Total Divas third season ends with memorable moments

As the E! Channel reality show Total Divas finished its third season, the path for the Divas of World Wrestling Entertainment culminates with tensions over performances at a historic WrestleMania event and wedding jitters. Despite the development of the Divas division from its perception as eye candy in the late 1990s to strong, athletic women in the 2010s, hardcore fans cannot help but feel that this division still receives second class treatment.

With the entire Divas division earning the opportunity to compete at a unique battle royal for the Divas championship at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, a member of the management team approaches them with an ominous message. Originally slated to appear second on the card (line-up for non-wrestling fans), the announcement is made that the Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational (name of the match) shall be the second-last match. While the Divas confront the member of management, it becomes obvious that he is just a soldier, bearing the bad news despite the potential injustice.

The impact of the decision is one that supplies haunting and saddening feelings to the beleaguered Bella Twins. Undergoing the stress of preparing a wedding and relationship woes, the rescheduling of a match reignites feelings from 2013. During WrestleMania XXIX in New Jersey, the Bella Twins tag-team match was rescheduled to the second last on the card. As other matches on the card lasted longer than their pre-allotted time, the Bella Twins match was sacrificed.

Fearing over another match possibly being cancelled, tensions rise for the Bella Twins and their colleagues. One of the subplots during the second season of Total Divas is the growing tension between Brie Bella and rookie star Summer Rae. While Rae is hurt over not being invited to Brie’s wedding over the fear of potential drama, the two encounter each other in the backstage area. While Summer is cordial enough to provide a wedding gift, it is obvious that their issues remain unresolved. Hopefully, the booking committee (group who stages the matches and determine which athletes wrestle each other) can translate such heat into an in-ring rivalry.

Nikki Bella endures her own relationship woes. Having disclosed to her family the revelation that she was secretly married earlier in her life, it created a rippling event. With her brother approaching John Cena and praising him for how calm he was in hearing the news, little did the brother know that he was truly the first revealing such information to Cena.

Another rookie also endures her shares of tensions. Eva Marie, named to Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 for 2014 is extremely nervous as she has limited wrestling skills. Pacing frantically and expressing her fears to anyone who will lend an ear, she is afraid that she may have a bad performance at the WWE’s signature event. Nattie Neidhart attempts to console her, but it just comes across as a scolding, an example of her intensity.

As time seems to drag on for the impatient Divas, concerns grow upon the discovery of the preceding match. This even greater problem surfaces as the sixth match bears a historic impact. The Undertaker, who entered the match with a 21-0 mark in previous WrestleMania events, is facing former UFC champion Brock Lesnar. Not only is the match lasting longer than scheduled, but all signs point to the clash between these two ring gods becoming an instant classic.

Much to the surprise of the Divas, who are watching on monitors backstage, the Undertaker’s streak comes to a shocking end. With fans heartbroken and booing, it may have been better for the Divas if their match was cancelled. Instead, they are given the news that they shall emerge from the backstage area and work their match.

Forced to perform after a historic match, with an ending that will be talked about for years to come, it becomes obvious why the Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational was rescheduled. Coming out to a group of upset, distraught and enraged fans, it becomes clear that said fans have no interest in this match. While nervous rookie Eva Marie (whose outfit alone makes her a fan favorite) attempts to steal the show by blowing a kiss to Tamina Snuka, it gets a roar out of the crowd.

Overall, the match fails to capture the imagination of the fans, still mourning the Undertaker’s biggest loss in his career. The concept of this battle royal is that the first Diva who earns a pinfall is named Divas champion. Adding insult to injury for the distraught Divas (who at this point are just happy to have bene able to perform) is the outcome. Despite every Diva on the roster being involved, the defending champion AJ Lee emerged as the winner, grabbing her belt to a chorus of boos.

Taking into account that the exposure and prestige of such a match could have been used to crown a new champion, it is somewhat surprising that AJ Lee retained her title. Considering the number of Divas featured on Total Divas, it would have only been seen as common sense had a Diva from the program been crowned as champion. With Naomi (whose wedding to Jimmy Uso was another highlight of the second season) having suffered a nearly career-ending injury with her eye injury, she is one of the most talented Divas to have never been champion. In reality, Wrestle Mania XXX should have been her coming-out party, a truly golden opportunity missed by the booking committee.

While the show will return for a third season (debuting on September 7, 2014) as Rosa Mendes joins the cast, it shall certainly represent a bold new chapter. Despite comprising only the final ten minutes of the broadcast, the wedding of Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan (known as Bryan Danielsson in real life) served as a storybook ending for the second season. Held in Sedona, Arizona, everything from the first season truly led to this moment. Loyal fans shall certainly be intrigued as to how their marriage develops in the upcoming season. The highlight of the wedding definitely came after the two exchanged vows, as the wedding guests happily cheered Daniel Bryan’s trademark “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant.

