Two-sport star Amber Bowman continues to inspire with world class performances

Having excelled in both hockey and in the world firefighter challenge, Amber Bowman is a force to be reckoned with. Since March 2013, her athletic journey has endured various ups and downs, but her passion to compete has never withered.

Despite being hit in the hand with a puck while competing for the Toronto Furies women’s hockey club at the 2013 Clarkson Cup tournament, Bowman’s toughness and resiliency won out. Returning to the ice for the next game with slight discomfort was more than just testament to her character, but an inspiration for her teammates.

Perhaps more impressive was the winning streak she assembled a few months later at numerous firefighter challenges, both nationally and internationally. Known as the toughest two minutes in sports, it involves a remarkable commitment and personal sacrifice on the part of Bowman. Factoring in time, travel, gym fees, entry fees, flights and accommodation, along with shift changes as a member of the Central York Fire Department (located north of Toronto), the hours involved incorporates a unique lifestyle.

Quite possibly the world’s most accomplished competitor in the World Firefighter Challenge, the hard work has definitely paid off. A recent competition in Dubai cemented one of the most impressive Canadian sporting legacies, male or female. Dubai was certainly the culmination of a championship streak that continues to wonder and amaze.

Leading up to the competition in Dubai, Bowman established herself as the one to beat. In autumn 2013, Bowman successfully defended all four of her world championships in Las Vegas, site of the World Firefighter Combat Challenge in Las Vegas. The four disciplines in which she emerged victorious included: female individual, female tandem, coed tandem and relay events.

Donned in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, part of the demanding course at the competition included Bowman carrying a 50-pound hose up six flights of stairs. Competing on an American course, which is longer than a Canadian course, she finished the course in two minutes and 14 seconds.

For her efforts, she was also invited to the Cotton Bowl football game on January 4, 2014 as part of a pre game display in front of 80,000 fans. Residing north of Toronto, the snow and the elements represented restrictions on her ability to train for the event, which included an uphill dummy drag. Despite the setback, Bowman employed the use of various CrossFit exercises in order to make her physically prepared for such a prestigious opportunity.

Following the Cotton Bowl experience, Bowman was part of a historic group of competitors at the inaugural UAE World Firefighter Challenge. Held in Abu Dhabi, it was the first competition of its kind held outside of North America. While the stairways for the event were constructed of industrial scaffolding, enhanced by a vertical structural pole running between the risers, Bowman maintained her championship ways, winning two titles at the event.

Such jubilation for Bowman was exceeded by an even more impressive performance off the field of competition. Of note, two women from the Abu Dhabi police force were competing in the event. Bowman donated her time by helping to train these competitors. All competitors at the event were cheering for these two ground breaking women as they were wearing their burkas under their bunker gear. For these “rookies” in the event, it is certainly a unique privilege when they can gain advice, let alone training from a world champion.

For Bowman, training is a true labour of love. Part of that commitment includes her enterprise, Fit by Fire, in which she helps others achieve better health through her fitness program. With a degree in Exercise Science from Ohio State University (where she was also a Big Ten Scholar Athlete), complemented by her past position as a trainer at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Bowman is using her expertise to help people reach their goals, providing her with her greatest reward.

In true championship form, Bowman is very humble, always looking on how she positively impacts others. Although Bowman’s goals include being able to break the two-minute barrier (her fastest time ever was 2:01:00), her drive and ambition are not only a great source of encouragement, but make her a winner in life. Always believing that she can be better and faster, both physically and mentally, her commitment to fitness and success is an inspiration for anyone who wants to bring about positive change in their lives.

Magic Johnson breathes new life into WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks

As one of the WNBA’s charter franchises, the unexpected announcement that Paula Madison was no longer in a position to operate the Los Angeles Sparks raised question marks for the 2014 WNBA season. Similar to when he saved the Lakers and the NBA a generation ago, Magic Johnson has stepped up to purchase the fledgling franchise.

Of note, Madison purchased the Sparks from the Buss family (also the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers) in 2007. Since her acquisition, she has endured $12 million in losses, along with a $1.4 million hit in the aftermath of the 2013 campaign. The challenge for Magic to turn the franchise into a profitable one may prove to be his biggest franchise.

Johnson’s partners in the investment group include Mark R. Walter, the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers (of which Johnson is also part owner) along with fellow Dodger co-owners Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten. Although the WNBA had an offer from the NBA’s Golden State Warriors ownership group to purchase the Sparks and relocate them to the Bay Area, the presence of local ownership was preferred.

With the stability of Johnson’s ownership group, the league was now prepared to finalize its season schedule along with television dates. For WNBA president Laurel Richie, Johnson’s proven track record in local business and civic duties was a key point. As one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, Magic’s ownership bid was unanimously approved by the WNBA and the NBA’s Board of Governors.

For the Sparks franchise, the opportunity to enter their 17th season with such strong ownership support may be the positive turning point towards a championship. On paper, the Sparks boast one of the league’s most remarkable lineups. Center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, and guard Kristi Toliver form a trio of astounding all-stars poised to bring the City of Angels its first WNBA title since 2002.

Parker earned the WNBA Most Vaulable Player nod in 2013 (she also earned the honor in 2008 as a rookie) while Ogwumike was the 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year Award Winner. That same season, Toliver was recognized as the WNBA’s Most Improved Player. With early speculation that the league considered contracting the Sparks, the thought of these three superstars going into a dispersal draft would have been heartbreaking for its fans.

After the dismantling of the Houston Comets, the WNBA’s first dynasty, and the Sacramento Monarchs, another championship franchise, any contraction of the Sparks may have signaled the league’s demise. Although relocation to the Bay Area was a possibility, it still deserves strong consideration as an expansion city or a relocation destination for a lesser franchise.

Collegiate women’s basketball has carved a significant niche in the Bay Area. Former WNBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Azzi is a coach with the University of San Francisco. Stanford has been a remarkable school for grooming WNBA talent, while the University of California-Berkeley has enjoyed a strong following.

The presence of pro basketball in the Bay Region is one that warrants serious discussion. In addition, it would provide the Sparks with a California-based rival, something that may possibly help generate more interest in the franchise.

While the purchase of the Sparks is certainly a civic gesture on Magic’s part, the possibility of enduring a few financial losses along the way is high. Although there would likely be tax benefits, Magic’s acumen as a businessman also means that he will be committed to ensuring impressive balance sheets sooner rather than later. There is no question that Magic is definitely a fan of the female game. Not only did Magic attend the first-ever Sparks game in 1997, but his sister Evelyn played college basketball. After helping to save the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 after a disastrous tenure under Frank McCourt, fans are optimistic that Magic can bring the same success to the Sparks.