They could play a role in stemming the second viral wave in countries such as France and Britain, where demand for testing has surged and delays in delivering results are stacking up.The idea, according to Dominique Le Guludec, president of France’s health authority, is to get patients who test positive to isolate as soon as possible.”One case detected more quickly will allow for measures to reduce the risk of contaminating others,” she said. Threshold The precise reliability varies from model to model, leading the WHO to set a minimum accuracy threshold of 80 percent — that is the probability that a test will return a positive result if a person is infected.Negative results should be correct at least 97 percent of the time. This is important in ensuring that other viral illnesses such as seasonal flu are not conflated with COVID-19 cases. Less precise but faster than other forms of COVID-19 diagnosis, antigen tests — such as the 150 million kits ordered by US President Donald Trump this week — are another weapon in the pandemic battle, experts say.Whereas tests such as RT-PCR nasal swabs require sophisticated lab equipment to detect the virus’ genetic material, antigen tests offer the prospect of a result within minutes without any specialist gear. Speed is key The size and shape of a credit card, the tests use a paper strip containing coronavirus antibodies that react when they touch the virus’s spike protein, similar to how a home pregnancy test reacts to hormones.However, the antigen tests may require further confirmation by a PCR test, particularly if a person tests negative but appears to have symptoms.According to the World Health Organization, the antigen tests can be used to detect COVID-19 in regions where there is a shortage of PCR tests, or when there are “prolonged turnaround times” for results. Testing gap The WHO on Monday announced some 120 million antigen tests will be available for poorer nations at a cost of $5 each. It said the $600-million scheme would enable low- and middle-income countries to close the dramatic gap in testing.”This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Timing keyTheir usefulness also varies significantly with time. They are at their best when an individual has a lot of virus in their nasal cavity, which is also probably the point at which they are most contagious.”Rapid antigen tests perform best when the person is tested in the early stages of infection with SARS-CoV-2 when viral load is generally highest, said the US Centers for Disease Control. The WHO says the tests should be administered “within the first 5-7 days following the onset of symptoms”.Topics :
LSR – Iceland’s Pension Fund for State Employees (LSR) has appointed Harpa Jónsdóttir as its new chief executive. She replaces Haukur Hafsteinsson , who announced his retirement in March, after working for the ISK826bn (€6bn) pension fund – Iceland’s largest – for 37 years. Jónsdóttir previously worked as director of the financial stability division at the Central Bank of Iceland. Columbia Threadneedle Investments – Mark Burgess , CIO for the EMEA region and deputy global CIO at Columbia Threadneedle, is to leave the asset manager to take a career break after nine years at the firm. He will depart the firm on 27 September.William Davies , currently the group’s global head of equities, will take on Burgess’ EMEA role, the company said. He joined Columbia Threadneedle in 1994 when it was founded, initially as a European equities portfolio manager. He became head of European equities in 1999 and of the global equities team in 2011. He has been global head of equities since 2017, overseeing all the company’s equity teams.Burgess said: “In this ‘age of longevity’, I am looking forward to taking a break to spend time with my family, pursue some of my other interests and consider the next phase.“The ability to hand over the mantle to William Davies, an exceptional investor and people leader, has made the decision easier and I look forward to seeing the continued growth and success of the EMEA investment team under William’s leadership.” Willis Towers Watson – The consultancy has named Rash Bhabra as head of its retirement business in Great Britain. Bhabra has been with Willis Towers Watson for more than 20 years, in roles such as head of the financial services group and head of corporate consulting, and is replacing Peter Rowles , who will be retiring at the end of 2019.Rowles has spent the past five years as head of retirement for Great Britain, and will have worked at the consultancy for 32 years in total.Gresham