The Olympics are just days away – here are some Canadians to watch
Canada sends 371 athletes to Tokyo, the country’s largest Olympic team since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. They are aged 14 (swimmer Summer McIntosh) to 56 (equestrian rider Mario Deslauriers) and they will participate in nearly three dozen sports. With such a large and diverse group, you can bet that someone we haven’t noticed will be doing something extraordinary in Tokyo. This is one of the great things about the Olympics. But, for now, here are some of the athletes from whom we expect big things once the competition begins next week:Christine Sinclair : The 38-year-old striker has scored more times than anyone in international football history. She has two goals more than the great American Abby Wambach, 77 more than Cristiano Ronaldo and 109 more than Pelé. In what could be her last Olympics, Sinclair will look to lead the Canadian women’s team to the podium for the third time in a row.
André De Grasse: After facing Usain Bolt in Rio and winning three medals, the 26-year-old sprinter has another chance to clinch the 100m / 200m / 4x100m triple podium. De Grasse’s times have been average this year, especially in the 100. But this event is wide open now with Bolt retired and reigning world champion Christian Coleman suspended. In addition, De Grasse has always performed well in major races: he has been on the podium in the five individual events in which he has participated in the Olympic Games or the world championships. Learn more about De Grasse in this profile from CBC Sports contributor Vivek Jacob.
The swimmers: So many Canadian women are running for an individual medal that it would be unfair to name just one. Topping the list is Kylie Masse, who bet on her bronze in the 100m backstroke in Rio by winning the world title in 2017 and 2019. She added a bronze in the 200 backstroke at the 2019 world championships. Canada has another reigning world champion in Maggie Mac Neil (100m butterfly), and Sydney Pickrem won bronze in the 200 breaststroke and 200 IM in Rio. Penny Oleksiak hasn’t reached the podium in an individual event at a major international competition since her stunning gold and silver medals in Rio at the age of 16, but she looked younger in the Canadian trials last month. Oleksiak swam her best time in the 100 freestyle since setting the Olympic record and equaling American Simone Manuel for gold in Rio. Then there’s Summer McIntosh, the 14-year-old sensation who stole the show in practice by beating Oleksiak in the 200 freestyle and also winning the 800. At the other end of the age curve is Brent Hayden. The 2007 world champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the men’s 100 freestyle came out of seven years of retirement to win the 50 freestyle in the trials. At 37, he is set to become the oldest Canadian to swim at the Olympics. Learn more about this exciting wave of Canadian swimmers in this story from CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux.
Damien Warner : The 31-year-old decathlete stood on the podium for nearly a decade, winning medals at the 2016 Olympics and the 2013, ’15 and ’19 world championships. He also won gold at the Pan American Games (twice) and the Commonwealth Games. This could be the year that Warner finally reaches the top of one of the biggest competitions. In May, he broke his own three-year Canadian record scoring 8,995 points. Only three decathletes have ever achieved higher scores, and they are all Olympic and / or world champions.
Rosie MacLennan : In Rio, the trampolinist became the first Canadian to repeat his title of Olympic champion in a summer individual event. MacLennan won the 2018 world title and took bronze at the 19 world championships in Tokyo despite a broken ankle seven months before the competition. Read about the 32-year-old’s quest for an Olympic treble in this story from CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin.
Laurence Vincent Lapointe: Women’s canoeing is finally at the Olympics, and Vincent Lapointe dominated both events in Tokyo. She holds seven world titles in the 200m singles and four in the 500m doubles. It looked like Vincent Lapointe might not make it to Tokyo after testing positive for a banned muscle builder in the summer of 2019, but her provisional suspension was overturned after successfully arguing that she did not knowingly took the medicine. Vincent Lapointe was almost excluded from the Olympics anyway because his ban prevented him from qualifying before the pandemic, but the Canadian team found a way around that last week by reallocating him one of his kayak places. Vincent Lapointe and Katie Vincent will compete in doubles and solo in Tokyo. To learn more about Vincent Lapointe’s winding journey to the Olympic Games, click here.
Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes: Beach volleyball is always a hit at the Olympics, and Canada has one of the best women’s pairs on the planet. The 6-foot-5 Pavan and the 5-9 Humana Paredes won the world title in 2019 and are heading to Tokyo, ranked World No.1.
Meaghan Benfeito : The 32-year-old diver already has three Olympic bronze medals – one in the 10-meter individual, two in the 10-meter synchro with her former partner Roseline Filion, who is now retired. In Tokyo, Benfeito will compete solo and in sync again, this time with 22-year-old Caeli McKay.
Ellie Black : Only one Canadian has ever won an Olympic medal in traditional gymnastics (Kyle Shewfelt won men’s floor gold in 2004) and no Canadian has ever been on the podium. But Black, 25, has a chance after winning all-around silver at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal and finishing fourth at the 2019 World Championships. In Tokyo, she will face the great Simone Biles, who is looking to repeat her title of champion of the general competition. Learn more about Black and his “aggressive” style, as Shewfelt describes it, in this story from Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press.