Road to the Olympic Games: 4 things to watch this weekend
Alpine skiing, volleyball and bobsleigh action 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.
Austria's alpine ace attacks Adelboden
Austrian Marcel Hirscher has done just about everything in his career, but he has not yet claimed an Olympic gold medal.
Still, the most dominant skier on the international circuit is gathering steam as the calendar turns to 2016. The 26-year-old Hirscher has already won five races this season and sits atop the standings as he seeks an unprecedented fifth consecutive Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup champion.
This week's test is the classic giant slalom in the Swiss Alps at Adelboden. The finish is spectacular as the racers drop off cliff-like terrain into the view of enormous crowds gathered in the massive grandstand at the bottom of the mountain. The roar of spectators is often deafening and the clanging of cowbells pervasive. It all makes for dramatic mad dashes on snow.
Hirscher narrowly escaped disaster just before Christmas when a camera mounted on a drone crashed just behind him in a slalom race in Italy. He is also getting a challenge from 21-year-old Norwegian phenomenon Henrik Kristoffersen, who is third in the overall rankings and actually ahead of Hirscher in the slalom standings.
Canadians Trevor Philp and Phil Brown are also slated to race in Adelboden as the FIS World Cup approaches the midway point of the campaign.
Watch on Saturday 2:30 p.m. ET
Commentators: Scott Russell, Todd Brooker, 1984 Olympian and 1983 Kitzbuhel champion
National Ski Day
In some parts of the country it's been a slow start to the alpine ski season as a result of mild weather, but eight participating resorts are now all fired up for the second annual National Ski Day on Saturday, Jan. 9.
From the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts and many stops in between, lift tickets are on sale for $15 with proceeds going to high-performance training for Alpine Canada so that national team athletes can bolster their coaching and training needs on the way to the next Olympics in South Korea, which are almost exactly two years away.
Alpine Canada, which has produced only one Olympic medal (Jan Hudec's super-G bronze in Sochi) in the last 21 years, has recently seen its funding diminished by Own the Podium. In addition, the national team is aging and new ways to develop young talent at the grassroots level are being sought.
Current stars Larisa Yurkiw and Erin Mielzinski honed their talents in the Collingwood, Ont., area near Blue Mountain, as did legendary racers like Todd Brooker and Steve Podborksi.
- Marble Mountain — Newfoundland and Labrador
- Mont Farlange — New Brunswick
- Stoneham — Quebec
- Blue Mountain — Ontario
- Horseshoe — Ontario
- Holiday Mountain — Manitoba
- Nakiska — Alberta
- Panorama — British Columbia
Commentators: Jacqueline Doorey, Blue Mountain, Doug Dirks, Nakiska
Canadian volleyball men dig deep in Edmonton
The moment of truth has arrived for an ambitious Canadian men's volleyball team. They attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics at a tournament at home in Edmonton over the course of this weekend.
It may be the best chance the current generation of players ever get.
The Canadians enter as the continental or NORCECA champions and also as the Pan Am Games bronze medallists. By winning the round-robin affair which also features Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba, the Canadians, who have not had a men's team at the Olympics since 1992 Barcelona when they finished 10th, automatically qualify for Brazil and avoid having to rely on a last-ditch qualifier in May/June, which will feature a stronger lineup of teams.
While the Canadians are the highest-ranked team in Edmonton, they will be without a star player, 6-foot-10 Gavin Schmitt of Saskatoon, Sask., who is recovering from a stress fracture in his tibia. Still, the Canadians, who finished seventh at the last world championships, have plenty of veteran talent like Gord Perrin, Fred Winters, Nick Hoag and Steve Marshall, who all starred at the Pan American Games in Toronto this past summer.
"They are all seasoned professionals and world-class players and I expect them to be fearless in their execution," says former team captain Charles Parkinson, the play-by-play man for the tournament, along with another former national team star, Paul Duerden.
"This will be the fourth Olympic qualifier that I have called for television, but it is the first one that has seen Canada as the favoured team. The depth and experience of Canada's current team is one of the really bright spots for me. They believe they can do it and with a quality head coach like Glenn Hoag at the helm, preparing them technically, tactically, physically and mentally, I wouldn't put it past them."
Canada has qualified a men's volleyball team to the Olympics three times. In addition to Barcelona they appeared in Montreal in 1976 and recorded its best finish in Los Angeles in 1984, where they wound up just off the podium in fourth place.
Watch on Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET
Commentators: Former national team members Charles Parkinson and Paul Duerden with Brenda Irving of CBC Sports on the sidelines
Kaillie Humphries pilots 4 women in Lake Placid
This weekend bobsleigh's World Cup resumes in North America with racing set for the 1980 Olympic venue at Lake Placid, N.Y.
That Kaillie Humpries, the two-time Olympic champion for Canada, leads the women's standings is no surprise.
But she's set to make the International Federation (IBSF) take notice as she pilots an all-female crew in the four-man event on Saturday. Canada will have three entries in the lineup with Justin Kripps and Chris Spring driving the other sleds. Humphries, who has long been vocal about gender equality in her sport, will compete head-to-head against the men with Melissa Lotholz, Genevieve Thibault and Cynthia Appiah as teammates.
There is little hope that Humphries can challenge the likes of World Cup leader Francesco Friedrich of Germany or any of the all-male sleds for that matter. Still, by getting in the race she may already be a winner.
"As a female racing in a men's event, medalling isn't really the point right now," says CBC analyst and Olympic 2010 bobsleigh silver medallist Helen Upperton. "The point is to be a catalyst for change, to inspire some more women's teams to follow suit and to show the international governing body that they can handle the event on one of the most technically demanding tracks in the world."
Humphries will also race in the women's class in Lake Placid, and has her eye on the test event for four-female sled at the world championships in Austria next month.
Watch on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET
Commentators: John Morgan