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‘Competitions involving animals must end’: PETA wants equestrian to go from Olympics

Source: ESPN

Animal advocacy group, People for Ethical Treatment towards Animals (PETA), is seeking to continue its campaign for all equine events to be taken off Olympic Games in the future. Senior vice president Kathy Guillermo, who had written to IOC in August for the scrapping of horse riding in pentathlon, believes that equestrian events too must go. Horse riding is already on course to being replaced by cycling in modern Pentathlon after Paris 2024.

“We’ll be urging our 9 million supporters and many others who agree with us to tell IOC what is obvious to everyone: The Olympic Games should be modernized to include only willing participants,” Guillermo tells ESPN, “Competitions involving animals must end and this means horses, who don’t care at all about medals, should be left out.”

Equestrian rider Fouaad Mirza, who’d represented India at this year’s Olympics, finds the rationale unwarranted. He offers that there’s always going to be a case both for and against the sport depending on how one views involving animals in competition. “Ours is perhaps the only sport in the world where men and women compete on equal terms and which involves a human and animal partnership. In terms of Olympic values, it ticks all the boxes of sport, courage, compassion and team work. One needs only to walk amongst the stables to see how much care competitors take of their horses and how devoted we are towards them. Horses are an extension of our families.”

Unlike riding in Pentathlon, where horses and riders are randomly paired with each other 20 minutes before they enter the course, equestrian is built around partnership between rider and mount, choreographed to move harmoniously to invisible aids. Kathy argues that familiarity between man and animal doesn’t necessarily acquit the sport. “Riding in pentathlon is of course particularly cruel, pairing a human and horse who’ve never met. But in all equestrian events, the horses have no power,” she adds, “Agreed, the horses and humans have a level of familiarity in equestrian. But make no mistake, horses learn early on that they must submit – no matter how they are feeling. It’s a relationship involving dominance. Horses may be less tense when they know the rider, but they are no less exploited or endangered.”

As a sport, equestrian is seen as freakishly expensive and overwhelmingly white, and descriptors such as ‘breaking a horse’ – preparing it for riding, haltering and following basic commands, don’t help either. “I hate that term and wish we didn’t call it that,” says Olympian Imtiaz Aneez, who runs a boutique stable and residential riding school in coastal Gujarat, “But to the argument of horses being forced in any manner, whether it’s for dressage or show jumping, I’d say when horses compete at the elite level, it has to be willingness. It can’t be coercion. Horses are tested often so you can’t get away with using needles or painkillers. At our facility, we give them alternate therapy, rest, bandage, multani mitti (fuller’s earth) and the strongest medication we use is doses of homeopathic Arnica or Calendula. I wish those criticizing our sport would look at the amount of care and money we devote toward our horses’ recovery, whether it’s removing lactic acid from their body or loading them on electrolytes. At the cost of sounding pompous, our horses are well-tended to than a lot of human athletes.”

Equestrian at the Olympics comprises three disciplines – show jumping, eventing and dressage. Ahead of the 2012 Games in London, there was a furore over an alleged video of Swedish rider Patrick Kittel using rollkur – drawing the neck round in a deep curve so nose almost touches its chest – on his dressage horse. Kittel would later deny any such occurrence. Dressage, essentially horse ballet, has the animals side-stepping, pirouetting and performing extended trots to music. Aneez offers that it helps horses “stay supple and sound”. Many outside the sport view it as an unnecessary and somewhat ironic routine to put a free-spirited animal through rehearsed choreography.

In recent years, IOC has been trying to address the Olympics’ young-people problem – making itself more appealing to millennial and Gen Z audience. In Tokyo, surfing, sport climbing, 3×3 basketball and Freestyle BMX made their introductory appearance. Paris 2024 will welcome breakdancing into its roster and E-sports will feature as a demonstration event for the first time. This year, IOC directed world equestrian body, FEI, to trim down its participant number and reduce team jumping to a three-person team, instead of four. “Like all sports in the Olympic movement, we received a clear message from the IOC president – ‘change or be changed’ – inviting the Olympic sports to make their events at the Olympic Games more universal, more exciting, easier to understand and more attractive, particularly for new young audiences,” FEI had said.

