How many medals will Canada win at the Tokyo Olympics?
With 6 months to the opening ceremony, a new forecast calls for 22 — the vast majority by women
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The Summer Olympics are exactly 6 months away — time for some predictions
The Games officially begin on July 24 in Tokyo. To give us an idea of what we'll see, a data firm called Gracenote uses a statistical model to predict how many (and what colour) medals each country will win, and which athletes will win them. From a Canadian perspective, here are the most interesting takeaways from the forecast:
Canada will win the same number of medals it did in 2016, but will move up in the standings. Gracenote's model has Canada finishing 13th with five gold medals and 22 total. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Canada finished 20th with four gold and 22 total.
Women will carry the Canadian team. According to the model, only four of the 22 medals will be won by men — and only one of the four gold.
Canada's gold medallists will be: Damian Warner (decathlon), Kylie Masse (swimming — women's 100m backstroke), Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (women's beach volleyball), Laurence Vincent-Lapointe (canoe — women's singles) and Vincent-Lapointe and Katie Vincent (canoe — women's doubles).
Those last two gold medals look a little dicey right now, though. Vincent-Lapointe is waiting to hear whether she'll be suspended for the Olympics after testing positive for a banned drug back in the summer. The 11-time world champ insists she's innocent. The ruling is expected early next week.
Canadian swimmers will win seven medals — all by women. Four of those will come in individual races. Masse leads the way, adding a silver in the 200 backstroke to her gold in the 100 (she's won two consecutive world titles in the latter). The model thinks Maggie MacNeil is no flash in the pan: it has her following up her surprising 100 butterfly world title with Olympic silver in that race. Sydney Pickrem (bronze in the 200m individual medley) is the other solo medallist. The forecast also likes Canada for three bronze medals in women's relay races.
The country's two biggest stars from the 2016 Olympics will win only one individual medal combined. Andre De Grasse and Penny Oleksiak each won two in Rio, including a gold by Oleksiak in the 100m freestyle. But Gracenote's model only has De Grasse taking bronze in the 200 metres in Tokyo, and missing the podium in the 100 and the 4x100 relay. It thinks Oleksiak will get shut out in her individual events, but the forecast suggests she'll likely walk away with three relay bronze medals. At last year's world championships, Oleksiak swam in all three of the relay events that the model says Canada will win bronze in at the Olympics.
Rosie MacLennan will not three-peat. She won the women's trampoline gold at the last two Olympics, but the model thinks she'll settle for silver this time. Good news, though: the forecast has Ellie Black becoming only the second Canadian — and first Canadian woman — to win a medal in traditional gymnastics. It says she'll take bronze in the individual all-around event. Canada's only medal in the sport to date is Kyle Shewfelt's gold in the men's floor exercise in 2004.
Canada's only team-sport medal will come in women's softball. That would mean the women's soccer team's medal streak ends at two Olympics, the women's rugby sevens squad falls short of the bronze it won in 2016 and the fourth-ranked women's basketball team also misses the podium. Plus, no medal for the men's basketball team, which has some strong darkhorse potential if its NBA players show up. See how the Gracenote model thinks other countries will stack up here.
The most terrifying race in skiing happens tomorrow
The famous (and feared) downhill on the Hahnenkamm mountain in Kitzbühel, Austria has caused several near-death experiences. One of the worst happened to Canadian Brian Stemmle in 1989. Travelling at breakneck speed into a treacherous curve, he lost control of his body and flew into the safety netting before crashing to the ground. The 22-year-old was airlifted off the course and rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. He needed 25 blood transfusions and his pelvis was shattered so badly that, when he finally woke from an induced coma after five days, the pain was "like getting kicked in the nuts for two weeks." Read more about Stemmle's brush with death here and watch it below:
So what makes this race so great? Kitzbühel's Streif course isn't the longest or the fastest on the World Cup circuit — that would be the lung-busting Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen, Switzerland. But it stresses the world's best skiers like no other with its unique combination of steepness, twists and turns and long jumps (racers can be up in the air for as far as 60 metres). The terrain is also unusually rough, so it's not hard to catch a ski and go head-over-heels at horrifying speeds. Read Canadian skier Manny Osborne-Paradis' thoughts on what makes the course so tough here.
