'Strongest team in all of snowboarding': Canadian squad named for Beijing Olympics
Sebastien Toutant, Mark McMorris, Max Parrot return for 3rd straight Winter Games
Canadian snowboarders brought home four medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
The team looking to build on that number was announced by Canada Snowboard on Wednesday, including all four previous medallists — Sébastien Toutant (the lone gold medallist), Max Parrot, Mark McMorris and Laurie Blouin.
Joining them in slopestyle and big air are Darcy Sharpe, Brooke Voigt and Jasmine Baird. Meanwhile, the halfpipe team features Derek Livingston, Brooke D'Hondt and Elizabeth Hosking.
Missing from that list is Liam Brearley, the emerging 18-year-old who won a medal in all three disciplines at the 2020 Youth Olympics. Brearley, of Gravenhurst, Ont., was victim of a roster crunch, as Canada earned the maximum four quota spots in slopestyle and big air.
Megan Farrell and Arnaud Gaudet will compete in parallel giant slalom, while the snowboard cross squad includes Zoe Bergermann, Tess Critchlow, Meryeta O'Dine, Audrey McManiman, Eliot Grondin, Kevin Hill and Liam Moffatt.
CBC snowboard analyst Craig McMorris, the older brother of Mark McMorris, said the Canadians should be a force.
"I think it is the strongest team in all of snowboarding, especially in male slopestyle and big air with Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant and Mark McMorris all returning for their third Games. The skill is there. And the veteran wisdom and experience is there as well," he said.
The omission of Brearley reveals the overwhelming strength of the men's slopestyle and big air squad. Toutant and McMorris both sit in the top five of World Snowboard's slopestyle ranking, while Parrot is ranked first and McMorris fifth in big air.
Parrot pre-qualified for the Olympic team before the season began in October, with the stipulation that he remain in the top-30 of rankings. He has since not competed in World Cup races, freezing his ranking in place.
The final decision may have come down to Sharpe vs. Brearley, with each similarly ranked in the two disciplines.
"[Sharpe] was out for a long time and his points freeze, then he comes back and his points unfreeze but then he gets COVID so he can't compete, and that was crucial in deciding the team. So I feel like it was an extremely, extremely tough job," McMorris said.
WATCH | Mark McMorris discusses difficulties of qualifying in pandemic:
Parrot, the Bromont, Que., native who won slopestyle silver in 2018, is a recent cancer survivor.
The 27-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma about 10 months after the Olympics but returned to competition less than a year later, winning X Games big air gold in the process.
Mark McMorris, the 28-year-old from Regina, enters his third Games looking to upgrade on the bronze he won each of the past two times — this time free of a near-fatal crash directly in his rearview mirror.
Toutant, 29, of L'Assomption, Que., experienced an eventful Pyeongchang Olympics as he recovered from a last-place finish in slopestyle to become the big air champion.
WATCH | CBC Sports' Returning Champions series features Sébastien Toutant:
Blouin back for more
On the women's side, Blouin, 25, overcame some adversity in Pyeongchang herself after a crash in training left her participation in the Games at all in question.
But the Quebec City native bounced back in a big way en route to earning slopestyle silver.
"I'm really happy, it seems like 2018 was yesterday and now it's crazy that we're already looking ahead to the next Olympics," Blouin said.
Along with McMorris and Sharpe, Blouin is set to compete at the winter X Games beginning Friday in Aspen, Colo., as part of her Olympic tuneup.
WATCH | Blouin takes slopestyle bronze at Calgary World Cup:
D'Hondt, 16, is projected to be the youngest Canadian athlete in Beijing.
"It doesn't feel real yet. I'm so grateful for this opportunity, and couldn't be more excited to represent my country in Beijing," D'Hondt said.
Meanwhile, Craig McMorris suggested that Baird, the 22-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., could be an emerging star for Canada.
"I don't think she has the tricks to be on the podium yet, but she's still super young. So I think after these Games, if she still keeps going and training at the rate she is and learning, I think she'll definitely be a threat in 2026," he said.
- Brooke D'Hondt — Calgary (halfpipe)
- Elizabeth Hosking — Longueuil, Que. (halfpipe)
- Megan Farrell — Richmond Hill, Ont. (parallel giant slalom)
- Jasmine Baird — Georgetown, Ont. (slopestyle/big air)
- Laurie Blouin— Québec City (slopestyle/big air)
- Brooke Voigt — Fort McMurray, Alta. (slopestyle/big air)
- Zoe Bergermann — Erin, Ont. (snowboard cross)
- Tess Critchlow — Big White, B.C. (snowboard cross)
- Meryeta O'Dine — Prince George, B.C. (snowboard cross)
- Audrey McManiman — St-Ambroise-de-Kildare, Que. (snowboard cross)
- Derek Livingston — Aurora, Ont. (halfpipe)
- Arnaud Gaudet — Montcalm, Que. (parallel giant slalom)
- Mark McMorris — Regina (slopestyle/big air)
- Max Parrot — Bromont, Que. (slopestyle/big air)
- Darcy Sharpe — Comox, B.C. (slopestyle/big air)
- Sébastien Toutant — L'Assomption, Que. (slopestyle/big air)
- Eliot Grondin — Sainte-Marie, Que. (snowboard cross)
- Kevin Hill — Vernon, B.C. (snowboard cross)
- Liam Moffatt — Truro, N.S. (snowboard cross)