THE BUZZER

Olympic viewing guide: Can Brad Gushue help redeem Canadian curling?

Here's what to watch on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, including a fresh start for Canadian curlers and a chance for Charles Hamelin to tie a medal record.

Men's favourite hopes to end Canada's medal drought

Brad Gushue will try to get Canadian curling back on track by winning his second Olympic gold medal, 16 years after his first. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

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After racking up four medals on Day 3, including its first gold, Canada was held off the podium today in Beijing. But the women's hockey team scored a satisfying 4-2 win over the defending-champion United States, with Canadian goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens making 51 saves. The victory capped a perfect round robin for Canada and should boost its confidence for the archrivals' likely rematch in the gold-medal game. Next up for the Canadians is a quarter-final vs. Sweden on Friday.

Through four days of full competition, Canada has won six medals — a gold, a silver and four bronze. That's tied for the sixth-highest total.

Canada has a chance to add to its medal count on Day 5 with a pair of hopefuls in short track speed skating — including flag-bearer Charles Hamelin. Today's viewing guide will cover that, along with one of Canada's strongest gold-medal contenders hitting the ice in search of redemption for his country. Plus, the first gold medal (of many?) for one of the most fascinating athletes in these Games.

Here's what to watch on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning:

Can Brad Gushue help redeem Canadian curling?

John Morris and Rachel Homan's heartbreaking loss to Italy in their do-or-die mixed doubles game on Sunday night was painful for a number of reasons. But this one really cuts to the core: it made it so that, right now, the country long synonymous with curling dominance is not a reigning Olympic medallist in any version of the sport.

It gets worse. Canada has now failed to even reach the playoffs in two of the last three Olympic curling tournaments. Homan's early exit in mixed doubles followed her failure to advance past the robin-robin stage in the women's event in 2018. Kevin Koe's men's rink did only slightly better in Pyeongchang, losing in the semifinals and then the bronze-medal game.

Canada's recent curling shortcomings aren't limited to the Olympics. The country that has won three dozen men's world championships — more than triple everyone else combined — hasn't added one since 2017. Canada's last women's world title came in 2018. And, incredibly, Canada has never captured a mixed doubles world championship, going 0-for-13. Italy (Italy!) is the new capo of this event after beating Norway in the Olympic gold-medal game this morning to complete a perfect 11-0 tournament

So, has the rest of the world "caught up" to Canada? Depends how you define that. Canada's depth remains unmatched, with roughly half of the top 10 men's and women's teams coming from here. But you can only send one team to each event in the Olympics and world championships, and several countries now have one that's just as good, if not better, than Canada's best. This means that, in the most high-profile international tournaments, including the Olympics, Canada's entry is no longer special. It's just one of the top contenders to win gold.

That's the concern for Canada as the traditional four-person curling events begin Wednesday morning with the opening draw of the men's tournament. Canadian skip Brad Gushue's team faces Denmark at 7:05 a.m. ET. (The women's event starts Wednesday night, and we'll have more on that and Canadian skip Jennifer Jones' team in tomorrow's newsletter.)

As medal contenders go, Gushue's rink is as solid as they come. They earned their spot here by winning the always-tough Canadian trials, and the core of the team has already proven itself at the Olympics. Gushue and his longtime third, Mark Nichols, won gold back in 2006. They went on to capture the world title in 2017 and silver at the '18 worlds with current front-enders Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker. At the moment, this is objectively Canada's best team.

A lot has changed for Gushue since he won Olympic gold in Italy 16 years ago. Back then, he was a talented yet still somewhat raw youngster who threw fourth rocks but leaned on the legendary Russ Howard to call games from the second position (in the official Olympic records, Howard is listed as the skip). Now Gushue is all grown up — a 41-year-old father of two who's fully in command of his craft. He captured three Brier titles from 2017-20 and the world championship in '17. Gushue took care of business as the favourite at the Canadian trials in November, losing only one game en route to defeating 2014 Olympic champ Brad Jacobs in the final.

Gushue is a slight favourite to capture his second Olympic gold medal, but really he's part of a triumvirate of skips with close to the same odds of winning. Sweden's Nik Edin has won the last three world championships, five in his career, and is looking for his first Olympic gold after taking bronze in 2014 and silver in '18. Great Britain's Bruce Mouat, who lost in the mixed doubles bronze-medal game today, avenged his defeat to Edin in the final of last year's worlds by beating him in the European title game in November. Mouat also won the Euros in 2018. 

The format for the men's event is the same as in mixed doubles: After a 10-team round robin, the top four advance to the semifinals. The winners of those matches play for gold, and the losers for bronze. The gold-medal game is on Feb. 19.

WATCH | That Curling Show discusses what went wrong for Homan and Morris in mixed doubles:

That Curling Show: What went wrong for Homan and Morris in mixed doubles

5 months ago
Duration 34:46
Canada found itself on the wrong end of the measuring stick in mixed doubles. But Colleen Jones, Joanne Courtney, Mike Harris, Bruce Rainnie and Devin Heroux believe the team lacked the same prep time and international experience as other countries.