Kathy insists the core issue is about the practice of the sport itself, not specifically the Olympics but events at other levels too. What put these events on their radar, she explains, was an incident involving a show jumper earlier this year. She received a video revealing abusive whipping in a California show ring by a rider named Kevin Lemke. “We lodged complaints with both the FEI and the US Equestrian Federation (USEF). In response, the USEF suspended Lemke for four months and fined him $4,000. As Lemke was no longer registered with the FEI, that body could not take action. While we knew these events could be dangerous, this year we decided we could not ignore what can only be called abuse.”

Aneez counters the argument of possible harsh training methods and unnatural routines and cites that almost all riders at the elite levels of the sport are animal lovers. The evolution of the sport and medical science he points out implies that injured horses aren’t not put down anymore, instead they can even return to complete fitness and competition. “When we don’t agree with something, doing away with it can seem like the easy choice. But that’s hardly ever a solution. The tough yet sustainable option is to educate those within the sport. I’ve been around horses since I was four, grew up bathing, grooming, feeding and brushing them and today I teach those training at my facility to do the same. It can go a long way.”

Kathy is bracing for a long campaign. “How far we go depends on what happens. But we’re watching. We’re also receiving complaints from those inside equestrian world who are deeply troubled by what they see. Those involved in equestrian events may wish to rethink their future plans.”

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University students hold the keys to ‘level up’ the esports industry

Written by Tao Martinez, Head of University Esports Development at GGTech

For many students, getting in from a class or lecture means jumping onto CS:GO or League of Legends with their friends to pass the time and have a laugh for a few hours.

Climbing the ranks may spark conversation about “going professional” one day but forging a career in esports has never been more accessible for students, with the industry growing by the day.

The total revenue of the esports industry in 2021 was estimated by Newzoo to be $833.6 million, and this is enhanced by a rising number of jobs, university courses and opportunities, making it one of the fastest growing and desirable sectors to lead a career in.

The opportunities

The most obvious route into esports is through being the best at a given game, with teams willing to sign players up on a contract to represent them at tournaments and online leagues. And whilst this is desirable, there are actually a whole host of other careers within the industry.

With Covid fears beginning to fade, in-person gaming events are returning with competitions such as the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters, hosted by GGTech in collaboration with NUEL, bringing together the best university talent across Europe to face off.

Beyond the players, these events require event organisers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming, tech support, and that’s before even getting to the participants which involves players, coaches, and team organisations.

There are so many aspects to a successful esports competition which in turn creates a wealth of jobs and opportunities – which are growing all the time. And these opportunities are also available through online esports leagues as well.

We are in an era where traditional television is being taken over by Netflix, YouTube and Twitch, creating new mediums for viewers to engage with esports, which is reflected by a growing viewer base.

Research from VentureBeat estimated that in 2021 there were 234 million esports enthusiasts, up from 197 and 200.8 million respectively in 2019, highlighting a stark growth. What’s more is that by 2024 there are expected to be 285.8 million enthusiasts and 291.6 million occasional viewers. Esports is a rapidly growing industry that people want to be involved with, and it’ll only get bigger in the coming years.

This is supported by an increase in job awareness through sites like Hitmarker, a dedicated jobs site for advertising esports opportunities.

University courses

The esports ecosystem supports universities through the development of teaching, facilities and opportunities in the industry which helps to focus on student’s interests whilst developing their core skills in preparation for a career in the industry.

For example, Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, as part of Nottingham Trent University, offer a BSc in Esports Production which teaches students about the global esports industry, the principles of esports, production and technology, as well as broadcasting and management. This will be delivered in Confetti X, a £5 million dedicated esports complex due to open ahead of the upcoming academic year.

Universities such as Sheffield Hallam offer courses in esports management, whilst Chichester has its own esports degree. This is supplemented by universities such as Warwick who have large student esports communities who come together for competitions and tournaments.

The importance of good training in developing the esports industry is being increasingly recognised by universities who are creating new courses each year as a result. Courses involving business, management, events, marketing, journalism and design all offer unique skills which match up with a plethora of new jobs emerging in the esports scene, and with the industry growing at the rate it is, the number of these jobs will only rise.

Moving forwards, the onus is not only on the esports industry supplying opportunities for university students, but also on the university ecosystem to provide the highest-quality education and training in order to fuel the integration of new talent into the dynamic esports workforce.

