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European Team of the Week: Ilkay Gundogan and Lionel Messi join hat-trick hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
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Every week we pick 22 of the best performing players in Europe’s top five leagues and, with your help, narrow it down to the best XI. Using polls on our Instagram stories, we pit players in each position against each other and let you decide who deserves to make the cut. Follow our Instagram page to get involved. Here’s what our latest European Team of the Week looks like: GK: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) Earned his 12th clean sheet of the season and Villa a point in difficult circumstances. Brighton were well on top and exerted pressure on his goal, but a stunning nine saves kept them at bay. RB: Matthew Lowton (Burnley) Undoubtedly his best performances of the season, excelling at both ends of the pitch. Lowton made three tackles, three interceptions and five clearances in a fine defensive display but really caught the eye in attack with three key passes and one outstanding volley to score at the end of a superb run. CB: Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina) Solid at the back and certainly didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side. Stood out with 11 defensive actions in a 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria, including five interceptions and he even managed to hit the woodwork at the other end. CB: Diego Carlos (Sevilla) A rock at the back as Sevilla secured a 1-0 victory at home to Huesca. Made a staggering 11 clearances in the process and was good on the ball, boasting a success rate of 92.7 per cent. LB: Ola Aina (Fulham) Perfect ball across for Josh Maja to score the first goal at the end of a fluid Fulham attack. He put in a shift in defence as well. No one made more than his five clearances during the 2-0 win over Everton. CM: Ilkay Gundogan (Man City) The Premier League’s Player of the Month continued in his rich vein of form. He was excellent in midfield and tormented Tottenham with his well-timed runs forward, bagging a brace. He sat Davinson Sanchez down before slotting home for his second goal. CM: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) Dictated the tempo of the game with his exceptional distribution. The German played 107 passes at 94.4-per-cent accuracy. He picked up an assist for the opener and then passed the ball into the back of the net with ease to get himself on the score sheet as well. CM: Nabil Fekir (Real Betis) Took his goal superbly, showing great strength to hold off the defender before checking back onto his weaker right foot and dispatching the finish with aplomb. He posed a constant threat with a game-high five shots in the 2-1 win at Villarreal. FW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) Vintage Messi, skipping past challenges and scoring from range. He hammered in his first in emphatic fashion, but his second was a thing of beauty, curling a sublime effort into the corner from the edge of the box with minimal back-lift. He even bagged an assist, by setting up Trincao. FW: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan) Reached 300 goals for club and country by scoring a brace in a 3-1 win over Lazio that fired Inter to the top of Serie A. He made no mistake from the spot and then took advantage of some suspect defending for his second. He then showed immense pace and power to assist Lautaro Martinez on the break. FW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) Scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Leeds and even hit the woodwork. He cut in expertly to score the opener, converted a penalty and then headed home Emile Smith-Rowe’s cross. Know more about Sport360 Application
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Antwerp vs Rangers Prediction: UEFA Europa League Match on 18.02.2021
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Europa League action returns in midweek with the Round of 32 games played on Thursday. Each of the matches are scheduled to be shown live on TV, promising a night of entertainment for armchair fans. In this article, our team of football experts focus on the game in Belgium where local side Royal Antwerp take on Steven Gerrard’s Scottish Premiership champions in-waiting Rangers from 20:00 Antwerp runners up behind Spurs Antwerp finished as runners up in Europa League Group J. Stats of four wins and two defeats gave a dozen points which meant they finished just one behind pool winners Tottenham, two better than LASK in third. Royal scored eight goals in their six previous games but conceded five and that’s something that will concern the new coaching team. In the Belgium First Division A, we find Antwerp in second place trailing leaders Club Bruges who look home and hosed as champions this term. Bruges have 60 points on the board ahead of Antwerp on 47 and Genk on 43. The home team’s main concern between now and the end of the season will be holding their ground and securing Champions League football next term. Gers heading towards 55 Rangers were unbeaten in their Europa League group and finished as winners of what had been billed as a competitive pool. The Gers were pulled from pot four and added to Group D, but they defied the odds to win four games and draw the other two, scoring 13 goals while conceding seven. 14 points placed them two ahead of runners up Benfica and 10 better than Standard Liege in third. As well as their success on the continent we have seen Steven Gerrard’s Rangers dominate Scottish football. The Gers are now within four games of clinching their first title in 10 years. This year’s gong would be a double celebration for Rangers, winning a 55th Scottish championship and ending Celtic’s hopes of clinching a record 10-in-a-row. Antwerp vs Rangers prediction Antwerp are well off the pace domestically and are missing a few key players, including their star striker. Replacing him in attack is a man not long back from injury. Keeping a clean sheet will be Gerrard’s main aim but the visitors will shoot for the first leg lead. Europa League odds Antwerp are 4.04 to win with 22bet offering Rangers at 2.58 and the draw 2.27. Make sure to bet on Antwerp vs Rangers with 22Bet!
