the elite defenders in the CWHL, Carly Dupont-Hill has also established herself as a role model in the Montreal area. The Montreal Stars defensive stalwart has proudly followed in the proud tradition of other remarkable Stars like Liz Breton and Caroline Ouellette in giving back to the community.

Among one of the events she was involved with over the summer of 2013 was the Five Hole for Food Event in Montreal. Founded by Ryan Loat in Vancouver, it has grown into a coast-to-coast event. Charitable ball hockey games are played in an effort to obtain donations of non-perishable food items that can then be distributed to local food banks.

On July 9, Dupont-Hill was glad to lend her time for the cause at Place du Canada. With the beneficiary being Moisson Montreal, she proudly represented the Stars organization.

Participating in the July 2013 Five Hole for Food event in Montreal (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MontrealCwhl)

Participating in the July
2013 Five Hole for Food event in Montreal (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MontrealCwhl)

While she is also a recreational soccer player during the summer months, she still found time to grace the ice. Mentoring the next generation of women’s hockey stars at the Fast and Furious Day for Girls Hockey, she was joined by 2013 CWHL Rookie of the Year, Ann-Sophie Bettez. Of note, both were teammates with the McGill Martlets at the university level. For the youngsters who had the opportunity to learn from them, it was an event that shall positively shape their growing careers.

Another summer event for Dupont-Hill included the Play It Forward Kids ball hockey tournament. Organized by the Greenfield Park Pentecostal Church and South Shore Community Church, with sponsorship by Mullins Sports, the goal is to help raise money in order to buy sports equipment for underprivileged children.

Her off-ice leadership will be crucial heading into the Stars 2013-14 campaign. With a roster decimated by the loss of nine Stars to the US and Canadian Centralization Camps (in anticipation for Sochi 2014), another run at the Clarkson Cup will require a strong presence on the part of the remaining veterans.

With former McGill teammate Cathy Chartrand (left) during team intros at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image by: Jess Desjardins)

With former McGill teammate Cathy Chartrand (left) during team intros at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image by: Jess Desjardins)

Although she is only in her third season, Dupont-Hill is one of the more experienced defenders on the Stars. She will be counted upon to remain a key contributor on special teams, where she led the team with 9 power play assists last season. Along with Cathy Chartrand, the CWHL scoring champion among defenders in 2013, the two are a dynamic duo on the blueline.

One of the top leaders last season in plus/minus ranking, Dupont-Hill can expect her ice time to increase with the absence of Stars defender Catherine Ward at Canada’s centralization. As a side note, Dupont-Hill has experienced her own glories as part of Team Canada. When the World Winter University Games adopted women’s hockey as a competitive sport in 2009, Hill proudly donned the Maple Leaf on her sweater. Part of the Canadian contingent that would win gold again in 2011, it remains one of the greatest accomplishments in her storied career.

Hill is also a Team Canada alumnae that grabbed gold at the 2009 Winter Universiade (Credit: Xinhua/Li Yong)

Hill is also a Team Canada alumnae that grabbed gold at the 2009 Winter Universiade (Credit: Xinhua/Li Yong)

While the Stars have replenished their roster with a solid 2013 CWHL Draft, one pick that will certainly benefit from Dupont-Hill’s expertise is Laurie Proulx-Duperre. As a 5’10” blueliner from Concordia University, the 24 year-old should definitely see her game improve.

Embodying the values of professionalism and dedication, Dupont-Hill will likely be a positive influence for many other rookies donning the Stars jersey this upcoming season. Considering the possibility of parity which many define said season, the contributions of players like Dupont-Hill could emerge as the difference between winning and losing.

Sporting hero Lolo Jones should be celebrated for her sojourn in Sochi

Having established herself as one of America’s sporting sweethearts, Lolo Jones captured the imagination of sports fans at the London 2012 Summer Games. Despite a heartbreaking finish at London, Jones put on a brave face in spite of unfair criticism by the media. This was worsened by the unfair attack by some of her track teammates who stated her attention was not always in line with her track accomplishments.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

With a legion of fans that still admire Jones, it is exciting that her sporting journey has found a new path. Although Jones still has plans to compete at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, she has put the indoor track season on hold for an opportunity to compete in the bobsled.