House – The UK-based asset manager has hired Richard Staveley from Majedie Asset Management as a managing director in its strategic public equity team.Tony Dalwood, Gresham House CEO, said Staveley’s appointment would help the company’s push into offering listed equity products and strategies, following the launch of a joint venture with Aberdeen Standard Investments in March.Before joining Majedie, where he was responsible for small caps, Staveley was a founding partner of River and Mercantile Asset Management. He has also served as head of UK small companies at Société Générale Asset Management.Law Debenture – The listed professional services firm has appointed Keith Scott as a trustee director. He joins from BMO Global Asset Management where he was a client director, managing pension funds and focusing on liability-driven investments, credit, and ESG.Scott was previously at IBM, where he spent 17 years in various pension roles – latterly European pensions director.AXA Investment Managers – Simon Baxter has been appointed to the French asset manager’s “buy and maintain” fixed income team as a portfolio manager, based in London. The buy and maintain team focuses on global credit and “cashflow delivery” investment strategies and manages £305bn.Baxter has previously worked at Morgan Stanley Investment Managers and BlackRock, in both cases managing global credit investments. Aon – The consultancy giant has appointed Stephen Purves as a partner in its risk settlement team. He was previously head of core business at UK-based insurer Aviva , responsible for four teams and leading on several bulk annuity transactions. He has also worked at Mercer and Higham Group.Aon has advised on a number of major bulk annuity deals this year and has predicted that total transactions for 2019 could hit £40bn by the end of the year. Intermediate Capital Group (ICG) – Julia Beinker has joined the €36.8bn asset manager as a managing director to support its growing distribution activities in Europe. She will initially focus on Austria and Germany, the company said. ICG’s assets under management in Austria and Germany have grown by 6% in the last two years, it added.Beinker was previously at Muzinich & Co where she was also responsible for distribution in Austria and Germany. She has also worked for Deutsche Bank.Smart Pension – UK-based Smart Pension has appointed Mark Howard as its general counsel for pensions and financial services. He joins from law firm Clyde & Co where he worked for 14 years, latterly as head of pensions.Smart runs a UK defined contribution, multi-employer master trust. The trust received authorisation from the Pensions Regulator this week.Cairn Capital – The $4.5bn (€4.1bn) credit investment specialist has named Nicholas Chalmers as its new CEO, succeeding founding CEO Paul Campbell .Campbell co-founded Cairn Capital in 2004. He will continue to serve the firm as a senior adviser and a member of its investment and capital allocation committees, the company said in a statement.Chalmers was previously CEO and president of boutique investment house Oceanwood Capital Management . His appointment is subject to regulatory approval. XPS Pensions Group – The UK consultancy firm has named Ben Gold as head of investment, taking over from Patrick McCoy who has become head of advisory for the company’s pensions and investment businesses.In a statement, McCoy said his new role was aimed at ensuring XPS produced “well thought through, joined-up advice across all our advisory service lines, which helps clients meet their long term goals”.Gold joined XPS nearly five years ago as head of investment for its Leeds office, and was previously an investment consultant at KPMG.Svensk Försäkring – Louise Sander has been appointed as the new chair of the industry organisation for Swedish insurance companies Svensk Försäkring. She is the chief executive of Handelsbanken Liv , the life arm of the Swedish banking conglomerate. and has been a member of the supervisory board of Svensk Försäkring since 2013. The insurance body said she took up the role on 1 September. Achmea – Achmea Pensioen & Levensverzekeringen has appointed Robert Otto and Michel Lamie as members of the division’s statutory board as of 1 September. They replaced Frans van der Ent and Martin Heuvelmans, division chairman and financial director, respectively, who are to continue in their roles.Achmea said the moves were part of organisational and governance changes, designed to create closer links between the market-focused chains and to simplify the organisation’s management.AFM – Dutch regulator Autoriteit Financiële Markten has named Rob Langezaal as member of its supervisory board (RvT) as of 1 September.From 2007 to 2015, Langezaal was a member of the executive board of SNS Retail Bank. He worked as chief client officer at Volksbank between 2015 and 2018. Prior to this, he had several positions at telecoms firm KPN during a 25-year spell, including general director of KPN Retail. His appointment is for a 4-year period.The AFM’s RvT is now complete and also comprises Martin van Rijn – a former CEO at the €211bn asset manager and pensions provider PGGM – Willemijn van Dolen, Wendy de Jong and David Voetelink.The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) – Caroline Rookes , former chief executive of the Money Advice Service , has been appointed interim chair of TPO, the body responsible for resolving complaints relating to pension funds and retirement savings.Prior to the Money Advice Service Rookes was director of private pensions at the Department for Work and Pensions. She is also an experienced pension trustee and from 2015 to 2019 was a non-executive trustee at NEST.Northern Trust – The financial services giant has hired Rob Dixon from State Street to join its London-based transition management team, which covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Northern Trust has also appointed Mat Cook – also from State Street – to establish a dedicated transition management team in Sydney, Australia.SYZ Asset Management – Adrien Pichoud , chief economist, has taken on the role of head of total return strategies, leading a new team. Under the new structure Maurice Harari will oversee equity allocation with the support of the global equity team for security selection, credit selection will be performed by the credit team led by Antonio Ruggeri , and Christophe Buttigieg will oversee the emerging market debt exposure.Morningstar – Libby Bernick will join Morningstar as its head of sustainability effective 9 September. She was most recently at Trucost , an ESG analytics firm that is now part of S&P Global, where she was most latterly managing director and global heaad of Trucost corporate business. She replaces Steven Smit , who recently left Morningstar. Her role at the fund analysis firm will be to lead its cross-functional ESG research team. PIMCO – Nick Granger has been hired from Man Group as managing director and portfolio manager for quantitative analytics. The fixed income manager said he would lead its quantitative team from the company’s base in Newport Beach, California, working with its more than 255 portfolio managers. He will take up his role in the first quarter of next year.At UK-listed hedge fund Man Group, Granger was chief investment officer for the Man AHL unit as well as a member of the group’s executive committee. He joined Man AHL in 2008, having previously been an equity derivatives strategist at JP Morgan. GlaxoSmithKline, LSR, Columbia Threadneedle, Gresham House, Law Debenture, AXA IM, Aon, ICG, Smart Pension, Cairn Capital, XPS, Svensk Försäkring, Achmea, AFM, Pensions Ombudsman, Northern Trust, SYZ AM, Morningstar, PIMCOGlaxoSmithKline – The pharmaceuticals giant has appointed James Chemirmir as UK pensions director, responsible for overseeing GSK’s £12.6bn (€13.9bn) pension arrangements. He replaces Dan McDonald.Chemirmir was previously an actuarial manager at audit and consultancy group EY , according to his LinkedIn page. He took up his role at GSK on 2 September.
BERLIN – At least eight people werekilled in two shootings at shisha bars in Germany, with an unknown number of attackersstill at large, police and media said. The first attack occurred at the“Midnight” bar in the centre of the city around 10pm (2100 GMT),police and reports said. Witnesses reported hearing a dozen shots, local mediasaid. An AFP journalist at the scene sawaround thirty police cars leaving Hanau police station and, according towitnesses, police officers with machine guns were deployed in the city. (AFP) At least five people were also seriouslywounded, reports said. The shootings late Wednesday targeted bars in Hanau, according to local media. AFP The attacker, or attackers, then fledthe scene by car, according to police. There was then a second shooting atArena Bar. The shootings late Wednesday targetedbars in Hanau, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Frankfurt, according tolocal media, where police launched a huge manhunt for the gunmen. According to local media reports, threepeople were killed in front of the first bar and five in front of the second.