In order to assist students who are pursuing a career in esports, GGTech works with university students to run and produce the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters competitions, giving them vital first-hand experience at casting, broadcasting and event management.

Part of the fabric for the future development and growth of the esports industry is putting faith in the talent of university students, being willing to innovate courses, equipment and opportunities, and supporting students every step of the way to help turn their hobby into their future employment.

That’s why university campuses are the best testing space for evolving equipment, products and services whilst allowing students to gain valuable experience, especially through internships and competition management.

Opening people’s eyes to the vast array of opportunities and careers that the esports sector has to offer will fuel the next generation to become the core of the industry during its rapid growth.

Now is the time for a career in esports

In the esports industry revenues are growing, viewership is growing, the number of participants is growing, and this is creating more and more opportunities all the time.

There is no better time to pursue a career in esports, and education is at the forefront of attracting prospective students into the industry. As the sector grows, we will see an increasing number of universities offering esports related courses and follow in the footsteps of Confetti in building dedicated facilities for students to gain the best first-hand experience for running tournaments.

Students should be encouraged to take the plunge, and universities and esports professionals must provide the best assistance possible to welcome in the new generation to help the entire esports industry grow.

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Junior Hockey World Cup: Marquee QF clash might come down to who handles pressure better

Source: ESPN

Ahead of the two sides’ clash on Wednesday, there’s been some talk that India’s quarterfinal match against Belgium in the 2021 Junior Hockey World Cup will be a reprise of an earlier match – the final of the 2016 edition. Although India won that contest, just that result can’t be extrapolated to this latest encounter.

Being an age group tournament, it is obvious that neither team would still feature the same players from five years ago. Indeed, the only common figure from both those games will be Belgium’s coach Jeroen Baart. Individuals from both teams in that contest would graduate to the senior squad and ended up meeting in the semifinals of the Olympics, where the Belgians emerged victorious.

Stylistic matchup

But even though this latest batch of players haven’t ever had a chance to play each other, they will know what they are up against. Wednesday’s match is a clash not just between two teams but of two philosophies of hockey – a classic stylistic matchup. “You see the DNA (playing style) comes down from the senior team, and the senior team is world no 1,” India’s coach Graham Reid said about Belgium. Reid doesn’t mean to say that Belgium’s style has been thrust down from what the seniors. Over the last decade, beginning from the juniors, Belgium has created a playing style that’s worked miracles for them – winning them the Olympic title this year. What this is is a solid defensive structure where Belgium controls the pace of the match. “We focus on control to create opportunities. For us that means maintaining structure and intensity,” says Jeroen Baart.

India have a philosophy too – one that’s also been a decade in the making and which resulted in a drought-ending Olympic bronze. Baart knows of this as well. “India play is about counterattacking with speed and vertical play. “Our style of play is very complimentary to India. India like to counter-attack using their speed and vertical play. They do it really well. We are focused on our defensive end and on controlling the ball to create opportunities,” says Baart.

Signs of vulnerabilities

Both teams will go into Wednesday’s clash knowing not just each others’ playing styles but also based on their performances so far at the World Cup what they aren’t happy facing with. In their first match of the tournament India fell to a shock 5-4 loss to France – a side that’s looking to cast itself in the Belgian model. The French controlled possession for much of the game and the Indians, except for a brief flurry in the final few minutes of the match, were unable to get into the shooting circle. That last bit of relentless pressure will trouble Belgium though. “We will have to survive those waves from India,” Baart says.

Belgium too have shown vulnerabilities in Bhubaneswar. In their second game against Malaysia – they were held to a surprise draw against a side that tightly defended, giving no opening of its own. India chief coach Graham Reid alluded to that as well. “”We also saw some vulnerability the Malaysians were able to capitalise on and hopefully we can do that,” said Reid. That though will be easier said than done since it would require going against the free flowing hockey the Indian team prizes.

Can they play their A-game?

While both sides have displayed vulnerabilities, they equally have the potential to nullify each other’s strengths as well. Both sides will find that their release tactics might not have the same kind of success as they might have had against other teams.