Canadian medal chances on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning

With the usual caveat that anything can happen, it looks like Canada has a strong shot at a medal in just one event:

Short track speed skating: Men's 1,500m

Pascal Dion and the great Charles Hamelin aren't the favourites, but both Canadians are in the mix for a medal in this event.

Hamelin, 37, is the greatest Canadian short track skater of all time. He's won 14 world titles and three Olympic golds. With five Olympic medals already under his belt, he needs one more to match long track speed skater Cindy Klassen for the all-time Canadian Winter Olympic record. Hamelin began his fifth, and likely final, Olympics by joining with women's hockey team captain Marie-Philip Poulin to carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony on Friday.

Hamelin won Olympic gold in the 1,500 in 2014 and captured his third world title in this distance last year. That victory could be misleading, though, as some of the world's top short track countries, including South Korea and China, did not attend. Hamelin is currently ranked 16th in the world in the 1,500, though that may be misleading too for someone who's probably been saving his 37-year-old legs for the sport's biggest stage.

Dion is ranked sixth in the 1,500m. He didn't get past the quarter-finals in the 1,000m yesterday, so he'll be looking to bounce back. The other Canadian in the 1,500 is Steven Dubois, who is not considered a strong medal contender.

Everyone must survive the quarter-finals at 6 a.m. ET and the semifinals at 7:29 a.m. ET to race in the final at 8:20 a.m. ET.

On the women's side Wednesday morning, Canadian medal contenders Kim Boutin and Courtney Sarault (and Alyson Charles) are competing in the women's 1,000m heats at 6:44 a.m. ET, and Canada has a strong team in the women's 3,000m relay semifinals at 7:45 a.m. ET. The medal rounds for these are another day.

WATCH | Charles Hamelin skates to his final chapter:

Charles Hamelin skates to his final chapter

5 months ago
Duration 3:00
One of Canada's most prolific speed skaters talks to CBC Sports about going to his 5th Olympics and his decision to postpone retiring until after Beijing 2022.

Some other interesting stuff you should know about

Men's hockey gets started tomorrow morning. The defending champ Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) faces Switzerland on Wednesday at 3:40 a.m. ET, and the Czech Republic plays Denmark at 8:10 a.m. ET. Canada's opener is Thursday at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. surprise 2018 silver medallist Germany. More on the men's event in tomorrow's newsletter.

The two best women's alpine skiers go head-to-head in their best event. American Mikaela Shiffrin and her Slovak rival Petra Vlhova, both 26 years old, currently rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the World Cup women's overall standings, and the reverse of that in the slalom. Shiffrin was the undisputed queen of both competitions for three straight seasons before the sudden death of her dad in early 2020, followed by the pandemic, derailed her career and her life off the slopes. Vlhova stepped in to capture a pair of slalom crystal globes, plus the overall title last season. Still, Shiffrin has by far the better record on the biggest stages. She's won six world titles (in three different disciplines) and she got the better of Vlhova at last year's world championships, winning four medals (including gold in the combined) compared to a pair of silvers by her rival. Shiffrin won Olympic gold in the slalom in 2014 and added gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined in '18. Vlhova has no podiums to show for her two trips to the Olympics. The first slalom run goes at 9:15 p.m. ET, and the deciding second run at 12:45 a.m. ET.

Also...

A star is born: Eileen Gu won her first gold. The wildly versatile 18-year-old freestyle skier is one of the most fascinating athletes in these Games. Born and raised in the United States by a mother who had emigrated from China, Gu decided in 2019 to start competing for her ancestral country. She would have had no trouble making the U.S. team, but Gu recognized that she could become a much bigger star in China. She speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and, with her talent for modelling, has become the face of several big-time ad campaigns in China. Gu's decision to leave the States continues to rile up some Americans, but it seems to be paying off after she won the inaugural Olympic women's ski big air event last night. She's also favoured to take gold in the slopestyle and halfpipe events after winning them at the world championships last year. If she pulls off the triple, Gu will be a massive celebrity in China — if she's not already.

And finally…

Nathan Chen slayed his Olympic demons. The American figure skating star's Olympic dreams turned into a nightmare in 2018 when he stumbled to a disastrous 17th-place showing in the men's short program that took him out of medal contention. Since then, he's won three world titles and become the overwhelming favourite to win his first Olympic gold in Beijing. But, given what happened four years ago, he had to be feeling the pressure before stepping on the ice for the short program last night. It didn't show, as Chen nailed two quads and posted a world-record score to take the lead heading into Wednesday night's deciding free skate. Canada's Keegan Messing, who arrived in Beijing just in time to compete, placed a respectable ninth. Read more about the men's short and watch highlights here

How to watch live events

They're being broadcast on TV on CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. Or choose exactly what you want to watch by live streaming on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBC Sports' Beijing 2022 website. Check out the full streaming schedule (with links to live events) here and read more about how to watch the Games here.

If you're located outside Canada, you unfortunately won't be able to access CBC Sports' coverage of the Games on the app or the website. That's due to the way the Olympics' media rights deals work. But if you're in the northern United States or other international regions, such as Bermuda, that regularly offer the CBC TV network, you can watch the Games there.

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