Summer Sports·The Buzzer

Canadian athletes to watch at the Tokyo Olympics

The Olympics are always full of surprises, but here are some of the Canadians we're expecting big things from in Tokyo.

Here are some we're expecting big things from

Sarah Pavan, left, and Melissa Humana-Paredes are the top-ranked women's beach volleyball duo in the world. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

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The Olympics are just days away — here are some Canadians to watch

Canada is sending 371 athletes to Tokyo — the country's largest Olympic team since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. They range in age from 14 (swimmer Summer McIntosh) to 56 (equestrian rider Mario Deslauriers) and they'll compete in almost three dozen sports. With a group this large and diverse, you can bet that someone we haven't noticed yet will do something extraordinary in Tokyo. That's one of the great things about the Olympics. But, for now, here are some of the athletes we're expecting big things from once competition begins next week:

Christine Sinclair: The 38-year-old forward has scored more times than anyone in the history of international soccer. She has two more goals than American great Abby Wambach, 77 more than Cristiano Ronaldo and 109 more than Pele. In what could be her final Olympics, Sinclair will try to lead the Canadian women's team to the podium for the third consecutive time.

Andre De Grasse: After going toe-to-toe with Usain Bolt in Rio and coming away with three medals, the 26-year-old sprinter has a chance to pull off the 100m/200m/4x100m podium triple again. De Grasse's times have been so-so this year, particularly in the 100. But that event is wide open now with Bolt retired and reigning world champ Christian Coleman suspended. Plus, De Grasse has always delivered in big races: he's reached the podium in all five individual events he's entered at the Olympics or world championships. Read more about De Grasse in this profile by CBC Sports contributor Vivek Jacob.

The swimmers: So many Canadian women are contenders for an individual medal that it would be unfair to name only one. At the top of the list is Kylie Masse, who built on her bronze in the 100m backstroke in Rio by winning the world title in both 2017 and '19. She added a bronze in the 200 back at the '19 worlds. Canada has another reigning world champ in Maggie Mac Neil (100m butterfly), and Sydney Pickrem took bronze in both the 200 breaststroke and 200 medley in Rio. Penny Oleksiak hasn't reached the podium in an individual event at a major international meet since her stunning gold- and silver-medal swims as a 16-year-old in Rio, but she looked rejuvenated at last month's Canadian trials. Oleksiak swam her best time in the 100 freestyle since setting the Olympic record and tying American Simone Manuel for gold in Rio. Then there's Summer McIntosh, the 14-year-old sensation who stole the show at the trials by beating Oleksiak in the 200 free and also winning the 800. On the opposite end of the age curve is Brent Hayden. The 2007 world champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in the men's 100m freestyle came out of a seven-year retirement to win the 50 free at the trials. At 37, he's about to become the oldest Canadian ever to swim in the Olympics. Read more about this exciting wave of Canadian swimmers in this story by CBC Sports' Devin Heroux.

Damian Warner: The 31-year-old decathlete has been a podium fixture for the better part of a decade, winning medals at the 2016 Olympics and the 2013, '15 and '19 world championships. He's also won gold at the Pan Am Games (twice) and the Commonwealth Games. This could be the year Warner finally reaches the top step at one of the truly big meets. In May, he broke his own three-year-old Canadian record by scoring 8,995 points. Only three decathletes have ever scored higher, and they're all Olympic and/or world champions.

Rosie MacLennan: In Rio, the trampolinist became the first Canadian ever to repeat as Olympic champion in an individual summer event. MacLennan went on to win the 2018 world title and took bronze at the '19 worlds in Tokyo despite suffering a broken ankle seven months before the competition. Read about the 32-year-old's quest for an Olympic three-peat in this story by CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin.

Laurence Vincent Lapointe: Women's canoe is finally in the Olympics, and Vincent Lapointe has dominated the two events that will be held in Tokyo. She owns seven world titles in the 200m singles and four in the 500m doubles. It looked like Vincent Lapointe might not make it to Tokyo after she tested positive for a banned muscle-builder in the summer of 2019, but her provisional suspension was overturned after she successfully argued she didn't knowingly take the drug. Vincent Lapointe was almost left out of the Olympics anyway because her ban prevented her from qualifying before the pandemic hit, but the Canadian team found a way around that last week by reallocating one of its kayak spots to her. Vincent Lapointe and Katie Vincent will compete as a doubles pair and in the solo event in Tokyo. Read more about Vincent Lapointe's winding road to the Olympics here.

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes: Beach volleyball is always a hit at the Olympics, and Canada has one of the best women's duos on the planet. The 6-foot-5 Pavan and the 5-9 Humana Paredes won the world title in 2019 and head to Tokyo ranked No. 1 in the world.

Meaghan Benfeito: The 32-year-old diver already owns three Olympic bronze medals — one in the 10-metre individual event, two in the 10m synchro with former partner Roseline Filion, who's now retired. In Tokyo, Benfeito will again compete in both the solo event and the synchro, this time with 22-year-old Caeli McKay.

Ellie Black: Only one Canadian has ever won an Olympic medal in traditional gymnastics (Kyle Shewfelt took gold in the men's floor event in 2004) and no Canadian woman has ever reached the podium. But Black, 25, has a shot after taking silver in the all-around event at the 2017 world championships in Montreal and finishing fourth at the '19 worlds. In Tokyo, she'll be up against the great Simone Biles, who's looking to repeat as all-around champ. Read more about Black and her "aggressive" style, as Shewfelt describes it, in this story by The Canadian Press' Donna Spencer.

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