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Lahore Qalandars appoint Shaheen Shah as vice-captain for PSL 6
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Karachi: Lahore Qalandars have appointed pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi as the vice-captain for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) season six. The 20-year-old Shaheen has been with the Qalandars since the third edition of the PSL and has emerged as the core member of the franchise. Aaqib Javed, LQ’s director of Cricket said that Shaheen Shah Afridi is face of Lahore Qalandars. His dedication towards Qalandars’ mindset is remarkable. “Shaheen Afridi is a world class cricketer with exceptional bowling skills, his commitment and dedication for the team is unmatched and he is keen to take the team to the next level” said Aqib Javed. Shaheen Afridi, in his message, thanked the Lahore Qalandars management and aimed to contribute towards team’s success. “I am thankful to Lahore Qalandars’ management for this opportunity and really looking forward to play my part in success of Lahore Qalandars team” said Shaheen Afridi in his message. Shaheen has taken 34 wickets in 27 matches. He was Qalandars’ leading-wicket taker of PSL 2020. Read: Multan Sultans announce Mohammad Rizwan as captain for PSL 6 Comments comments Previous articlePakistani mountaineer Asad climbs Africa’s highest peak within 24 hours
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Jessica Pegula, daughter of Bills and Sabres owners, pulls off massive Australian Open upset
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Jessica Pegula. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)Packers: 3 moves Green Bay can make thanks to David Bakhtiari by Rucker Haringey Jessica Pegula continues her magical run at the 2021 Australian Open, knocking off the No. 5 player in the world to get to the quarterfinals.Jessica Pegula is one match away from getting to the 2021 Australian Open semifinals. The daughter of Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula just pulled off an incredible upset in the fourth round on Sunday, defeating the No. 5 player in the world Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. Pegula faces No. 22 Jennifer Brady on Tuesday.This was the 26-year-old’s first victory over a top-10 opponent, as well as her first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal. It will be an All-American quarterfinal between Pegula and Brady on Tuesday.“It’s an opportunity for both of us,” said Pegula after defeating Svitolina on Sunday at Rod Laver. “I’m just happy I’m here. She’s been playing some good tennis, solidifying herself as a top player.”Perhaps the Bills’ success will continue to carry over to Pegula in Australia?The Bills are coming off their best season in Pegula’s lifetime. Buffalo had not hosted a playoff game since before she was born. While the Sabres continue to not do much of anything on the NHL side of things, the Bills were one win away from making their fifth trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history. The Bills should be one of the top five teams in the NFL again next season.While Pegula’s remarkable run in Melbourne may be coming to an end soon, being able to knock off the No. 5 player in the sport in such a high-profile event as the Australian Open is a huge accomplishment. Pegula is in her athletic prime and with one more victory over a ranked opponent, she will be one of the last four women’s tennis players remaining in this tournament.Pegula’s run in the 2021 Australian Open has been one of the better stories of the entire event.