Jose Mourinho believes his Chelsea team are capable of winning the Barclays Premier League title and that Manchester United and Manchester City – the champions in the past two seasons – profited from their rivals’ mistakes, rather than blowing the opposition away. The return of the self-proclaimed Special One, whose second spell as a Premier League boss begins against Hull on Sunday, means the Blues are many people’s favourites to lift a first title since 2009/10. The Portuguese led Chelsea to a first championship in 50 years in 2005, his first season in charge, after proclaiming the Blues would win the title, but nine years on he would say only that his current squad could triumph. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes six teams – United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool – are in title contention and Mourinho agrees. “We don’t see that somebody this season can destroy the competition by winning 95, 100 points,” Mourinho said. “By one side it’s good, competition is very, very high. But we have all the managers, to try to keep that competitiveness, but by all of us being really good. That would be fantastic for the competition.” Chelsea have an experienced core group – Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien among them – as well as young players full of potential, such as Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne. Mourinho believes his side will evolve and grow as the season progresses, rather than previously when he had established global stars, bought with Roman Abramovich’s millions, ready to deliver. He said: “This team step by step will be better, and step by step will make less mistakes and step by step will be more solid. This competition lasts 10 months and 38 matches. Let’s go step by step.” Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge on Sunday still to taste Premier League defeat at home as Chelsea boss. He enjoyed a long period of home success with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but says the 60-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge is certain to end. “I have to lose some time,” he said. “Two seasons in Porto, no defeats at home, three and a half at Chelsea, no defeats at home, two at Inter, no defeats at home. That’s not normal. My team is going to be strong at home? Yes, for sure. “We are going to win lots of matches at home, for sure. We are not going to lose many points at home, for sure. But if we lose a match I think it’s not a drama, it’s normal. We are ready.” “We can this season, of course we can, we want to think we can, but it’s a different process,” Mourinho said. “They don’t need that added pressure. I don’t think they need outside pressure to say that they have the conditions to do it.” United won last season’s title at a canter and although he believes the competition is collectively stronger, Mourinho does not think individual teams are as good as in the past. He said: “Sometimes you win because you are tremendous and other times you win because you are the best. But you can be the best without being tremendous. “Do you think Man United last year won the Premier League because they were an unbelievable team? I don’t think so. The other contenders, they didn’t have a very good season. “The same thing the season before, when Man City won the title in the last second of the competition. Were they an extraordinary team? I don’t think they were. “I think other teams made so many mistakes that Man City finally won the competition. “You had in past years a fantastic Arsenal that won almost every game and was champion without a single defeat, you had Chelsea which has the record of points in the Premier League. You have the Man United that won the title after our double that had an unbelievable season too. “The champions, in other seasons, were magnificent. Especially in the last two seasons, I felt not. I felt the champions were the champions as a consequence of many things, not just because they were phenomenal, because in my opinion they weren’t phenomenal.” Press Association
“It’s looking unlikely that he’ll be there,” said Mullins. “He got a bruise on a hoof which put him back a few days. “It doesn’t look good. I’d previously said we needed everything to go right every single day and I put the mockers on myself. “I’d say it’s 60-40 against him running, at best, and we’ll know more in a few days. “As for Aintree and Punchestown, I’m just not sure. We’ll have to wait and see if it settles down.” Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Alderwood is unlikely to run at this year’s meeting, according to trainer Tom Mullins. Press Association The 10-year-old won the County Hurdle in 2012 before following up in the Grand Annual Chase at the meeting last year and is as short as 8-1 for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase this time around. However, he has not been seen since making his seasonal reappearance in October and while Mullins had been hoping for another Festival run, he admits it is “60-40 against” the gelding running at Cheltenham.
SIT down with 12-year-old Leon Seaton, strike up a conversation about swimming, and you will learn that this is one young man who is very passionate, and very confident about being a swimmer.“I just love the competition,” said the North Georgetown Secondary School first form student, as he gazed attentively across the pool of the National Aquatic Centre.“I feel fit, and it helps me in my education in some ways, and it’s a good stress relieving outlet for me I would say.”Seaton’s love for the sport, backed by his hard work and capable skills, has now helped to craft him into one of Guyana’s current top junior swimmer.“It hasn’t been easy. Since primary school, I’ve been waking up in the morning, going to swim, then school, then coming back to swim, I would go home, do my homework, and then have to be in bed. Some mornings I don’t come to the pool because I didn’t finish my homework, so it’s been a bit of a rough path for me during my time as a swimmer,” Seaton revealed.But the hard work has not been without its fruits. With regard to the sport locally, Seaton has a notable track record for his age. In his seven years thus far as a competitive swimmer, Seaton is a Goodwill Swimming Championship multiple silver medallist and a National Schools Championship multiple gold medallist. He also secured medals at the invitational meets in Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.Although the Guyana Amateur Swimming Association (GASA) has no up to date records, Seaton has held multiple national age group records for the Boys’ 11 to 12 category, while he had also set a few in the Under-8, and 9 to 10 age group categories.Seaton’s began swimmimg back in 2009, at age five, after his parents believed he needed some extra curricular activity to keep him busy.Seaton is very delighted with the accomplishments he has made in the pool, but he’s unabashed to recollect how hard it was for him when he first started out, he even laughs about it.“At first it was painful, well I was five. In my first competition I jumped overboard, and I started to cry, because I wasn’t that confident as yet. But as years went by, I’ve built that confidence, and here I am now today swimming for Guyana,” he said.Seaton is still brimming with pride for being the only Guyanese swimmer to date to qualify for this year’s CARIFTA Swimming Championships, set for the Bahamas in April.Seaton credits this accomplishment to all his coaches who have been a part of his development.This will be Seaton’s first year attending the regional age group meet, where hundreds of swimmers from 26 countries are set to participate.Seaton clocked a fated 27.97 seconds to make it in the Boys’ 11-12 50m freestyle, not far off the 26 seconds record for the event at CARIFTA.Last year this event was won at CARIFTA in a time of 27.07 seconds.