Real Women Real Football

Candice Ward Photography

I am very lucky to work with an organization like the Calgary Rage Women’s Tackle Football Team. Not only are the women on this team strong, determined women, they are also really fun, and interesting women. For this year’s portraits,  I decided to take a different approach and showcase the uniqueness of each player and a bit about them as individuals off the field, but how they remain united under the Rage name and love of football.

#3  Esther, Wide Receiver 

Esther is the first up because without her, these photos would not have happened. Not only did she act as an assistant on many of the shoots (or my voice activated light stand), she also did a lot of the leg work in getting clearance and lining up players. So thank you Esther!

Esther is a graphic designer and is also one of the most athletic people I know. She is…

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Andi Petrillo breaking barriers as CBC’s daytime host for FIFA World Cup coverage

Traditionally, significant sporting events broadcast on CBC Sports were hosted by male broadcasters. A generation of Canadian sports fans grew up with Brian Williams and Ron McLean hosting Winter and Summer Games, Commonwealth Games and FIFA World Cup events. For the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer, CBC has broken the mold and given the reigns to a female sportscaster.

Andi Petrillo is doing a superlative job as the Daytime Host for CBC television’s coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Scott Russell, a host for FIFA 2010 is handling the nighttime coverage. Of note, Petrillo is no stranger to hosting duties. A few months ago, she handled overnight hosting duties for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Elevating to a much more prestigious assignment this time, it reflects her status as a rising star in sports broadcasting.

To a nation of hockey fans, Petrillo is known as the likeable personality who followed in the trail blazing paths of Helen Hutchison and Brenda Irving as a respected female on the adored yet traditionally male-dominated hockey broadcast. Ironically, Irving is also contributing to CBC Sports during their FIFA coverage.

Along with David Amber, Irving is visiting the main venues throughout Brazil with a series of feature stories. Of note, one piece included a journey on the Amazon River, along with having the courage to let a snake around her neck.

With the CBC offering three live matches of the Group Stage on a daily basis, Petrillo is handling the daytime pre and post game coverage in an anchor’s capacity. Joined in the studio by analysts Nigel Reed and Lloyd Barker, coverage includes previews and reactions to the day’s events. Beaming on the screen with great poise and confidence, Petrillo also shows a strong rapport with her co-hosts.

Taking into account that the match commentaries are going to be handled by announcers from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Petrillo is part of the minimal, yet remarkable Canadian content during World Cup broadcasts. Considering that Canada shall be the host nation of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it would only be fitting to have Petrillo involved with another prestigious soccer event in her own backyard.

Although Canada has not had an entry in the FIFA World Cup since 1986, when the event was held in Mexico, Canada’s strong cultural mosaic results in an emotional investment for its soccer fans, whose nation of heritage may have a spot in the event. Considering that Petrillo is of European ancestry (Italy to be precise), her role as host results in a strong connection with viewers that may also be classified as “new” Canadians; people whose parents or grandparents immigrated to Canada for a better life.

The other aspect that is quickly making Petrillo a renowned broadcaster is the fact that her presence is a boost to the growing impact of women in Canadian sport. Whether it be Christine Sinclair in soccer, Hayley Wickenheiser in hockey, Eugenie Bouchard in tennis or Tessa Virtue at Sochi, Canadian women are continuing to break many barriers in the traditionally male-dominated realm of sports. With Petrillo in the broadcast booth, it is complementing the athletic impact that is challenging cultural norms and providing a new generation of girls with strong women to admire.

Jillian Michaels reflects on 40th birthday as she graces cover of Shape Magazine

Proudly displaying her amazing physique on the cover of Shape Magazine for the fifth time, Jillian Michaels does so with a philosophical approach. Having recently turned 40, it was a life changing event in the life of one of the most famous trainers in the world.

Facing the reality that the sands of time may begin to shift in another direction, it was a time to take personal inventory. Blessed with a great partner and two children, Michaels certainly has a lot to be thankful for as a new stage in her life begins. Concerning her children, she mentions to Shape that picking them up is also a form of exercise.

Having become a household name through her contributions on the popular television program The Biggest Loser, her life has changed dramatically. Recently, she went throughout North America on the Maximize Your Life Tour and is also working on a fitness line with American retailer Kmart. Stating in the periodical that she is in better shape now than she was in her 20s, boxing, yoga and pull-ups are part of the regiment that she undertakes.

