Road to the Olympic Games: 5 things to watch this weekend
Speed skating, bobsleigh, aerials, snowboarding action highlight Saturday show
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 show on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.
Biathlon in the Rockies
Canmore, Alta., has one of the best Nordic skiing facilities in the world, and on this week's show it plays host to major international biathlon competition for one of the first times since the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and target shooting, is the most popular winter sport on television in much of Europe, and its brightest stars will be looking to find the range in the Rocky Mountains.
Featured is 25-year-old Italian skier Dorothea Wierer, who has accumulated seven podium finishes including two victories in the current season. The Olympic bronze medallist in the mixed-relay, Wierer will lead the Italian team in Canmore.
For Canada it will be two-time Olympian Rosanna Crawford who races on home snow. Crawford's sister Chandra won cross-country skiing gold at the 2006 Olympics in Torino.
On the men's side, world No. 1 Martin Fourcade of France, a six-time world champion and the winner of two gold medals at the Olympics in Sochi, is having another dominant season.
In addition, the sideline reporter in Canmore will be Canadian Olympic snowboarder Caroline Calve, who gets a shooting lesson from some of the key athletes and proves to be right on target in this demanding sport.
Watch: Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET
Commentators: Andi Petrillo, Jack Sasseville, Olympian, Caroline Calve
World speed skating goes the distance
In Kolomna, Russia, long track speed skating enters the championship season. There are seven single distances for each gender, everything from the sprint to the endurance races, as well as the team pursuit and mass start.
In the spotlight for Canada will be 23-year-old Heather McLean of Winnipeg, who has broken through in the 500-metre event this season. McLean, who has scored her first two individual World Cup medals in 2015-16, looks to become the first Canadian woman to hit the world championship podium in the pure sprint since Catriona Le May Doan won the global title in 2001.
"Heather could be the next one," says Le May Doan, who will provide analysis of the racing from Russia. "She is skating technically well, has built some confidence and is getting consistent, which is a key element in this distance."
At the single distance championships, the 500m requires two races on the same day with the fastest total time winning. McLean is coached by Canadian Kevin Crockett, who also trains two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea.
Other Canadian athletes to watch are Dutch born Ted-Jan Bloemen, the world record-holder at 10,000m. He is returning to form after a nasty slash to his shin in December while warming up for the team pursuit in Germany.
And in the women's mass start, Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa is at the top of the standings once again this season.
Watch: Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET; Sunday 2 p.m. local
Commentators: Scott Russell, two-time Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan
Bobsleigh worlds in Igls, Austria
The remarkable Kaillie Humphries is right on track as the sliding sports head to the world championships in Igls, Austria. Humphries, who has won two Olympic bobsleigh gold medals, will attempt to win her third world title on a short course which requires an extremely strong start.
The defending world champion is Elana Meyers-Taylor of the United States, but she has endured a number of injury woes over the course of the current season. Meantime, Humphries, along with brakeman Melissa Lotholz, have been next to unstoppable on the World Cup circuit. They lead the overall standings with three wins and podium finishes in each of the six races so far.
In addition, Humphries will be leading Canadian women as the four-women event will be tested for the first time at the world championships.
Watch: Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET
Commentators: Mark Connolly, Olympic silver medallist Helen Upperton
Freestyle takes flight in Red Square
The skiers will be airborne in Moscow this weekend. The aerials event will dominate the skies over iconic Red Square in the heart of Russia's capital city. The World Cup will be run off a giant scaffold-like structure with the takeoff and landing areas layered with man-made snow.
The Canadian men's team has lost some depth as Olivier Rochon continues to struggle with injuries.
Rochon, who won the overall World Cup title in the 2011-12 season, notched a silver medal at last week's event in Deer Valley, Utah. However, he fractured his eye-socket and will miss the rest of the season.
The jump in Utah where Canadian freestyle skier Olivier Rochon fractures his eye socket. He's out for rest of season<a href="https://t.co/L1nASY9YpD">https://t.co/L1nASY9YpD</a>—@CBCMontreal
Still, 2013 world championship silver medallist Travis Gerrits of Milton, Ont., will compete. Gerrits was Canada's lone representative at the Olympics in Sochi where he finished seventh.
In recent times the Canadian athletes, who once dominated this event with the likes of the Quebec Air Force led by Nicolas Fontaine, have had their hands full with the high-flying aerialists from China.
Watch: Road to the Olympic Games on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET
Commentators: Brenda Irving, Olympic bronze medallist Deidra Dionne
Big air in Old Quebec
Snowboarding events in city centre venues are becoming more popular as the sport cashes in on mass appeal and the spectacle-like setting that can be created in an open-air arena.
After a couple of World Cups staged at Boston's Fenway Park earlier in the week, "Big air" goes under the lights in Quebec City on Sunday where cross-country skiing and Red Bull Crashed Ice have enjoyed tremendous success.
The local hero is the man to watch.
He's 21-year-old Maxence Parrot of Bromont, Que., who just recently scored his second Winter X-Games gold medal in Aspen, Colo. While Olympic bronze medallist Mark McMorris heads to the European X-Games, Parrot will be attempting to take advantage of familiar territory and the support of a partisan crowd.
"He's the hungriest and he really needs to prove himself," says CBC analyst Craig McMorris of Parrot.
According to McMorris, Parrot is still without major sponsorships and needs to accumulate support if he wants to stay at the top in a hugely competitive, professional, pursuit.
"It's not like a team signs you up," he notes. "At the end of the day you have to be sponsored if you want to survive and that means you have to be seen as the hot guy."
In addition, Parrot has been working with a mental coach to help overcome a tendency towards inconsistent performance.
"Working with the mental coach is huge for Maxence," McMorris reckons. "He has always had the big tricks and been able to land them in practice but the big question is can he land them in the pressure-filled situation?"
Watch: Road to the Olympics on Sunday, 3 p.m. local
Commentators: Rob Snoek, Professional snowboarder Craig McMorris