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UTSC: White Water Rafting

End your summer with a thrilling splash! Travel up to the Ottawa River to spend 2 nights and 3 days at the beautiful Wilderness Tours Resort. Must complete a deep water orientation session prior to trip and be comfortable around open water.
Registration includes: Transportation, 2 nights camping, 2 days rafting with all necessary equipment, 6 full meals and resort activities. Bring your sleeping bag. We can provide tents on request.

Location: Ottawa River
Registered Student Price: $150 plus HST
Non-registered Student Price: $200 plus HST

Registration Deadline: August 11
Refund Deadline: August 14 @5:00 p.m

Register online at: https://recreation.utoronto.ca/Program/GetProgramDetails?courseId=235f8305-8664-4302-9a48-5b1282a8035c&semesterId=f297e67e-bbaf-4261-9a48-b656d539cae0
or in person at TPASC!

UTSG: Grad Escape — Dodgeball at the Athletic Centre

Release some stress and join other graduate students for a game of dodgeball at the Athletic Centre in the Upper gym. (Special arrangements will be made to let you in for this event but bring your t-card.) This event will be facilitated by a staff person from MoveU. No experience required.

UTSC: Outdoor Rock Climbing and Hiking

Travel to Milton, Ontario to either hike the area or rock climb the cliff face. The rock climbing will take place at Rattlesnake Point and is an opportunity for students to challenge themselves to climb up to 80ft on some of he best rock in Southern Ontario in a beautiful natural setting. All necessary equipment and helmet are included.
The hike will take place through some of the Bruce Peninsula trails and Halton Parks, you’ll have over 20kms of trails to choose from.

Registered Student Price: $40 plus HST (rock climbing) or $15 plus HST (hiking)
Non-registered Student Price: $65plus HST (rock climbing) or $22.50 plus HST (hiking)

Opinion: what counts as fairness in sports?

Caster Semenya and the extent to which sporting will go to exclude athletes who are different

Opinion: what counts as fairness in sports?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has erred by failing to overturn a series of discriminatory rules that target female athletes who are transgender or have intersex traits.  

By ruling in favour of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the CAS has authorized regulations that require female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels — typically found in intersex women — to suppress their hormone levels if they wish to compete in races between 400 metres and a mile.

At the centre of this controversy is South African runner Caster Semenya. Semenya, who issued an appeal against the IAAF rules, has dominated the women’s track and field scene for the past decade. As a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time World Champion in the women’s 800-metre race, Semenya has faced unrelenting scrutiny. Like several other intersex women who will be penalized by the new rules, Semenya identifies and competes as a woman.

In order to race, she has four options: either take hormonal contraceptives up to six months before competing; compete alongside men; compete in other events not subject to the regulations; or cease competing entirely. Even if Semenya gives in and undergoes hormonal treatment to lower her testosterone levels to the IAAF requirements, the possible side effects of the treatment may negatively impact her health and further prevent her from racing against other women in the events of her choosing.

The IAAF has argued that their new rules — which came into effect on May 8 — are intended to ensure fairness in women’s track and field. This argument is supported by the perceived correlation between testosterone and enhanced athletic performance.

It is commonly believed that an increased amount of testosterone can improve strength and speed levels. The IAAF and supporters of this ruling have relied heavily on this perceived correlation to argue that Semenya holds an “unfair advantage” over other women in her sport because of her naturally elevated levels of testosterone.

However, wouldn’t it be fair to argue that many successful athletes possess natural advantages that give them an upper hand in their respective sports? It’s no secret that height is beneficial in sports such as volleyball and basketball. Should the IAAF ban tall women from competing in basketball and volleyball matches to ensure fairness in these sports?

Take 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. Phelps not only possesses an exceptionally long arm span and reportedly double-jointed ankles, but also produces significantly smaller amounts of lactic acid compared to his competitors. Lactic acid build-up contributes to muscle fatigue, and because Phelps produces less while competing, he holds an advantage over his competitors. Yet, Phelps is not required to undergo treatment to elevate his lactic acid. We still continue to praise him for his athletic achievements while discounting Semenya for hers.

The natural testosterone that Semenya produces differs from the exogenous testosterone which has been prohibited in the Olympics since 1976. The correlation between testosterone and enhanced performance is believed to be linked to the use of synthetic testosterone.

It has yet to be proven whether the same correlation exists for its natural counterpart in female sports. There is a possibility that natural testosterone improves performance, but this prospect is offset by the likelihood that it is unrelated to athletic capabilities. As reported by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, there is “no clear scientific evidence”  of a relationship between the two in female sports.