The decision to compete in the event has displayed a remarkable display of character that shows a tremendous inner strength and determination on the part of Jones. The world-class athlete may have the rare opportunity to compete in the Summer and Winter Games (reminiscent of female sporting legends such as Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes). Her involvement in the bobsled competition has also helped grown more interest in the sport.

Todd Hays, the US women’s bobsled coach, was the architect behind this unique concept. It was his decision to invite Jones, Tianna Madison, part of the 4 x 100 meter relay team at London, and Hyleas Fountain to the bobsled push championships.

Image by Associated Press

Image by Associated Press

Believing that it would help raise morale among bobsledders, Hays also had the foresight to believe that track athletes had the necessary speed and strength to push the sleds. Other celebrated athletes in the mix included Emily Azevedo, Katie Eberling and Cherrelle Garrett.

As a world class athlete, Jones embodies the spirit of dedication, discipline and the drive to be the world’s finest competitor. While bobsled should be a pleasant distraction from track that helps to provide Jones with new goals, along with the rejuvenation of her athletic spirit, there are the cynics who questioned this decision.

For those who doubted Jones ability to compete in the bobsled, she made her mark at a competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. As part the US team that competed in a combined bobsled and skeleton event, she contributed to a gold medal victory.

Serving as the brakewoman for Elana Meyers in the women’s bobsled portion, the team registered the third-best time of the day in the event. It was a tremendous milestone for Jones as it complements the world titles she grabbed in 2008 and 2010 in the indoor 60-meter hurdles.

Despite such success, Jones has had the added distraction of continuously being under a microscope. Sadly, there will always be cynics and haters and it is an unfair yet obligatory aspect of being a world famous athlete. The opportunity to compete at Sochi should mark a remarkable effort in US women’s sporting history, yet Jones’ celebrity status occasionally makes her an unfair target.

Allegations of having been involved in an altercation with the stepdaughter of U.S. bobsled legend Tony Carlino were harsh. The incident was believed to have taken place at Lake Placid, in advance of the National Bobsled Push Championships in Calgary. While eyewitnesses confirmed that Carlino was “visibly intoxicated” and “verbally confronted” Jones, there were some who tried to put Jones in the wrong by stating the incident was covered up.

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

TAO/WIREIMAGE FOR BUDWEISER

A more pleasant event also made national news for Jones. With Jones being one of the most popular athletes on social media, her date with Georgia college student Bubby Lyles made national news. She had agreed to the date on one unique condition; if Lyles got obtain over 150,000 retweets, he would earn his date. Surprisingly, it only took him two weeks to hit the magical mark.

As a side note, there is another pleasant fact about Jones’ sojourn for gold at Sochi. The Topps trading card company (famous for their baseball cards) has produced sports cards of the US Olympic Team. The first set was released to commemorate the US team that competed at the 2012 London Games. In following the success of that release, a new set recognizing the US team competing at Sochi 2014 is scheduled to be released in November 2013. The exciting fact is that Jones is the only athlete to have been featured on a trading card in both sets.

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Trading card from the 2012 Topps trading card set recognizing athletes from the Summer Games

Heading into Sochi, she represents a unique underdog story as Olympic gold has eluded her storied career. While the Games always brings about strong feelings of national pride, Jones deserves support and not criticism. Regardless of the outcome in Sochi, Jones has shown that she is an admirable, courageous, strong woman who deserves to be considered as a role model. In the hearts and minds of her loyal fans, she will always be a champion.

New era begins in CWHL as Team Alberta is rechristened Calgary Inferno

A bold statement was made on September 23, 2013 as Team Alberta and blue and gold sweaters were retired. Prior to the exhibition game between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers, the new name and jerseys were unveiled. Going by the name of the Calgary Inferno, it marks a tremendous shift for the third year franchise.

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With the franchise’s four defensive stalwarts, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Tara Watchorn and Kelsey Webster, at centre ice for the ceremonial puck drop, it started a bold and exciting chapter. Although Larocque, Mikkelson and Watchorn will forego the season as they are part of Canada’s Centralization Camp (in order to gain a spot for the Sochi Winter Games), Webster shall have a much bigger leadership role this season.
Appointed as a representative for the CWHL Players Association in the upcoming season, it is a fitting tribute for such a dedicated athlete.

