Road to the Olympic Games: 3 things to watch this weekend
Track and field, alpine skiing, figure skating highlight weekend 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 show on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.
World junior figure skating
The future of figure skating takes to the ice in Debrecen, Hungary, for the ISU world junior championships this weekend.
Saturday we'll focus on two disciplines: the pairs and men's events, where Canada is represented by a trio of teenaged skaters. The world juniors feature competitors who are older than 13 but younger than 19 – with the exception of male ice dancers and pairs skaters who must be less than 21 years of age.
In the pairs competition, 14-year-old Justine Brasseur and her partner Mathieu Ostiguy have been skating together for two years and finished a close fourth at the recent Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Brasseur is the niece of Isabelle Brasseur, who combined with Lloyd Eisler to win pairs bronze at both the 1992 and 1994 Olympics. Together they also won the 1993 world championship.
On the men's side, the lone Canadian is 18-year-old Nicolas Nadeau of Montreal. Nadeau is the 2015 Canadian junior champion and finished fifth at the senior national championships in Halifax earlier this year.
Since the world junior championships began in the 1970's, Canadian men have produced four gold medals, most recently Nam Nguyen in 2014. The reigning national and three-time world champion Patrick Chan won the silver medal at world juniors in 2007.
Watch on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET
Commentators: Andi Petrillo, four-time world champion Kurt Browning, Olympic coach Carol Lane
World indoor track and field
We'll get a glimpse into what might be ahead for athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympics as the world indoor track and field championships unfold in Portland. It's the first time the meet has been held in the United States since 1987. The last time North America hosted was in Toronto in 1993, and at those championships, Bruny Surin of Canada captured the first of his two world indoor titles in the men's 60 metres.
The track is 200 instead of 400 metres in length and is banked not flat. At this edition of the indoor worlds nearly 600 athletes from 150 countries will be vying for medals at shorter distances and in a variety of field events.
"There's a bit less glare [to] indoors, which lessens the pressure. It's a meet athletes can enjoy without the weight of expectation," said former world indoor champion in the 60-metre hurdles, Perdita Felicien, from Portland. "A medal here is great momentum going into the outdoors. A lacklustre performance is useful information on what to fix with plenty of time until Rio."
In the women's five-event pentathlon, Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Humboldt, Sask., looks to be the class of the field. She won a heptathlon silver medal at world championships in Beijing, as well as gold at the prestigious Hypo Meeting in Austria. Her personal best in pentathlon ranks highest going into the Portland, but this will be her initial effort in this discipline of the indoor season. She's hoping to serve notice to Great Britain's Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill that she'll challenge for gold in Brazil this summer.
"Brianne has lots of silver medals but no global title and she wants one," Felicien reckoned. "A gold-medal performance here will buoy her confidence tremendously going to the outdoors. It also breaks up the monotony of training and will re-energize her focus."
Toronto's Shawn Barber came away with a fourth-place finish in the pole vault event on Thursday while world-record holder and reigning Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France once again cleared the six-metre mark. Barber, who is also the Pan American and Commonwealth Games champion, has had a good indoor season and had gone over at 6.00 metres for the first time in his young career earlier this year.
The 60-metre sprints for both men and women offer up plenty of intrigue.
Canadian Andre De Grasse has chosen to skip Portland, having won at the Millrose Games in New York City. But Jamaica's constant contender Asafa Powell is in the field and brings along a world-leading time of 6.49 seconds. He'll be joined by American Travon Bromell, who tied with De Grasse for the bronze medal in 100 metres at the world championships last summer in Beijing.
On the women's side, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands is rocketing into the spotlight. Schippers, a former heptathlete, has clocked a world-leading time of 7.00 seconds at 60 metres this season and won silver at 100m along with gold at 200m during the outdoor world championships in Beijing. She is hoping to become the first female Dutch athlete to win Olympic gold in these two premier events since the legendary Fanny Blankers-Koen accomplished the feat in 1948 at the London Games.
"Dafne has turned all the heads in the sprinting world," Felicien said with reference to Schippers. "If she can harness all this momentum and use it in Rio she's a real threat to the dynasty of [two- time defending Olympic champion], Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. This is a rivalry that you can't quite call and that makes it exciting for sports fans."
Watch on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET, Sunday at 3 p.m. local time
Commentators: Mark Lee, Olympic decathlete Michael Smith, world-champion hurdler Perdita Felicien, Olympic champion Donovan Bailey
Alpine World Cup Finals
The World Cup alpine ski season draws to a close in the Swiss Alps at the site of next year's world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
While Austria's Marcel Hirscher has already won his historic fifth overall World Cup title and Switzerland's Lara Gut has captured her first Crystal Globe as the season's all-around champion, there are a couple of races remaining.
We'll present the women's giant slalom where Eva-Maria Brem of Austria has the lead going into the final race. Representing Canada is Marie-Michele Gagnon who has raced extremely well in the latter portion of the campaign. She scored a bronze medal in the slalom at Crans-Montana, Switzerland and a super combined win in Andorra but has yet to reach the podium in the GS which is one of her stronger disciplines.
The men's schedule concludes with the slalom and features the developing rivalry between Hirscher and Norwegian youngster Henrik Kristoffersen. The two were silver and bronze medalists respectively in the slalom at the Sochi Olympics but the 21-year-old Kristoffersen has dominated the most technical discipline in skiing throughout this season. He solidified his hold on the Crystal Globe in this category weeks ago and took the title away from Hirscher who had held it three years in a row.
Watch on Sunday at 1 p.m. local time
Commentators: Scott Russell, Olympic champion Kerrin Lee-Gartner