The argument that women with higher testosterone levels hold an unfair advantage is also based on the outdated association of testosterone with masculinity. Traditionally, it has been understood that there is a crucial distinction between men and women in terms of athletic ability, since it was assumed that men typically have more testosterone than women.

Categorizing testosterone as the sex hormone that exclusively belongs to men not only falsely categorizes women with naturally high levels of testosterone as somehow unwomanly, but also neglects the fact that women produce and rely on testosterone to survive as well.

The preoccupation with the role that testosterone plays in fuelling athletic performance also underestimates the importance of external factors, such as income, which play as much of a role in contributing to athletic success as do physical capabilities alone.

Large income disparities across the globe disadvantage athletes who are the product of lower-income environments. These athletes do not have access to the same quality facilities, coaching staff, treatment, or even the support system that are generally present for athletes living in more affluent areas.

U of T Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education Bruce Kidd reflects similar sentiments in his article. There, he remarks: “Would Canadians who support the IAAF against Semenya like it if they were required to train under the same conditions as their competitors from the Global South? Of course not.”

The new IAAF rules also draw criticism because it seems to unfairly and unnecessarily target Semenya and other female runners from the Global South. An IAAF study on the effects of natural testosterone reveals that it has a greater influence on performance in events such as the hammer throw and the pole vault.

On the contrary, there is a much weaker correlation between natural testosterone and athletic capabilities in the 1500-metre race. Yet women with higher testosterone levels have not been barred from competing in the hammer throw and the pole vault, but have been banned from competing in the 1500-metre race.

This finding is especially daunting considering the fact that events, such as the hammer throw and the pole vault, have historically been dominated by white women from the West. Black women from the global South have typically been victorious in long-distance running events, thus leading some to believe that the IAAF’s policy may be racially motivated.

In response to the CAS’s rejection of Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF rules, the South African Sports Ministry has declared that their track federation, Athletics South Africa, will appeal the decision. Canadian Minister of Science and Sport, Kirsty Duncan, has condemned the ruling, saying that it exhibits “a total disregard for human dignity.” Furthermore, Semenya has vowed to continue running, even stating that she will not give in to the new rules and take hormone suppressants.  

The unjust IAAF rules call for society to re-examine our traditional beliefs about fairness in sports. Is it fair to publicly humiliate intersex women on the unfounded belief that their genetics give them an unfair advantage over other women? If the goal is to ensure an equal playing field for female athletes, the IAAF should focus on securing equal access to adequate training facilities, coaching staff, and athletic gear, instead of resorting to inhumane measures that single out certain athletes because they are different.

Greater risk of heart attacks the day after Super Bowl, cardiologists find

Psychological stress, increased consumption of alcohol and salty foods are possible causes

Greater risk of heart attacks the day after Super Bowl, cardiologists find

The broadcast of the Super Bowl has been linked to a heightened risk of cardiac events in Ontario, including heart attacks and heart failures, according to a recent U of T-affiliated study.

The NFL’s annual championship game, the Super Bowl, is frequently the most viewed television spectacle in Canada each year.

Using data drawn from health care records in Ontario, the researchers analyzed the number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for heart attacks, heart failures, and atrial fibrillation — rapid, irregular heartbeat rhythm — over 10 years of Super Bowl weeks from 2008 to 2017.

The analysis showed that on the Monday following each Super Bowl, there is a marked increased risk of heart attacks in Ontario. For patients younger than 65, the risk of heart failure also spiked on the following Monday.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find a statistically significant increase in the relative risk of heart attacks, heart failures, and irregular heart rhythms on the day of the Super Bowl.

Possible explanations for the spike in cardiac events

Dr. Sheldon Singh, a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, wrote to The Varsity that this finding may arise from the complex relationship between stress and cardiac events.

“Prior work has shown that stress can have residual effects with [heart attacks] occurring hours after a clearly identified stressor,” wrote Singh.

“In addition… there may also be issues with patients delaying when they seek medical care — such as ignoring symptoms when they occur hoping they will pass, misinterpreting symptoms, or not wanting to disrupt any social gathering they are at.”

“It’s also important to remember that Super Bowls occur late on Sunday evenings,” noted Singh, “so it would not be unexpected to see an increase in events on [the] following Monday.”

Psychological stress experienced by spectators, as well as an increased consumption of alcohol and salty foods are further factors that may contribute to the amplified risk of cardiac events during the Super Bowl.

However, Singh added that there may be other contributing factors that the study failed to identify due to its design.

“Our work is at a population level, not individual level, which makes it challenging to tease out the exact mechanism of the observed association,” wrote Singh.

Previous studies have shown that heart rates of Montreal Canadiens’ fans increase during hockey games. A spike in cardiac events have also been reported during FIFA World Cup soccer matches by other studies.