Appropriately, this new-look uniform borrows from the Calgary Flames jersey design. Incorporating the colors of red, white, yellow and black, it also uses the striping pattern from the Flames jerseys. The new Inferno logo shall adorn the shoulder. As the Flames (along with the Toronto Maple Leafs) have been onboard as CWHL sponsors since November 2012, it has brought a sense of vitality and sustainability to the budding league.

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Including an offseason that began with the acquisition of Jessica Wong as the first pick overall in the CWHL Draft, the franchise continues to gain momentum. In addition, the Inferno made some more history in the draft by selecting an Australian-born player (Georgia Moore) for the first time, along with a member of the Canadian national women’s tackle football team (Julie Paetsch).

The sharp new look and exciting direction of the franchise certainly points to brighter days. As Team Alberta (also known as the Alberta Honeybadgers) finished their first two seasons with the worst record in the league, this is an effort to inject new life in the promising franchise.

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With the Inferno’s home opener on November 29 versus the Toronto Furies, the franchise has a group of exciting draft picks and solid veterans. Led by head coach and former NHLer Tim Bothwell, he is also the head coach of the Canadian women’s Under-22/Development Team. A strong foundation with Kathy Desjardins and DeLayne Brian between the pipes, along with Webster leading the blueline corps should bring the Inferno its strongest season yet.

While the next goal for the Inferno is to earn their first berth in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, the new look is a reminder that the Team Alberta days are now part of the past. This year’s theme is moving forward and the path towards the future brings with it a renewed optimism.

Australia’s Georgia Moore makes Alberta sporting history twice in one year

One of the most unique aspects of the 2013 CWHL Draft was the fact that Georgia Moore became the first Australian-born player selected. Hoping to crack the roster of the Alberta Hockey Club, an additional bit of history was made with the pick. In addition to her hockey background, Moore spent part of 2013 as a competitor in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. She made her WWCFL debut on June 8 in High River, Alberta as her club competed against expansion cousins the Grande Prairie Northern Anarchy

Moore with the former Strathmore Rockies of the WWHL (Obtained from: http://www.cwhl.ca/view/cwhl/-9735/draft-picks-2)

Moore with the former Strathmore Rockies of the WWHL (Obtained from: http://www.cwhl.ca/view/cwhl/-9735/draft-picks-2)

Of note, Moore was not the only player with experience on the gridiron claimed in the draft. Julie Paetsch, who helped the Saskatoon Valkyries to its third straight WWCFL title, while also contributing to a silver medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, was claimed in the CWHL Draft. Ironically, Paetsch became a member of the Alberta Hockey Club, marking the first time that two women’s football players were selected in the CWHL Draft, let alone with the same franchise.

Evading a tackler from Grande Prairie (Image by Pete Mouland, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moulandimages/8990674949/in/set-72157634013762347)

Evading a tackler from Grande Prairie (Image by Pete Mouland, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moulandimages/8990674949/in/set-72157634013762347)

While Moore is a member of the Australian national women’s team, she relocated to Calgary, Alberta at the tender age of 18. Like many international players, Moore made the decision to improve her skills and better her game by moving to a region where hockey is highly popular. Although her intention was to stay for three months and go back to Australia, Calgary has become an adopted home for her.

Having lived in Calgary since 2005, she has competed at various levels of hockey. From the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association to the collegiate level with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, complemented by a three year stint with the Strathmore Rockies of the Western Womens’ Hockey League.

Although relocating to Calgary was a significant life decision, she was not alone in making the move. Having also resided in Calgary for several years was Rylie Padjen, a teammate on Australia’s national team.

Having lived in Calgary since 2005, she has competed at various levels of hockey. From the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association to the collegiate level with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, her love of the game was stimulated. This was also complemented by a three year stint with the Strathmore Rockies of the Western Women’s Hockey League.
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For Moore, the opportunity to compete with the Rockies was a fantastic opportunity. Their formation was a complete rebuttal to the existence of the Calgary Oval X-Treme, which featured only members of the Canadian national women’s team on their roster. The Rockies provided other women in Calgary the opportunity to compete at an elite level hockey.

Formed by player and women’s hockey activist Samantha Holmes, Moore had the opportunity to learn from players such as Delaney Collins, Bobbi-Jo Slusar and Kelsey Webster. Dissolved in 2011, many of the Rockies players had the opportunity to extend their careers with the new Alberta franchise in the CWHL.