A series of tasteful yet revealing photographs are testament to Michaels’ remarkable condition. Clearly displaying Michaels in a complete state of undress, a flawless appearance is a subject of awe and admiration rather than lustful. Leaving enough to the imagination, it is clear that the best example of Michaels’ commitment to fitness is the appearance of her body.

Various angles show her bare back, perfect abs, which she credits to side, extended and imbalanced planks, along with remarkable arms (which cover her chest) in which her body serves as the canvas to a remarkable work of power and grace. To be able to appear in such photos is nothing short of empowering for Michaels. She believes that good physical condition is important for women as being physically powerful can transcend into every part of one’s life.

Ironically, even Michaels has some slight body issues. One area where she feels such frustration is with her posterior. In sharing her story with Shape, she states that she feel all her weight is carried in the lower body. Regardless of how many squats or lunges that she will attempt, she believes that her bottom simply carries extra weight.

Despite such sentiment, one area that is a point of pride for her is her back. She proudly declares that having a strong back has metaphorical meaning. As a celebrity, a life coach and a role model, she possesses the maturity to know that she needs to set a positive example and provide support for others. Stating that she can carry a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, fans can only hope that there will be 40 more great years to come.

Sindy Cummings among the shining stars of indoor female football

For any quarterback on this year’s edition of the Las Vegas Sin to assume the role of starting QB was an individual attempting to fill some very big shoes. After the remarkable Nikki Johnson era came to an end in 2013, the red and gold were a franchise without a leader. Yet, for a rookie to follow in her footsteps is nothing short of admirable and impressive. Winning new fans with every gutsy performance, Cummings is also building a strong case as Rookie of the Year.

At only 19 years old, Sindy Cummings already carries herself with the poise of a veteran. Always ready to scramble for extra yardage (she logged her first career rushing touchdown against Green Bay), this rocket-armed beauty is not afraid to take a punishing hit either. Despite being 5’4”, she is a spitfire who plays with the heart of a giant. Her efforts have certainly helped set the tone for a new-look Las Vegas franchise to make a solid run at a postseason berth.

Through the first two games of the 2014 campaign, Cummings is leading her league in passer rating with a sparkling 108.5 mark. Her 141 passing yards rank second among the league’s pivots, trailing Ashley Salerno of the Los Angeles Temptation, who has accumulated 147 yards. Among the top five rated passers, Cummings is the only one to have not yet thrown an interception.

In addition, her strong passing skills have helped transformed Cynthia Schmidt and Markie Henderson into two of the league’s top offensive weapons. Schmidt has stepped up to replace the outgoing Kelley Schroeder as the Sin’s key receiver, while Henderson has replaced Carmen Bourseau. Statistically, Schmidt is tied with LaShaunda Fowler of the Seattle Mist as the league’s leading receiver. Of note, there are two areas where Schmidt is outshining the competition. Her 44.5 yards per game and four touchdown receptions have established her as a favorite target of Cummings.

When not on the field, Cummings is the manager of a tattoo parlor in Las Vegas. Obviously, the organizational and leadership skills required to undertake such a position have translated perfectly in her superlative performance as the Sin’s field general.

Taking into account that the Sin entered this season with the goal of building a new era in franchise history, Cummings is helping to lead the way. Former Los Angeles defensive coordinator Tui Suiaunoa is now installed as the head coach, hoping to bring stability to the position.

Ironically, Suiaunoa’s first game as Sin head coach came against his former club. Considering that Cummings is already drawing comparisons to LA pivot Salerno, a multiple-time league champion, it was a welcome to the big league moment. Despite being bested by a 42-14 tally, Cummings outshone Salerno in the passing game, racking 104 yards through the air, while also winning the battle in time of possession.

After an encouraging 34-24 home victory against the Green Bay Chill, hopes are high that a spot in the postseason is highly possible. Should the Sin run into LA once again in the playoffs, a more experienced Cummings cannot be taken for granted. Bearing in mind that a rookie leading a team to a title in any sport is a rarity, skeptics would be ill-advised to bet against Cummings. Approaching every game with the desire to win, Cummings may prove to not only be a franchise cornerstone, but the catalyst in the transformation of the Las Vegas Sin into a winner.

Charline Labonte’s decision makes her an even bigger role model

With an announcement that made national news throughout Canada, long-time Canadian national women’s hockey team member Charline Labonte declared her same-sex relationship with speed skater Anastasia Buscis. Sharing her story was a heartwarming and dignified moment that captured the hearts of many devoted hockey fans.

This year alone, Labonte has followed in the footsteps of two other world-class women’s hockey players that have declared their same-sex preference. Caitlin Cahow (whom Labonte played against in the championship game of the 2013 Clarkson Cup) made her announcement prior to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. She would serve on President Obama’s delegation at the Closing Ceremony for the Games, a direct rebuttal to Russia’s anti-gay legislation, while providing encouragement for other LGBT athletes competing at Sochi.