The Belgians for one might find the high ball — a tactic very successfully employed by their Olympic champion senior side as well –has no guarantee. Although the French side did manage to use the high ball successfully, that match was marked by unusually poor trapping and interception from the low-on-match-practice Indians, who would back themselves not to have two bad days in a week’s time.

India, on the other hand, will find that the kind of defenses that allowed their counterattacking play to end up scoring 25 goals in the league phase might not have the same kind of opportunities against a side that prides itself on its defensive structure. The fact that India have lost striker Maninder Singh due to injury might place addition pressure on the remaining first choice forward line. Coach Reid admits that impatience might be a factor should the young Indian side not get the kind of gifts they would have been used to over the last few days. “That’s (impatience) one of the tough parts when coaching someone younger since it doesn’t come naturally in younger boys. Kids at that age want things to happen right now. You have to try to teach them patience and move the ball around. When you see Belgium play, you will see that patience because it’s been ingrained in them growing up,” he admits.

Handling pressure

In a high-stakes encounter against two sides who started as pre-tournament favourites, what both coaches admit will be critical is just who handles the pressure better. Should the hosts go 2-0 down as they did in their opening game against France, then it’s likely that scoreboard pressure could cause them to play poorer than they might otherwise have.”There might have been some nerves ahead of the first match of the tournament. Hopefully that would have been washed away by now. What I’m focused on is that we are tight in defence all through the game. But our priority would be to get off to a good start,” says Reid.

Baart will be hoping to deny India of just that. “It’s going to be a fantastic match-up. We expect a lot of attacking and aggression from the Indian team. We need to have the right structure and the right intensity at the right moment to deal with it.”

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Utah State Stands Out in Group of Five

Source: BetUs

Utah State was projected to win three games this season. The Aggies had other ideas. They are 9-3 and playing for the Mountain West Conference championship on Saturday. San Diego State is the opponent. The Aztecs also proved the experts wrong in the college football odds.

The Overachievers

Utah State Aggies

Utah State is +5000 to win the MWC title and the Mountain Division champion is a 5½-point underdog to San Diego State in the college football spreads. The Aggies opened the season with three straight wins to reach their projected total. After losing two in a row, they rewarded over bettors in their sixth game, but that came at a -145 price.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Northern Illinois wasn’t thought of too highly at 3½ wins in the Las Vegas odds. The Huskies started 1-2 but rattled off five straight triumphs, giving over players the victory along the way. Northern Illinois has won eight games and is +5000 to win the Mid-American Conference title on Saturday as a three-point dog against Kent State

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Western Kentucky is +700 to claim the Conference USA title as a 1½-point favorite versus UTSA on Friday. The Hilltoppers figured to be in the middle of the pack with an over-under of 5½ wins. Under players were getting what they wanted when Western Kentucky began 1-4. But seven straight victories later, over players have long since counted their money.

San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State, the MWC West Division champion, won 11 games after its over-under was set at 6½ for betting online. The Aztecs needed only seven contests to sail over the number. San Diego State is also a big price to wear the conference crown at +1400.

UTSA Roadrunners

Texas-San Antonio won a school-record 11 games to start the season, smashing its projected win total of eight. The Roadrunners were the third choice to win the C-USA title at +330, but find themselves a slight underdog against Western Kentucky.

BYU Cougars

BYU’s 12-game independent schedule featured six against Power Five conference programs. The Cougars were 5-1 in those contests. BYU also went 5-1 against the rest to easily surpass the 6½ win total to which it was assigned.

East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina was given a 4½ win total. The Pirates dropped their first two games, won three straight and lost the next two. East Carolina continued its see-saw ride by sailing over the number with four victories in a row before losing to College Football Playoff hopeful Cincinnati.

The Underachievers

Boise State Broncos

Boise State was -125 to win the MWC title. The Broncos were in contention until the final weekend of the regular season before losing to San Diego State. Boise State has seven victories and cannot reach the nine it was projected to win.

Buffalo Bulls

Buffalo was +330 and a co-favorite to win the MAC championship with an over-under of 7½ wins. The Bulls even got a bit of national love at +50000, but they never gained traction in 2021. Buffalo was 4-4 before losing its remaining four games.

Florida International Panthers

Florida International’s modest win over-under was 4½. After winning their first game, the Panthers lost their final 11, cashing at -125 along the way for under players.

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