Singh wrote that it’s possible to generalize the findings for Super Bowl viewers to those of other sporting events, but it’s important to remember the distinction between a single critical match versus a series when making such assumptions.

Stress levels are more concentrated when the outcomes of a championship, such as the Super Bowl, depend on a single game.

However, the stress experienced during other types of sporting events, such as with hockey or baseball, is generally more distributed because the final outcome often depends on the best of a series.

“We have to appreciate that [increased] cardiac events also have been reported with single catastrophic or stressful events, such as severe snowstorms… earthquakes, and other natural disasters,” wrote Singh.

Health care providers may be able to better plan for a spike in admissions for cardiac-related events around the Super Bowl each year using the study’s findings.

Moreover, Singh believes that educating individuals on the association between emotional stress and dietary indiscretion on one’s overall health will have important implications for public health.

“Given the popularity of the Super Bowl, there is an opportunity for health care practitioners to reach a broad segment of the population, which may have impacts not only during the Super Bowl, but with other events as well,” wrote Singh.

“I am hopeful the general public will access information from our study and public health agencies use this to launch health care campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles.”

In conversation with Cavan Biggio

Getting to know one of the Toronto Blue Jays’ most underlooked prospects

In conversation with Cavan Biggio

Blue Jays fans know that a team rebuild is well underway in Toronto. Since their last playoff appearance in 2016, the Blue Jays front office has produced one of baseball’s top farm systemsa collection of minor league teams which are responsible for developing promising young players. From Class-A affiliate Lansing Lugnuts to Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons, Toronto is stacked with talented prospects. Even casual fans may be aware of the MLB’s first-ranked prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and tenth-ranked Bo Bichette. However, even some Blue Jays loyalists haven’t heard of the Jays’ hidden weapon: Cavan Biggio.

These three infielders are part of the core group of prospects projected to make their debuts in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. However, though Toronto media has shined the spotlight on Guerrero Jr. and, in part, Bichette, less attention has been given to Biggio.

The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Biggio in 2016 from the University of Notre Dame. Coming from a baseball family, Biggio learned the game from his father, Hall-of-Famer second baseman Craig Biggio. After spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons in Class-A and Class-A Advanced, in 2018 Biggio moved to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate. There, he began demonstrating his leadoff potential. While he only had a .252 batting average, Biggio got on base at a rate of .388, making him third in the Eastern League and first on the team based on his on-base percentage.

After the regular season, Biggio took part in the Arizona Fall League, an off-season development league. In an interview with The Varsity, Biggio said, “Fall League was incredible. [I] played with a lot of great players… guys that I’ve been playing against for the past two, three years.” He added, “I was able to play the outfield there and be able to get some good work out there and set myself up for the season. So overall, I think [it] couldn’t really be better.”

It’s clear that Biggio got some great work in during the off-season. 28 games into the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons’ season, he’s already off to a blistering hot start. As of May 5, Biggio is first on the Bisons in home runs and runs scored, second in on-base percentage and runs batted in, third in batting average, and fourth in slugging.

When asked what he credits his early season success to, Biggio simply replied, “I would credit that to just trying to use the whole field a little more.”

He noted that last year he was “a little bit… pull-happy in Double-A,” and so going into this off-season he relied on the full field to put the ball into play. He says that that is “where you see the two strikes and trying to battle and put the ball in play, versus trying to get the head still and striking out more when I was in Double-A.”

Biggio also focused on developing his fielding during the off-season. He said, “I worked on it a lot… in spring training… I take a lot of pride in my defense, trying to separate offense from defense as best as I can.”

He added that he also tried to smooth his footwork out because he saw it is very important, “especially playing second, third, and first: they’re very different. And I think just being able to get some reps at all three of those positions.”

In the early going, the off-season work has been paying off, as Biggio has only committed one error the entire season. Biggio has always been a phenomenal fielder but has seen drastic improvements in the last year, committing just one error in the Arizona Fall League’s innings and 14 errors in Double-AA’s innings.

Once Biggio breaks into the big leagues, he might be something that the Toronto Blue Jays have recently been lacking — a true leadoff hitter. As mentioned, Biggio is in the top three of the Buffalo Bisons in batting average and on-base percentage at .341 and .478, respectively, as of May 5. While those numbers are sure to regress, it doesn’t change the fact that Biggio has consistently been able to get on base throughout his career. But what makes him an important component and a future weapon of the Blue Jays are his baserunning abilities.

“I think it’s very important to my game just because I walk a good bit and I don’t think I’m really any good when I’m walking a lot… I think I can score on a double in the gap, but to make things easier… I [like] to pick my spots to be able to get in scoring position for my teammates to drive me in.”

