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Olympics2012Olympic Hot Sheet: Canada exceeding expectations

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | 05:12 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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The Canadian men's eight crew celebrates its thrilling silver-medal performance. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/GettyImages) The Canadian men's eight crew celebrates its thrilling silver-medal performance. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/GettyImages)

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A guide to what happened Wednesday, and what to look for Thursday, at the Olympic Games in London, including the latest chapter in the badminton scandal saga and another chance for Canada to add to its unexpectedly impressive medal haul.
A guide to what happened Wednesday, and what to look for Thursday, at the Olympic Games in London.

Canadian athletes bookended Day 5 of competition with a pair of medals. The men's eight rowing crew kicked the day off with a thrilling silver, and swimmer Brent Hayden capped it with a surprise bronze in the 100-metre freestyle, raising Canada's total to six medals.

Make no mistake, this is pretty much a best-case-scenario start for Canada. The surest medal bet so far (women's 3m synchro divers Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel) came through, as did three podium-fringe contenders in weightlifter Christine Girard, 10m synchro divers Meghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion, and the men's eight. Throw in surprise bronze medals from Hayden and judoka Antoine Valois-Fortier, and Canada is ahead of its expected pace (and making our prediction of 15 medals look much too low).

And don't be fooled by the big names who didn't reach the podium on Wednesday. A banged-up Clara Hughes had only an outside shot in the women's time trial (the final event of her storied Olympic career), and Giro d'Italia champ Ryder Hesjedal wasn't expected to contend in the men's time trial. Ditto for synchro divers Alex Despatie and Reuben Ross, especially with Despatie competing for the first time since suffering a concussion.

What about the absence of a gold medal? Not a problem. Canada has yet to field a legitimate title contender, so it's not like the five bronze and one silver medal won so far are the result of anyone slipping down the podium.

Breaking bad(minton)

OK, that reference was a reach, but we love the show. And while this story may not be quite as dramatic as a Walter White arc, it's pretty juicy.

Four of badminton's top women's doubles teams (two from South Korea, one each from China and Indonesia) were kicked out of the Olympic tournament after the Badminton World Federation ruled that they'd thrown matches in order to secure more favourable opponents in the knockout rounds ("tanking," as North American sports fans would call it).

With the big guns booted, Canada's Michele Li and Alex Bruce were handed a spot in the quarter-finals despite their 0-3 record in the group stage. They took full advantage of the opportunity, defeating Australia in the third and deciding game of their match to become the first Canadian team ever to reach the medal round. They'll now face the No. 4-seeded Japanese team. Could be worse, though: the other semi features the No. 2 seed from China.

One more victory - either in their semifinal or the bronze match between the semifinal losers - and Li and Bruce will capture one of the most improbable Olympic medals in recent Canadian history.

We're back, baby

Big news out of CBC headquarters today: The Corp has landed the exclusive Canadian broadcast and streaming rights to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

What does it mean for you, the viewer? Well, the Olympics are returning to the network that's broadcast the vast majority of them in Canada (the other guys swooped in to grab the packages that included the 2010 Vancouver and 1988 Calgary Games). And you'll be hearing a lot less of this song.

But is this a good use of my tax dollars, you ask? Well, CBC English Services boss Kirstine Stewart told us in an interview that the bid was designed to be "cost-neutral," with a chance of turning a profit. So the deal shouldn't detract from CBC's efforts to land other properties. Like, say, the next NHL rights contract.

Looking ahead...

Canada has an excellent chance to add to its medal haul Thursday when the women's eight crew hits the water for its final at 7:30 a.m. ET. Winning gold will be tough against a U.S. team that's won the world's top competition (world championships or Olympics) for six years running. But Canada, which took silver at the last two worlds, won its heat on Sunday to advance directly to the final and should be well-rested.

Hayden returns to action in the heats of the 50 free (the "splash and dash") at 5 a.m. ET.

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte swim the second of their two head-to-head finals in London, the 200-metre individual medley at 3:19 p.m. ET. Bookies pegged the American rivals as co-favourites, but fatigue could be a factor for Lochte. Only 31 minutes separate his start times in the earlier 200 back and the 200 IM.

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