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Warriors Teammate Praises Steph Curry and Draymond Green’s Hall of Fame IQ
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After a bumpy start to the 2020-21 NBA season, the Golden State Warriors are getting back in form. They made several changes to their roster in the offseason and it took some time for the players to settle in. But with the All-Star break almost here, the Dubs are looking consistent. The credit for their newfound success goes to none other than their veteran duo of Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Recently, the two stars flaunted their skills against the Cavaliers in a comfortable 129-98 victory. Curry continued his hot scoring streak with 36 points against the Cavs. On the other hand, Green handled the facilitating duties for the team as he finished the game with 16 assists. The two stars have shouldered the burden for the team in the absence of Klay Thompson. But can the Warriors go all the way and win another championship? We will find out in the coming months. Steph Curry and Draymond Green: The two pillars for the Golden State Warriors Golden State Warriors forward Kent Bazemore (26) and forward Juan Toscano-Anderson (95) and guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Draymond Green (23) during the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsFollowing this sensational victory, Juan Toscano-Anderson gave an interesting post-game interview. He said: “I am a beneficiary of these guys, their hall of fame IQ. You know Draymond [Green] had 16 assists today and that’s amazing from our starting center. Last five games, he’s in double digits assists. … Either Steph [Curry] is open or Imma be open. “I’m aware that the defense ain’t gonna leave him so I just find those gaps and get those easy buckets. I know Draymond sees everything. Sometimes he sees it a little too quick before any of us see it, but it’s great to play with a guy like that.” Draymond Green has always been an amazing playmaker for the Dubs. Even during their stretch of dominance in the mid 2010s, he took on the role of a facilitator for their championship teams. This season, he is elevating his game further in that department. READ MORE | Steph Curry and LeBron James Ready to Move On From Intense Rivalry But is this enough for the Warriors to win another championship? Feel free to share your thoughts. Get notified about breaking news and watch highlights on the go; join the Arena on NBA Hoops
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Draymond Green calls out NBA double-standard after Cavaliers sit Drummond
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Draymond Green says there’s a double-standard in the NBA that protects teams but alienates players when trade requests are made public. “At some point, we need to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights that the team can have,” Green said Monday after his Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game in which Andre Drummond was benched while the Cavaliers look for a trade for the star centre. Earlier on Monday both the Cavaliers with Drummond and the Detroit Pistons with Blake Griffin made it publically known that those players would not play another game until a trade can be found. The NBA trade deadline is March 25. After watching Drummond sit on the sidelines Monday, Green called the situation “b— s—” and cited numerous examples of players requesting trades and being portrayed as bad apples for doing so — including the January fallout between James Harden and the Houston Rockets — while teams can seemingly operate at will without criticism for their actions. “…As a player, you’re the worst person in the world when you want a different situation. But a team can say they’re trading you, and that man is to say in shape, he has to stay professional and if not, his career is on the line,” Green said. “At some point, this league has to protect the players from embarrassment like that.”
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Ashwin stars as India thrash England to level Test series
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Chennai: India captain Virat Kohli said Tuesday his side showed more “grit” and “determination” to thrash England in the second Test, playing down complaints about the difficult pitch. With local hero Ravichandran Ashwin claiming eight wickets in the match and scoring 106 in the second innings, India completed a 317-run victory inside four days in Chennai. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel claimed a five-wicket haul on his Test debut as England were out for 164 while chasing an unlikely 482 on day four. Some said the Chennai pitch, which crumbled from nearly the first day, was not fit for a Test. But England made no public complaint and Kohli rejected the criticism and said his side played a “perfect game”. “I think our application with the bat was outstanding,” said the India captain. “The conditions were challenging for both sides but we showed more application and grit and determination to battle it out. “We didn’t panic out there looking at the hard turn and bounce on that pitch.” Kohli highlighted that India scored 600 runs over two innings despite the conditions, and winning the toss made no difference. “So if you put up that kind of batting performance and you string in those important batting partnerships then we know that our bowlers are going to do the job.” England ‘outplayed England captain Joe Root conceded that his side were “outplayed in all three departments this week” and had to learn quickly before the third Test in Ahmedabad. But he added: “I would say it was a challenging wicket. I do think that it was an important toss to win.” England, he said, now have to be “honest” and learn quickly to adapt to conditions in India. England, struggling since the opening day, kept losing wickets after resuming on 53-3 on day four. Root departed for 33 soon after lunch, falling to Patel. Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav joined in to finish off the innings, taking Moeen Ali after he smashed 43 off 18 balls. The last wicket partnership of 38 between Ali and Stuart Broad, unbeaten on five, was England’s highest of the match. England, who have been resting and rotating players, said Ali would be returning home after the Test. Ali had coronavirus in Sri Lanka but recovered to take a total of eight wickets in the second Test against India. Ashwin’s five wickets to help bowl out England for 134 in the first innings in response to India’s 329 set the tone for the host’s dominance. England conceded a lead of 195 and then struggled on a pitch that offered turn from day one. “This wicket was very different to the one we played on in the first game,” Ashwin conceded, but he added that the wickets had not fallen from the balls he expected. “It was the mind of the batsmen that got us wickets.” Opener Rohit Sharma hit an attacking 161 to set up India’s big innings after they won the toss and elected to bat first. Sharma’s seventh Test century and his first against England raised the pitch of the returning Indian crowd — present in a stadium for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic. Kohli made 62 in the second innings, putting on a key 96-run seventh-wicket partnership with Ashwin on day three. Both sides need to win the series to take the second place in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand later this year. The third Test — a day-night match — will begin in Ahmedabad on February 24. Authorities have not said if fans will be allowed into the world’s biggest cricket stadium — with a 100,000-plus capacity — for the game. Read: England thrashes India by 227 runs in first Chennai Test Comments comments
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PSL remains ‘strong,’ in talks with GMA 7 for broadcast deal
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FILE PHOTO – PSL chairman Philip Ella Juico during the 2020 league opening. TRISTAN TAMAYO/INQUIRER.net Despite encountering turbulent times, the Philippine Superliga is in the process of engaging a new television partner in GMA 7. PSL chairman Philip Ella Juico announced Tuesday at the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum that league officials look forward to forging an alliance with the Kapuso network since breaking up with TV5 has become inevitable. “We remain as strong as before and even stronger now because the teams that we have are very committed. As we speak today, we are starting negotiations with GMA 7 as our new TV partner,’’ said Juico. Once the deal has been sealed, GMA 7 will air the league’s beach volleyball tournament starting Feb. 26, featuring eight teams in a bubble tournament in Subic Bay, Zambales. Juico said the PSL currently has four teams—Sta. Lucia, F2 Logistics, Chery Tiggo and a guest squad in Petro Gazz—while the league is seeking to add two to three more teams as soon as the GMA 7 partnership has been finalized. He added Generika, Petron and Marinerang Pilipina took a leave from the league and reports have it that Cignal has decided to move ship to the Philippine Volleyball League. “If Cignal is joining the other league, we have no other sensible reason to stay at TV5. We have to adjust to the reality of the situation and the signs of the times,’’ said Juico during the weekly forum backed by Smart, Go For Gold, Milo, San Miguel Corporation, Braska and Pagcor. But while the PVL has gone professional under the supervision of the Games and Amusements Board, the PSL, which decided to move the projected March opening of its indoor volleyball to a later date, has opted to remain non-professional. “Our board, our team owners, the ones who are still with us really want to stay non-professional. We realized that there is really no room for two professional (volleyball) leagues in this country,’’ said Juico. “What good will that do to Philippine sports development? It doesn’t make strategic sense. Why do we have to move up if there is already a (pro) league there? We’ll just stay here where we are happy and have created a niche,’’ added Juico. Read Next Don't miss out on the latest news and information. Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000. For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
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Thurston weighing up return to Maroons
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Johnathan Thurston says he'll strongly consider joining Queensland's State of Origin coaching staff if offered a role for the 2021 series.The Maroons legend, who made 37 Origin appearances is widely tipped to serve as an assistant under newly appointed Queensland coach Paul Green."Once you're in it it's very consuming, I love the Maroon jersey everything about it, so yeah if I get asked yeah I'd certainly consider it," Thurston said.JT toasts the aggression reignited into Origin: JT's Roast and Toast"I've got to talk to the boss first because four young kids at home, eight, six, four and two this year they are. The eight-year-old is going on 18 so it's tough times for the wife."Thurston and Green combined as captain and coach to deliver the Cowboys' first NRL premiership in 2015 and JT believes his former mentor will make a seamless transition into Origin."There's been a lot of talk about his intensity and things like that, but it's State of Origin, it's the best players you're working with," Thurston said."It's about making sure everyone understands their role in the team and that's what he brought to the Cowboys. "He's one of the best footy brains going round Greeny, so I'm predicting our boys will go back-to-back with him at the helm."  What Origin means to QueenslandersThurston's home town of Townsville will host the first major match of the year when the NRL All Stars game kicks off on Saturday and he's advocating for North Queensland to stage a State of Origin match as well. "Yeah 100 percent. Not only can we hopefully attract an Origin game but hopefully we can attract teams from other codes to come and play because it's a world class stadium it's a world class high performance centre ... so that's what we want."For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