He added that he thinks it is very important to be able to steal a run early in the game. “I see it dying out in baseball, but I’m trying to be consistent with it in my game and just trying to pick my spots when I can go.” In the early going, Biggio has the second most stolen bases on the team, tied with Jonathan Davis.

With his power, contact, and speed, Blue Jays fans should expect to see Biggio leading off in big league games soon. He has the toolset to be part of the rare 30-30 club — 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases — a feat that only 40 players in history have accomplished.

While the limelight is on Guerrero Jr.’s call-up and Bichette’s broken hand, Biggio is quietly developing into a five-tool player that can challenge the likes of his teammates and the rest of the MLB. The fifth-ranked second-base prospect in baseball made his Blue Jays debut with the Bisons this season and should be a key piece in many future playoff runs.

Could the Raptors win it big this postseason?

First round will be easy, but good luck against the Bucks and the Warriors

Could the Raptors win it big this postseason?

April marks a bittersweet time for NBA fans at the University of Toronto, as exam season is made slightly less dreadful with the countdown to playoff basketball underway.

With Toronto’s regular season success, Raptors fans are excited for what the postseason may bring. But are fans naïve for thinking that Toronto has any chance of making it to the NBA Finals, or possibly even winning it all?

Looking at potential first-round opponents, there’s little doubt that Toronto wouldn’t be able to easily do away with teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, and the Detroit Pistons in a best-of-seven series with home court advantage.

The real question facing the Raptors is how they will fare against potential second round and Conference Finals matchups with the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Eastern Conference favourites Milwaukee Bucks.

Looking at the Celtics, Boston has struggled since the All-Star break with a record under .500 and a bottom-10 offensive rating during this stretch.

Offensive consistency is where Toronto appears to get the edge in this matchup, as the Raptors currently sit in the top 10 for offensive rating. Also, with Pascal Siakam’s dominant performances against Boston this season, it’s difficult to imagine the Celtics getting past the Raptors in a playoff matchup.

Shifting to the 76ers, the Raptors are one of the few teams in the league who can match up effectively against the Sixers’ starting five, one of the best in the NBA, due to the athleticism that the Raptors also have at all five positions on the floor.

This is what led to Toronto’s success against Philadelphia this season, as the Raptors defeated the Sixers in three of their four regular-season matchups, with Kawhi Leonard sitting out for the Raptors in their only loss.

The Sixers have the star power, but with their poor three-point shooting and defensive liabilities, the odds in this series are in Toronto’s favour.

The Bucks are Toronto’s biggest obstacle to hopes of a conference championship, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is sure to continue his MVP-calibre season through the playoffs. But Toronto does have some advantages over Milwaukee.

With the length and athleticism of Siakam and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors have strong defensive options to limit the damage that Antetokounmpo can do on offense. The Bucks have also been hit with the injury bug late in the season, as Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic, and Pau Gasol are all currently nursing injuries.

If the Bucks aren’t able to get healthy down the stretch, and the Raptors are able to limit spacing on defense and make things difficult for Antetokounmpo, Toronto has a strong chance of coming out on top.

Although the Raptors have a legitimate shot at reaching the NBA Finals, envisioning a Raptors championship parade in June is nothing short of farfetched.

The Raptors would be slated to face-off against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors in the finals, who are currently the favourites by far to win the NBA Championship.

Despite playing short of their full capabilities in the regular season due to injury concerns, the Warriors currently sit atop of the highly competitive Western Conference and are entering the playoffs with quite possibly the most talent-filled starting lineup in NBA history.

The Warriors are by far the best three-point shooting team in the league and would be sure to terrorize the Raptors’ defense across a seven-game series.

Also, the Warriors have the benefit of championship experience, as they are currently eyeing their third straight NBA title, unlike the Raptors, who have many new players that are still in the process of learning how to mesh together.

All in all, if you’re a Raptors fan who’d be satisfied with a conference championship, the 2018–2019 postseason is likely to be rewarding. But if you were expecting nothing short of a Raptors title banner? Maybe next season.

In Photos: 2019 U of T Kendo Invitational Tournament

The tournament was hosted at the Athletic Centre in March

In Photos: 2019 U of T Kendo Invitational Tournament

 

J. Li, a U of T PhD. student, in a sonkyo squat at the end of a match

 

 

Two members of the Jungko Kendo Club compete in the final round of the bracket for the first half of the day

 

U of T’s Justin Chan and McGill’s Mario Rojas after their match ended

 

Members of the U of T Kendo Club, Justin Chan, Alex Lau, Alice Meng, Jennifer Kim, and Steve Zhou