By Ian ChadbandLONDON-(Reuters)-Roger Federer warned on Saturday that he and the rest of the big four of men’s tennis were going to be as tough to beat as ever at Wimbledon this year as they seek to continue their astonishing monopoly of the event.In the last 14 editions, one of either Federer, the seven-times champion, double winners Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, or triple victor Novak Djokovic has lifted the men’s singles title at The All England Club.While reporters quizzed Federer on Saturday about who in the game’s young brigade could become the first man outside that quartet to win since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002, the Swiss felt it would be best to keep faith with the usual suspects.Federer’s rivals have had mixed preparations for Wimbledon. Murray’s harboured hip trouble after an early exit at Queen’s, Nadal decided to skip grasscourt warm-ups to rest his body after winning the French Open while Djokovic burst into life earlier on Saturday by winning the Eastbourne title.Do not be fooled, suggested Federer. All these 30-something luminaries would again be “tough to beat”.“Depending how fit it is, if he’s anything close to 100 percent physically, I consider him (Murray) one of the big favourites to win the tournament. It’s that simple. It’s the same for Novak and the same for Rafa,” reckoned Federer.“I think it’s very even when we put it all out on the line. Everybody has their own little story right now.“Queen’s for Andy (where he was knocked out early) doesn’t matter so much because I feel like he’s one of the best players in the first week at Wimbledon, so I don’t worry too much for him there. He can play himself into shape for week two.“Novak is just coming back from winning Eastbourne now. Rafa is coming in red hot from the clay. So I see it positive for them rather than negative in some shape, which I’m sure people will try to see that way.“But I see that they are going to be tough to beat here.”Federer himself seemed to have recaptured a touch of his fantastic early-season spark which saw him down Nadal in an epic Australian Open five-set final as he lifted his favourite pre-Wimbledon grasscourt title in Halle.Yet the 35-year-old is too old a hand to insist that this is going to be a four-horse race.“Yeah, it’s been very dominant by a few players here at Wimbledon. That’s surprising. It’s like that — but it can change tomorrow very quickly.”It is not just the younger guns, headed, he says, by Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem who “are in a good spot right now where they can go very deep”.“Then, I do believe the favourites are the other players. I include the likes of (Marin) Cilic into that, Stan (Wawrinka), guys who have done it before,” added the Swiss.Nobody, of course, has done it before as often as the 18-time grand slam champion Federer himself, who admitted it “hurt” to miss out on competing on the sapping clay of the French Open when he knew he was fit and raring to go.“No compromise really. I gave myself the best chance for the grass, so I would never look back and have regrets once I came here,” he said.“Even though I was happy on the clay for a couple days, I just felt like, you know what, anything other than winning there feels like I’m not giving myself the best chance for Wimbledon.”
Chelsea are considering whether to table an improved bid for Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric.The Blues have had offers of £22m and £27m for Modric rejected by Spurs, who insist the Croatia international is not for sale.“It’s something we’ll look at in the week and take it from there,” Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay told Sky Sports News.AdChoices广告Modric, 25, is reported to have handed in a transfer request at White Hart Lane and believes he had an agreement with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy that he could leave this summer.Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, whose team have been touring Asia, is keen to add Modric to his squad before the start of the new Premier League season.“We really need to sit down with Andre and talk this through,” Gourlay added.“Even though we’ve been travelling, you can still be active in the marketplace. The communication is always there with our guys back in London.”
