Final week of Tokyo 2020 provides plenty of intrigue
More medal candidates for Canada — and who will carry flag in closing ceremony?
It's been a whirlwind start to Tokyo 2020 — and there's still a week of action ahead.
Penny Oleksiak is now the most-decorated Canadian Olympian of all-time, with seven medals. Simone Biles, gymnastics' G.O.A.T., stunningly withdrew from competition to focus on her mental health. Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron only to be ousted in the third round. Jessica Klimkait became the first Canadian woman to win a judo medal, and Maggie Mac Neil won the country's first gold medal — in fact, all but one of Canada's 14 medals (Andre De Grasse's bronze in the 100 metres) thus far have been won by women.
And, for the most part, COVID-19 has faded to the background with competition mostly untainted to date.
Still, as we enter week two of these Games, there is plenty left to be settled.
WATCH | Canadian women fuelling Olympic success:
Can Canada's women avenge their 2012 soccer loss to the U.S.? Will canoe star Laurence Vincent Lapointe put a miserable few years behind her to win gold — and who will be named flag-bearer for the closing ceremony?
Here's everything you should know as the Olympics march on:
Track and field
De Grasse's best distance is the 200, and he's favoured to land on the podium in that event. But gold will be a tall task with American Noah Lyles the runaway favourite. Still, De Grasse should push him at every step. The 2016 triple medallist also competes in the 4x100 relay.
Elsewhere in athletics, decathlete Damian Warner represents perhaps Canada's surest shot to win a medal in the sport, with Pierce LePage in the decathlon hunt as well. Moh Ahmed, who already placed sixth in the 10,000 metre, is yet to run the 5,000 — his top event.
On the women's side, middle-distance runner Gabriela Debues-Stafford owns multiple national records, though the 1,500 presents a strong field. Pole vaulter Alysha Newman could find herself on the podium too.
Canada's Laurence Vincent Lapointe is a 13-time world champion, but she'd never been to the Olympics until the IOC finally added her event to the Tokyo 2020 program. And then her lifelong dream was almost smashed again when a failed doping test — later overturned — nearly prevented her from qualifying.
Canoe Kayak Canada essentially found a loophole to allow Vincent Lapointe to compete in Tokyo, where her top competition will be fellow Canadian Katie Vincent. Vincent topped Vincent Lapointe at national trials, while the two will compete together in a doubles event. Nothing's a given at the Olympics, but these two are as close to podium locks as it comes.
After two consecutive bronze medals, Canada's women's soccer mantra has been to "change the colour." Now in the semifinals, Canada will face the U.S., who beat them in the same round in London 2012 in an instant classic. The countries clash again on Monday at 4 a.m. ET with a trip to the gold-medal match on the line.
The Canadian women's basketball team continues to await its fate after finishing group play at 1-2. Games on Monday in Japan will determine whether Canada sneaks into the quarter-finals or if its time in Tokyo is over.
And after a strong group-play showing, Canada's men are into the quarter-finals in volleyball as the 10th-ranked squad looks for a surprise podium appearance.
WATCH | Canada knocks out Brazil in quarters on penalties:
Top-seeded Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes are into the Round of 16 against Spain's Liliana Fernandez Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan. The reigning world champions from Canada have stormed through the Olympic tournament thus far and are yet to drop a set. Their precision and power combination is operating at peak levels in Tokyo as the duo chases the top of the podium — but highly ranked teams from Brazil and the U.S. await. Another Canadian team featuring Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson has already booked its spot in the quarters.
Canada sent a team of four wrestlers to Tokyo, but reigning Olympic champion Erica Wiebe has already been eliminated after a stunning first-round defeat. That leaves Danielle Lappage, an oft-injured athlete who always seems to impress when she makes it onto the mat, as Canada's top medal hope in the sport.. On the men's side, 25-year-old Amer Dhesi has underdog potential in his Olympic debut.
Do you like short-track speed skating in the Winter Olympics? Well then track cycling could be right up your alley, combining the chaos and speed of the signature winter event, except on bikes in a velodrome. Crashes, surprise podium contenders, photo finishes — track cycling has it all. And Canada is rolling out a strong team led by Georgia Simmerling, the first Canadian to compete in three different sports at three different Olympics.
Who will carry Canada's flag? Swimmer Kylie Masse has two individual swimming medals, but teammate Penny Oleksiak broke the national record for Olympic podium appearances. Oleksiak was the closing ceremony flag-bearer in Rio. Some other candidates so far: Christine Sinclair or a member of the soccer team, if it medals; Pavan and Humana-Paredes; Klimkait.
And with plenty left to be settled in Tokyo, there are likely more candidates to come.