Invited to the Alberta training camp in 2011, Moore had not qualified for the final roster. While she continued to compete internationally with the Australian national team (which she joined at age 16), she hungered to continue to play at an elite level in Canada.

The opportunity to play women’s tackle football with the Okotoks Lady Outlawz in 2013 may have been a blessing in disguise. As the biggest challenge for any athlete is to remain in shape throughout the off-season, Moore’s speed and on-ice vision made her a suitable candidate to compete on the gridiron.

Despite the fact that the Lady Outlawz failed to win a game in their inaugural season, Moore was one of many bright spots on a young team. Along with Amber Larson and Christine Szostak, the three form a remarkable backfield. Allison Mouland, an exceptionally talented athlete who is the team’s quarterback is a born leader. Fans can only hope that Moore will return to the WWCFL gridiron in 2014.

Currently, Moore’s challenge is recovering from a back ailment. With the CWHL season approaching in Alberta, this season represents a golden opportunity for Moore. As four members of Alberta are competing for spots with the Canadian women’s team that will compete at Sochi, she has the opportunity to contribute to a franchise looking for its first postseason berth. With the momentum that Moore has since the draft, there is no doubt that she will continue her remarkable athletic sojourn in Alberta sports.

Total Divas mid-season finale leaves fans wanting more

With the WWE reality show Total Divas reaching its mid-season finale, there has been no shortage of drama. A glimpse into the world of women’s professional wrestling brings with it the interest to see more of the goings-on in what is hardly a glamorous career.

Although women have been part of the squared circle since the Great Depression, (Mildred Burke was its biggest star), the recent years have brought with it an element of sex that is not for all wrestling fans. Considering that several female wrestlers had posed fully nude in men’s magazines, there was a time when speculation rose as to whether a newly hired wrestler would follow suit.

These new women of wrestling are about the in-ring work and it shows. Their commitment to training (which is also featured in several episodes) is testament to the effort of bringing true credibility to women’s wrestling. Although visual appeal will always have a factor for both male and female wrestlers, those that have the talent tend to eventually get noticed.

While many women from the 1990’s and the 2000’s were eye candy (overshadowing the female wrestlers that truly had talent), there is a certain legitimacy that has returned to women’s wrestling. Such an element only adds to the excitement of the Total Divas program.

As Nattie Niedhart prepared to tie the knot to fellow wrestler Tyson Kidd in the mid-season finale, themes such as jealousy, betrayal and conflict dominated most of the episode. All three were definitely part of Nattie’s journey towards marriage.

From the outset, her plans for an outdoor ceremony did not come to fruition as the elements played a role, causing her to hold the ceremony indoors. Unbeknowst to her fiancée, her male friend and former training partner from Calgary (known only as Jaret) arrived for the wedding.
The confrontation over the invitation increased tensions. Added to the mix was the fact that best friend Nikki Bella could not attend the ceremony.

Although there was a happy ending, it was a surprise that the wedding still took place.
On the topic of relationships, the reason for Nikki’s absence was attributed to the fact that her boyfriend, WWE superstar John Cena, invited her to the Boston area to visit with his family. A rare side that is hardly seen from Cena, the opportunity to see his family showed a softer side to the bruising grappler.

One of the legacies in pro wrestling (male or female) is the politics and the “push” that some wrestlers get. This played itself out during the episode as tensions over the push (an effort to make a wrestler more popular) ran strongly between WWE newbies Jojo and Eva Marie.

As Eva Marie had the opportunity to appear on Monday Night Raw, Jojo was naturally jealous and resentful. While the two have trained together and even shared a residence, the tension over the push was only natural. From a bikini-clad Eva Marie being featured in Maxim Magazine (which was part of a previous episode), Jojo felt that her colleague was being pushed partly because of her looks.

With due deference to Jojo, she has a difficult path to endure should she wish to become a WWE star. At only 19 years of age, her impatience and frustration is very evident. Due to her small size, she will have to work twice as hard in order to truly make an impact.

While a hospital scare involving Arianne brought back fears of Brian Pillman, Trinity stood by her and displayed why they are such a strong tag team. Having recovered, she was able to attend Nattie’s wedding with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Vincent (which adds a soap opera element).

The biggest event of the episode may have been the bombshell ending. John Cena asks Nikki Bella to move from San Diego to be with him in Tampa. Having suffered a bad divorce, it is a surprise move from Cena that will be played out in the second half of the Total Divas season.