Winter is coming — here are some Olympic sports stories to follow
Such as: Can anyone beat Mikael or Mikaela?
The calendar flips to December this weekend, which means we'll soon be in the thick of the season for winter Olympic sports. Figure skating, speed skating and luge all got underway a while ago, and a handful of snowboarding and alpine skiing events have already taken place in snowier parts of the world.
But this weekend marks the true start of the alpine season. As always, Lake Louise hosts the opening men's World Cup "speed" races (that's the downhill and super-G) of the season. Next week, the Alberta resort will welcome the women. The meat of the World Cup freestyle ski and snowboard seasons are also right around the corner. Bobsleigh, skeleton and a bunch of other winter sports are about to kick off too.
Here are a few big-picture things you should know about as the winter Olympic sports season gets going:
Men's alpine: Who's the king of the hill now?
Austria's Marcel Hirscher won the last eight World Cup overall titles. No other man has ever won more than five in his career — much less in a row. But rather than see how far he could take the streak, Hirscher decided to retire at the age of 30.
That opens things up — especially in the technical events (slalom and giant slalom), which were Hirscher's specialities. As for the speed events (the ones we'll see in Lake Louise), Switzerland's Beat Feuz is going for his third consecutive downhill season title. Italy's Dominik Paris is the defending super-G champ, but Norwegian veteran Kjetil Jansrud won three of the four before that and was the winner at Lake Louise last year.
Canada's alpine skiing program is going through a tough time. The highest-ranked man in last year's overall standings, Ben Thomsen, finished 52nd. Thomsen was 17th in the downhill, which was the highest rank for a Canadian man in any of the four main disciplines.
You can stream the Lake Louise downhill live Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, and the super-G Sunday at the same time. The CBC TV network is showing the downhill Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and the super-G Sunday at midnight in your local time.
Women's alpine: Mikaela Shiffrin is the queen
The most dominant ski racer in the world might be on her way to becoming the greatest of all time. Shiffrin is going for her fourth consecutive overall title, which would match the now-retired Lindsey Vonn for second on the women's all-time list. Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell is the leader with six.
Shiffrin won a record 17 World Cup races last season and is a good bet to one day break Vonn's all-time women's record of 82. The American is only 24 years old and she already has 61 wins. Two more and she passes Moser-Proell for second place. Ingemar Stenmark's all-gender record of 86, which Vonn tried to break before injuries forced her to give up the ghost, is also within Shiffrin's reach. And her dominance of the slalom is simply incredible: Shiffrin already has 46 career World Cup wins in that event — 11 more than any other woman ever.
Like the men, Canada's women aren't doing so great right now. The top overall finisher last season was veteran Erin Mielzynski in 38th. But she and Laurence St-Germain were 12th and 13th, respectively, in the downhill, and youngster Valerie Grenier was 18th in the super-G. So maybe there's hope there.
You can watch Shiffrin compete in two World Cup races this weekend in Vermont. Saturday's giant slalom is streaming live on CBCSports.ca starting at 9:45 a.m. ET, and it's also on CBC TV at 3 p.m. ET. Sunday's slalom is also live on CBCSports.ca starting at 9:45 a.m. ET.
Bobsleigh: Kaillie Humphries is in stars and stripes now
She piloted her Canadian sled to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and '14, won two world titles in between and also picked up three World Cup season titles. But Humphries had a falling out with the Canadian program that resulted in her sitting out last season and then suing for her release on the grounds that she was harassed by her coach. She lost the suit, but Bobsleigh Canada eventually let her go and join the U.S. team (she married an American over the summer and now lives in the States). That adds some juice to next weekend's season opener in Lake Placid.
Freestyle skiing: Can anyone beat Mikael Kingsbury?
Probably not. The 27-year-old Canadian is one of the most dominant athletes in the world. He's won a record eight World Cup moguls season titles in a row, two moguls world titles (plus another two in dual moguls) and an Olympic gold medal.
All that's left to do now is pad his all-time record of 56 World Cup wins and try to pull off new, even more-impressive tricks — like this unprecedented "cork 1440" last season:
Kingsbury is basically just competing against himself at this point. The new season starts next weekend in Finland.
Speed skating: Kim Boutin does it all
Short track has always been a strength for Canada, and Boutin is continuing the tradition of great Quebec skaters. The 2018 Olympic triple medallist is the third-ranked woman in the overall standings. She's well-rounded too: ranked second in the 1,000 metres and fourth in both the 500 and 1,500. Through two World Cup stops this season, she has at least one win at all three distances.
You can watch Boutin compete at the next World Cup, in Japan, on both Friday night and Saturday night starting at midnight on CBCSports.ca. CBC TV is also showing races Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
Snowboarding: Max Parrot is back and cancer-free
The Olympic big air silver medallist's 2018-19 season ended very early after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in mid-December. He revealed the news a month later and vowed to beat the cancer and come back strong. Parrot did exactly that at an X Games event in Norway in late August, where he won a big air gold medal. This came less than three months after his 12th and final round of chemo. The 25-year-old Canadian, who's one of the more well-liked guys in the sport, should be good to go when the World Cup season ramps up in mid-December.
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