– 80th Anniversary among highlights of yearAFTER a two-year period of dormancy, the Berbice Cricket Board, under the current administration of Hilbert Foster, has spearheaded a revival of the game across Berbice.Public Relations Officer, Simon Naidu, in a review of the year, described it as one which surpassed expectations on and off the cricket field.Dr. Tulsi Dyal Singh launches the Wall of FameThirty-two tournaments were launched at all levels, numerous programmes, including developmental ones, were hosted while young cricketers and cricket clubs continues to receive assistance on an unmatched level.Naidu and BCB president, Foster, hailed the 80th Anniversary, restoration of the BCB New Amsterdam office, the long overdue return of inter county cricket to Berbice and the hosting of a two-day first division tournament as the highlights of the year.The BCB hosted 32 tournaments at U-13, U-15, U-17, U-19, U-21, Intermediate, Internal Zone, Inter Village, Second Division, Secondary Schools, Primary Schools and First Division levels.The BCB has been able to successfully complete the majority of them despite a four-month-long rainy season that lasted up to the beginning of September.After an absence of fifteen years, the BCB was also able to obtain a $2M sponsorship for a two-day tournament which is currently being played by eight teams.At the inter-county level, Berbice won both female titles and the two-day Under-19 tournaments.Over forty-five Berbicians represented Guyana or other Caribbean teams in Cricket West Indies tournaments.They include players like Kevlon Anderson, Junior Sinclair, Kevin Umroa, Seon Glasgow, Marvon Prashad, Sarwan Chaitnarine, Tameshwar Mohabir, Isiah Thorne, Zeynul Ramsammy, Veersammy Permaul, Devendra Bishoo and Clinton Pestano.At the female level, Sheneta Grimmond and Shabika Gajnabi joined Shemaine Campbelle on the West Indies female Senior team as the massive investment into female cricket by the RHTYSC continues to bear fruit for the Ancient County.Five Berbicians played in the 2019 CPL while Shimron Hetmyer played in the IPL.Off the cricket field, the BCB hosted numerous developmental programmes and activities.The BCB also raised $100,000.00 to assist Ms. Ruthel Henry to construct her own home while Hilbert Foster spearheaded a highly successful 80th-anniversary celebration during the month of September.Albion Under 19 team- Champion of the New York Business Group 50 overs title.The highlight of the BCB’s office upgrade includes repainting, ceiling of the roof, tiling of the floor, obtaining over $400,000.00 worth of furniture and acquiring a Television set, DVD Player, electric fans, desk top computer, water dispenser, kitchen utensils, fax machine, cordless telephone among others.The publication of the first ever youth information booklet for youth cricketers in the Caribbean was also another major achievement for the anniversary.The BCB, via an aggressive marketing drive led by its hardworking president, was able to raise close to $12M in 2019 and has already acquired some major sponsorship for 2020.The board also presented its highest Award– Tribute to Hero– to Dr. Tulsi Dyal Singh, Brian Ramphal and Dr. Puran Singh during the year while it was named Berbice Sports Organisation of the Year by the Gregory Gaskin Memorial Berbice Committee.The hard work of the BCB president also saw the return of inter-county cricket to Berbice after an absence of over a decade. Isiah Thorne and Rampertab Ramnauth were also presented with cricket bats as the BCB honoured them on their West Indies Under-15 selection.To round off a successful year for Berbice cricket, Lower Corentyne won the Guyana Cricket Board Franchise league at the 50-over level.Mr foster, who was returned for another two-year term in a 31-0 vote at the BCB’s AGM on the 22nd of December, has unveiled some major plans for the 2020-2021 period.They include construction of an all-weather practice centre; setting up of a professional league by December 2021; having at least 20 tournaments per year, expanding the coaching programme, acquiring pitch covers for the BCB; assisting deserving clubs with gear, balls, scorebooks; and lobbying Cricket West Indies for the return of first-class cricket to Berbice.