Despite (or, probably, because of) the danger, this is the most revered event in ski racing. Tens of thousands of people attend it, and millions in Europe watch on TV. You can make a name for yourself by winning it — like Canada's legendary Crazy Canucks did with four consecutive victories from 1980 to '83. The run started with Ken Read becoming the first non-European to win it, then Steve Podborski took two in a row. Todd Brooker's victory came four years before a brutal crash on the Streif pretty much ended his career. Only one North American has won it since then, and that happened on a shortened course. Read and watch more on the "savage beauty" of Kitzbühel and how the Crazy Canucks conquered it here. Watch this year's downhill live Saturday at 5:30 a.m. ET here, or catch it on the CBC TV network at 3 p.m. ET.
Milos Raonic is single-handedly keeping Canada's Australian Open hopes alive
This is not what anyone expected. Canada's best men's tennis player of the past decade was kind of an afterthought heading into the first Grand Slam of the '20s. Fair enough: Raonic is 29 (old for tennis), coming off an injury-plagued year, and he's been surpassed by exciting youngsters Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the world rankings.
But those two and unseeded Vasek Pospisil all bowed out in the first round, and so did Leylah Fernandez — the only Canadian in the women's draw with Bianca Andreescu sidelined due to a knee injury. That put all of Canada's hopes on the 32nd-seeded Raonic, and he's delivered. Today, he upset No. 6 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to advance to the fourth round.
Raonic, who has yet to lose a set, now faces Marin Cilic. The veteran Croatian won the U.S. Open in 2014 and made it to the Australian Open final in 2018, which pushed him to No. 3 in the world. But he's down to 39th now — four spots below Raonic in the world rankings. Cilic has won two of their three head-to-head matches, though. The winner of this one will probably face a tall order in the quarter-finals. His likely opponent will be defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has won the Aussie Open seven times.
Raonic wasn't the only player to pull off a big upset today. Fifteen-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff beat defending women's champ Naomi Osaka, and obscure Chinese player Wang Qiang knocked off the great Serena Williams. Meanwhile, Roger Federer barely survived a fifth-set tiebreak. Read more about today's results here.
It's NHL all-star weekend. Tonight's skills competition in St. Louis features two new events in addition to the traditional favourites. One is a women's three-on-three game pitting Canadian national-team players vs. their U.S. rivals. The other features NHL stars shooting pucks from a platform suspended 30 feet above the crowd at different targets on the ice. Saturday night's all-star "game" will once again actually be a three-on-three tournament between four teams — one for each division. A handful of the NHL's best players will be missing from the festivities. Alex Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tuukka Rask chose not to participate, while Auston Matthews and Artemi Panarin are (supposedly) injured. Watch the skills competition Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET here, and the game Saturday at 8 p.m. ET here.
Pascal Siakam was voted an NBA all-star starter. What an incredible rise. At this time two years ago, Siakam was still considered a project. He started only five games that season and averaged 7.3 points. But he blossomed into a rising star last season as a full-time starter, averaging 16.9 points and raising his game in the playoffs to help Toronto win its first title. Now he's helping the Raps not just survive but thrive without Kawhi Leonard. Siakam is playing more minutes and averaging career highs in points (23.5), rebounds (7.7) and assists (3.5). This earned him enough votes from fans, fellow players and media people for a starting spot in the all-star game in mid-February. Read more about Siakam and see who the other starters are here.
Canada's rugby sevens teams are back in action. The men's and women's squads (both of which have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics) play their first World Series tournament of the calendar year starting today in New Zealand. Through three events, the Canadian women rank fourth in their season-long standings. The men are 12th through two tournaments. Watch every men's and women's match in New Zealand live here.
This weekend on CBC Sports
In addition to the stuff we already mentioned (NHL all-star weekend, the Kitzbühel downhill and rugby sevens), you can also watch World Cup events in moguls skiing, bobsleigh, ski and snowboard cross and women's alpine skiing. Plus, the Youth Olympic Games, the luge world championships, ice climbing and sailing. Check out the full schedule of what's online and on TV here.
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