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Meet America’s 63rd National Park
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As Americans continue to weather the pandemic, the $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending bill passed by the federal government in December brought an unexpected and lasting gift: a new national park.The 5,593-page spending package included a raft of provisions authorizing little-known projects — the construction of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota, for one — and giving lawmakers a chance to advance a variety of long-delayed initiatives. Among them was the elevation of the New River Gorge, in southern West Virginia, to the status of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the country’s other most renowned outdoor spaces. The designation of the area — roughly 72,000 acres of land flanking 53 miles of the gorge — as a national park and preserve creates the 63rd national park in the United States and completes a multigenerational effort, started in the mid-twentieth century, to transform a tired industrial area into a national landmark.“Towards the end of this year, with these big bills coming down, I decided to strike,” said Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican and the state’s junior senator, who, along with Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, introduced the New River Gorge legislation in 2019.“This was the right opportunity,” she said.A draw for rafters, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiastsThe gorge and its surroundings have been prized for decades as one of southern West Virginia’s more spectacular natural places.In 1963, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution seeking to designate the New River Gorge as a “national playground,” preparing to send the proposal to President John F. Kennedy, whose primary campaign was lifted substantially through support from West Virginia voters. But momentum to create a national recreation area stalled after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination later that year.Though the gorge remained a curiosity among rafters and outdoor enthusiasts, the area only received federal protection from the Interior Department in 1978, when it was designated a national river.Now, the outdoor offerings in the gorge have come to define the area as a premier destination for adventure sports in the East.The New River plunges 750 feet over 66 miles, resulting in long stretches of violent rapids that can reach a class five level, generally considered the most difficult that can be navigated by white-water boaters. (Licensed outfitters operate in several towns near the river, providing rentals and tours for rafting and kayaking.)The canyon walls, which soar as high as 1,600 feet, offer miles of cliffs that rank among the best in the East Coast for rock climbing. Sheer faces in the gorge made of robust Nuttall sandstone provide both traditional and sport-climbing routes across the difficulty spectrum.Bike routes are scattered throughout the park on both sides of the river, with options for both technical mountain biking and more casual pedaling along former railroad beds.A glimpse back in timeAccording to the National Park Service, geologists believe the New River — its name a misnomer used by early American explorers who often assigned the same name to any river they came upon for the first time — was a segment of the preglacial Teays River. This larger river, which traversed much of the current Ohio River watershed, was later diverted and broken up by glaciers. The age of the Teays is uncertain, but fossil evidence suggests it could be as much as 320 million years old, leaving its remnant, the New River, as quite possibly the second oldest river in the world.Beyond the millions of years of geological history on display, the gorge is also filled with signs of the region’s heritage as a major coal production hub.Miners once capitalized on the easy access to rich deposits of high-quality bituminous coal in the canyon, where the river had already shorn through hundreds of feet of rock. Especially after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway linked the New River coal fields to markets in 1873, dozens of boom towns popped up along the river’s edge, thriving well into the 1920s.In 1963, a coal mine was still operating in the gorge, said Dave Arnold, a state tourism commissioner who operated a rafting company for more than 40 years.“In ’76 or ’77, if you were in my boat, we’d have been floating down the river and I would have been showing you, ‘here’s an old coal tipple, here’s the old hotel at Caperton, here’s this and that,’” he said.The demand for coal around the turn of the twentieth century was so high that towns existed every half mile along up the river, according to the Park Service. As the industry went into decline, however, by the 1950s many were already abandoned, leaving ghost towns scattered throughout the gorge. Additionally, logging during the late nineteenth century stripped vast portions of the gorge bare, clearing enormous swaths of virgin forest.The park contains the remnants of communities such as Nuttallburg and Kaymoor, which still stand near the riverbank and are accessible from points higher up. Seams of exposed coal are visible along some trails leading into the gorge and its towns, where abandoned mine portals and the foundations of coke ovens remain.Restoring an ecosystem with diverse wildlifeDespite the environmental degradation and pollution that industry unleashed, some unique ecological features make the gorge well-suited to a diverse combination of wildlife, which has slowly reappeared as time has passed.The river lies at the center of a migration corridor where plants and animals that typically range further north or south come together, including several federally endangered and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and the Allegheny woodrat.According to Lizzie Watts, the park’s superintendent, the river itself is also notably warmer than surrounding areas, making it a popular warm-water fishing destination with more than a dozen public access points. The river is one of the premier spots for smallmouth bass fishing on the east coast, and muskellunge and walleye are common in the park today.