Road to the Olympic Games: 4 things to watch this weekend
Curling, speed skating, figure skating highlight shows
Hosted by veteran broadcasters Scott Russell and Andi Petrillo, Road to the Olympic Games chronicles athletes' journeys on and off the field of play. Here's what to look for on this weekend's shows on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.
Grand Slam curling rocks Canada's Motor City
This week's stop on the Grand Slam of Curling sees the best in the world compete in the National at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont.
The defending men's champion is Mike McEwen of Winnipeg, who — along with Denni and B.J Neufeld, as well as Matt Wozniak — captured the series opener at the Masters in Truro, N.S., two weeks ago.
It was the sixth Grand Slam title for McEwen, who has been with the same foursome for eight years now, an eternity in the modern world of high-stakes curling. Oddly enough, the young Manitoba rink, while excelling on tour, has yet to play a single match at the Brier. All of which proves that emerging from the province of Manitoba to get a chance at winning a men's national championship might be the toughest task in the sport.
In addition, 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue returns to action for the first time since that nasty on-ice fall at the Masters that left him with seven stitches and concussion-like symptoms.
Watch: Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, Sunday at 12 p.m. ET
Commentators: Mark Lee, Olympic silver medallist Mike Harris, Olympic gold medallist Joan McCusker, Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin
Patrick Chan's return to France
At the Trophee Eric Bompard in Bordeaux, France, Canadian Patrick Chan continues what has so far been an encouraging comeback season.
Chan won Skate Canada International in Lethbridge, Alta., two weeks ago and looked particularly sharp in the free skate. If he manages a podium finish this weekend, he'll make it to the final slated for Barcelona, Spain in early December…and there's no reason to think he won't do just that.
Over the course of his career Chan has excelled at this stop on the Grand Prix circuit, having won four times. But the three-time world champion will skate against a talented group in France, which includes young Russian skater Maxim Kovtun.
Kovtun triumphed in Bordeaux last season and also captured a silver medal at the European championships. Then there's Max Aaron of the United States, who claimed the title at Skate America, as well as Olympic bronze medallist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan.
On the women's side, 17-year-old Canadian champion Gabby Daleman — who is now coached by Lee Barkell, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson — is coming off a fifth-place finish at Skate Canada where she climbed the standings after a strong final skate. In France we'll also see the reigning world champion, Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.
Watch: Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday at 3 p.m. ET
Commentators: Andi Petrillo, four-time world champion Kurt Browning, Olympic coach Carol Lane
World Cup at the Olympic Oval in Calgary
Long track speed skating is a Canadian tradition.
No sport, either winter or summer, has produced more Canadian Olympic medals. The number is 35 and counting, and Canada — along with Norway and the United States — makes up an elite group of countries which have sent speed skaters to all 22 editions of the Olympic Winter Games, beginning in Chamonix, France in 1924.
Not even the dominant Dutch can make that claim.
Superstar Christine Nesbitt retired in the off-season and four-time Olympic medallist Denny Morrison is still recovering from a motorcycle accident in May, which left him with a fractured femur.
That means Canada's medal chances at the home World Cup in Calgary could be limited. However, that's not to say Canadians will not be in the mix. Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., won 500-metre bronze last season at the World Single Distances championships, and Calgary's Ivanie Blondin was the overall World Cup champion in the mass start event, which will be making its Olympic debut in South Korea in 2018.
For the Netherlands, the story of Jorien ter Mors continues. She competed at the short track World Cup in Toronto last week and now the double Olympic gold medallist in Sochi returns to oval ice after a season away.
"It's crazy that she can do what she does. To be competitive in both disciplines at that level is so rare," two-time Olympic champion and CBC speed skating analyst Catriona Le May Doan said.
"She won the Dutch national trials by two seconds on the long track in the 1500m. I don't think we've seen anyone like her or will see anyone like her ever again."
Watch: Saturday at 5 p.m. ET
Commentators: Scott Russell, two-time Olympic gold medallist Catriona Le May Doan
Canada's new Minister of Sport has a vision
As the newly minted Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough has already waded into the public conversation over the role of sport in Canadian society.
On Monday she reacted to the systematic doping allegations plaguing Russia following the release of the WADA commission's report from Geneva.
"It's a blemish on all of sport when you see this kind of systematic cheating going on," she said.
What followed was a wide-ranging interview focusing on the course she plans to navigate as the person responsible for articulating and shaping a national sport policy.
Qualtrough revealed an open mind when it comes to balancing the need to sustain high performance versus growing participation rates at the grassroots level. She hinted that she believes sport has power beyond the ice rinks and playing fields, and it can be used as a tool to accomplish many goals across the Canadian cultural landscape.
"The second most important way that new immigrants connect with our communities, after religion, is through sport," Qualtrough said. "Maybe we don't all speak the same language, but many of us speak the language of soccer, for instance. You may have a lot more money than I do, but we can both kick a ball equitably on the same field. Sport is an equalizer."
Watch the full interview by clicking here.