Jayna Hefford, a teammate of Labonte for over a decade on the Canadian national team, discussed her role of motherhood after the Games. Sharing her life with partner Kathleen Kauth, a 2006 Olympian and co-founder of the CWHL, the two have an infant girl named Isla.

Although Buscis declared her preference before the Games, Labonte chose to declare her feeling afterwards. In reflection, it was a move that needed to wait. With the appointment of Kevin Dineen as head coach before Christmas 2013, a difficult losing streak to the United States and a decision to change captains, Labonte’s announcement could have possibly been one more distraction for a team that many in the media labeled as “dysfunctional”.

Heading into Sochi’s Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies, Labonte mentioned in her story how she stood beside Buscis. Despite the feelings of unease over athlete safety and political tensions over the anti-gay legislation, there is no question that the presence of Buscis provided a sense of comfort and support for Labonte.

As a side note, Labonte shares another heartwarming tale in her story. After Canada’s miraculous come-from-behind victory against the United States in the gold medal game, Buscis actually rode her bicycle to a McDonald’s in the Olympic Village. Having ordered 50 cheeseburgers and 50 packets of McNuggets for the entire women’s team, her heroic trek represented a kind gesture that was highly appreciated by Labonte and her teammates.

While there are likely many more female and male athletes that are part of the LGBT community, the reality is that it should not be seen as controversial or front-page news. While athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam certainly endured a media circus, coming out should be liberating and celebrated, not something to be dissected by society.

Realistically, it may take another generation before such things happen. In the meanwhile, everyone has a right to life their lives as they choose. The WNBA and WFA have had world-class athletes such as Sheryl Swoopes and Sami Grisafe declare their preferences. Such decisions have not diminished their careers. Instead, their courage to disclose such details is applauded. As does Labonte and Buscis deserve to be applauded. In hockey circles, women such as Cahow, Hefford and Labonte are courageous individuals. Just like Magic Johnson once turned his issues with being HIV positive into one of determination, raising global awareness about the issue, Labonte et al are helping challenge cultural norms, changing preconceived notions, while serving as a positive influence in helping a generation of women in hockey have the courage to be proud of who they are.

Lingerie World Cup of Soccer borders highly on entertainment

In years past, sports featuring women have bordered on entertainment employing gimmicks such as wearing minimal clothing. It has been employed in North America for over a decade with American-style football. Other sports such as indoor hockey and basketball have seen women adorned in bikinis to compete. Leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer in Brazil, the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer was held.

Although FIFA holds its own women’s version of the World Cup, (of note, the next Women’s World Cup is slated in 2015), the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer is somewhat different. From the outset, this Lingerie version is not hosted, sponsored, recommended or endorsed by FIFA whatsoever. Contested as a 4-a-side competition, the pitch was nowhere near regulation size either.

Organized by Dutch TV channel Veronica, the fact that no details were revealed about the players competing does little to add any type of credibility to the event. Not knowing such details only cheapens the event, implying that the event was more about ratings and publicity than trying to build a brand. As a side note, Britain’s Daily Mail was the only media outlet that provided any type of mainstream coverage for the event outside of Holland.

Of note, the most recognizable name at the event was former Dutch international player Andy van der Meyde, who once competed for Everton in the English Premier League. Serving as referee for the event, van der Meyde oversaw competition featuring women from host country Holland, along with players from seven other countries, including Alergia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea and Spain. While the host country triumphed in the event, vanquishing Spain (who played the Dutch in the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup), Germany and Brazil, such an event can only be interpreted as entertainment rather than true competitive sport.

In a sport as soccer, with its global popularity, there is no question that sex appeal can play a significant part in the popularity of a competitor, often resulting in endorsements. Observing some of the stars in soccer, male competitors such as David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, along with women such as Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo are definitely admired for their beauty as much as their athletic abilities. Despite such appeal, their dedication to the game, sportsmanship and skill are the qualities that have long lasting impact, generating a respect that exceeds any they may possess as sex symbols.

Despite the fact that the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer made news worldwide afterwards, elements such as shock value and sex appeal were the topics of discussion. The lack of player information and statistics will never build a potential fanbase. While the concept of lingerie soccer truly adds a different meaning to the “beautiful game”, it cannot undermine the efforts of women that have worked to build the sport and serve as role models for young girls. Although there are women in other parts of the world competing in sport in a state of undress, extending the careers of some collegiate athletes (who just love to play), while helping others aspire to potentially lucrative careers in modeling or television, the human element, in which dignity and sportsmanship are considered, must be factored in to the element of sports as entertainment.