Wisconsin’s infield will have continuity on its side in 2013, with all four starters from a season ago returning and a new face or two ready to make an impact.[/media-credit]They say Shanel Blackshear is loud and somewhat goofy. They say Stephanie Peace can inspire her teammates with a simple flick of her glove. They say Whitney Massey doesn’t say too much, or talk too loudly, but she doesn’t need to; her bat speaks much louder. They say Michelle Mueller has a cannon for an arm. They say a lot of things.And although the things they say may seem different in most aspects, in the end they, as a group, are all the same: starting infielders for the Wisconsin softball team. They’re pretty good too.“It is unique when you get this much returning experience,” head coach Yvette Healy said with an excited smile on her face before Tuesday’s practice in the McClain Facility. The Badgers may have been practicing indoors, and it may still be January, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to the ever-anxious head coach entering her third season.She will gladly welcome the “unique” situation presented to her with an entire infield returning from last year, and although the players will return, the positions may change, if ever so slightly.Peace and Massey, the pair up the middle, will not be changing at all. It’s ho-hum for the returning shortstop and second baseman.Blackshear and Mueller, however, will likely swap positions. Blackshear, last year’s third baseman, spent much of the offseason battling the pains of knee surgery before just recently being cleared to fully participate. Mueller, last season’s first baseman, will now cross the diamond toward third.Healy noted the two corner infielders could switch again as the 2013 season progresses, but until Blackshear is fully comfortable with her knee, her spot will be at first.Most programs couldn’t fathom the option of moving a third baseman to first base. The Badgers, however, can seem to do whatever they please with their pair of talented corner infielders.“Shannel [Blackshear] has probably one of the best gloves on our team,” Massey said, a noteworthy trait for first basemen.“Michelle [Mueller], she’s got a gun of an arm,” Healy echoed, a noteworthy trait for a third baseman.The move almost seems perfect, though the results remain to be seen.Between the bases, it’s the same old story of Peace and Massey, a story that frustrated opponents throughout all of 2012.Massey led the Badgers in hitting last season, batting .358 en route to a first team All-Big Ten selection as a junior. Her five errors were the fewest of the experienced infield group. The well-rounded middle infielder spends a lot of time near second base thanks to her bat, much more than your typical second baseman.Her 22 doubles led the conference and inked her name in the record books as the best-ever season total for a Badger. Naturally, she wears No. 2 on the back of her jersey.Deuces remain wild for the Badgers as Peace, Massey’s running mate up the middle, calls No. 22 her own. Not as well known for her hitting, Peace makes up for any lacking offense with her extravagant defensive prowess.“She makes a lot of inspirational plays,” Healy said of the junior shortstop. “She’s the type of kid that makes plays catching it off one foot, diving and gets the team going that way.”As a group, the Badgers’ infielders are as consistent as can be. Each member of the group started at least 48 games last season out of a possible 53. Massey started them all, Peace missed just one and Blackshear only two.Through the amount of games they’ve played together, a special bond formed in protecting the dirt and keeping runs off the scoreboard. Their proximity on the field keeps them rather close, but their interaction, as slight as ever, keeps them even closer.“It’s just our chemistry on the field,” Massey said of what she’s looking forward to in 2013. “We all have little phrases that we say to each other, it’s just the feeling, I guess, of having played together for about three years now.”And in between them all will be pitchers Cassandra Darrah and Meghan McIntosh, both also returning from last season.Each of them coming off sub-3 ERA seasons, Wisconsin’s set of slingers certainly appreciates the players that can cover the ground behind them. Each defender finished 2012 with a fielding percentage of at least .921 with Massey and Mueller at .976 and .978, respectively.And while they may do a good job making the pitchers look good, having familiar faces toeing the rubber does a lot for the infielders as well.“It’s just a comfort thing,” Peace said. “Just knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are as pitchers, and where they’ll be in coverages … it’s a lot of fun to play behind them.”These infielders were comfortable in 2012. They were comfortable setting countless records and comfortable leading the Badgers to match a program-best 34 wins. With the same crew of infielders back again and with another year of experience, comfortable could take on a far greater meaning in 2013.