“The next generation will have the opportunity to see what, in the last 150 years, it looks like when an area goes from being logged and mined to left alone,” Ms. Watts said. “The ecosystem has come back to full trees and mature forests.”As federal protections took effect after the Park Service began overseeing the area as a national river in 1978, wildlife has largely recovered, and many see an opportunity to showcase the region’s natural elegance.“To show off our rock climbing, our extreme sports availabilities in that area, is just really exciting,” said Ms. Capito of what she described as a “kind of wild and wonderful part of our state.” ‘The cream of the crop’The National Park Service, created in 1916, oversees more than 400 areas across the country, including national monuments, seashores and battlefields as well as parks, which together total more than 85 million acres.While the new title for New River Gorge does not fundamentally alter the area’s day-to-day operations, both lawmakers and the Park Service tend to view “national parks” as the crown jewels of the park system — a protection granted to some of the largest and most prized tracts of the country.“National Park status is usually considered like the cream of the crop,” Ms. Watts said. “But it really is just another one of those names.”The New River Gorge does not match the scale of many national parks in the western United States, where Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone sprawl over more than 1 million acres each.Nevertheless, officials expect the new designation to bring a substantial influx of travelers, boosted in part by a dedicated set of enthusiasts who strive to visit every national park.In typical years, around 1.3 million travelers visit the gorge, according to the Park Service’s tourism data. Based on studies of other areas that received national park status, Ms. Capito said she expects to see visitors increase by as much as 20 percent.“It does feel like the very beginning stages of transformation for the whole area,” said Becky Sullivan, the executive director of the New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’ll be very, very interested to see where we are in about 10 years.”Maintaining the community and its favored pastimesAs unique outdoor attractions throughout the Appalachian region have gained more national visibility, some concern has grown over the idea of a wealthy and mobile set from out of state trampling the communities adjacent to these places.West Virginia remains the second-poorest state in the country in terms of median household income, according to data collected by the United States Census Bureau. And while tourism has brought a needed injection of wealth to areas all around the gorge, it has also changed the makeup of neighboring communities, as more people have come to visit the park or settle down near it.Interest in the natural offerings around the park has brought slow but measurable change for small towns nearby like Fayetteville. Officials say that the advent of remote work during the pandemic has only hastened a trend of properties in the area being repurposed for vacation rentals and outsiders snapping up second homes.“You cannot find a house for sale in Fayetteville, because they’re just in such high demand,” said Sharon Cruikshank, the town’s mayor. “So that definitely changed the budgeting of the town as well as the county.”When legislation was first introduced to designate the area as a national park, pushback came from some locals. Hunters have long enjoyed access to secluded sections of woods around the gorge, and with hunting prohibited in federal parks, some protested the potential loss of thousands of acres of hunting grounds.In a compromise, more than 65,000 acres of the total area were designated as a nature preserve where hunting can continue as before, and only roughly 7,000 acres directly within the canyon are officially off limits as national parkland. A provision was included to empower the park to acquire more than 3,000 acres of private land around its current boundaries as well, to expand the size of the preserve and add public hunting grounds.In a nod to tradition, the legislation also enshrines the right for visitors to continue to make use of one of the park’s most famous features — the New River Gorge Bridge — at least once a year.BASE jumping, an extreme sport in which jumpers parachute from elevated structures or cliffs, is banned in every other national park.But, since 1980, BASE jumpers have been permitted to plunge from the top of the 876-foot-high bridge and parachute down toward the river once a year, on Bridge Day, held one Saturday in October. The legislation designating the area as a national park allows that tradition to continue.As many as 100,000 people typically come to watch the jumpers plunge, according to Ms. Sullivan, providing a major boost for businesses in the region. The event has only been canceled twice, including last year because of the coronavirus.Bridge Day’s organizers advise jumpers that the only dependable way to touch down safely is to plan to land directly in the river. In normal years, hundreds do so, often multiple times that day, gliding down and softly hitting the New River’s waters.
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