Sports·The Buzzer

Canadian swimmers are not acting their age — in the best possible way

CBC Sports' daily newsletter marvels at 14-year-old Summer McIntosh and 37-year-old Brent Hayden qualifying for the Olympics with their remarkable performances at the Canadian swimming trials.

14-year-old Summer McIntosh, 37-year-old Brent Hayden qualify for Tokyo

Nine years after retiring from swimming, 37-year-old Brent Hayden qualified for his fourth Olympics on Monday night at the Canadian trials. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

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Canadian swimmers are not acting their age

The story of Canada's Olympic swimming trials so far is Summer McIntosh, the 14-year-old dynamo who beat Penny Oleksiak in the women's 200-metre freestyle final on Sunday to qualify for Tokyo. McIntosh won again last night, taking the 800m freestyle in a time comfortably under the Olympic standard to earn another spot in Tokyo. She can qualify for a third Olympic event, the 1,500 free, on Wednesday.

Watching a young athlete blossom into a star is one of the best things in sports. But equally enjoyable sometimes is seeing an older competitor turn back the clock. That's what Brent Hayden did last night in Toronto.

Hayden was one of Canada's best swimmers from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s, when he specialized in the 100m freestyle. He won gold in that event at the 2007 world championships, silver at the 2011 worlds and bronze at the 2012 Olympics. A few days after reaching the podium in London, though, Hayden walked away from the sport. As he later explained in a first-person piece for CBC Sports, a devastating combination of back problems and "toxic" behaviour by people close to him had sent Hayden "spiralling into depression." He gutted out the bronze in London, but it took so much out of him physically, mentally and emotionally that he "never wanted to swim again." That changed in the summer of 2019 when, on a trip with his wife to her native Lebanon, he started swimming a few days a week at a country-club pool. This rekindled his love for the sport, and he decided to come out of retirement and make a run at the Tokyo Olympics.

Hayden completed his remarkable comeback last night when, at the age of 37, he won the men's 50-metre freestyle final at the Canadian trials to earn himself a ticket to his fourth Olympics. His time was just nine hundredths of a second off the Canadian record he set in 2009, which still stands.

So, just to recap, a 14-year-old girl and a 37-year-old guy (old enough to be her dad!) will both swim for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics next month. McIntosh will be one of the youngest Canadian Olympic swimmers ever, and Hayden will be the oldest. Pretty neat.

That's assuming, of course, that Hayden's back holds up. He pulled out of tonight's 100m freestyle final after experiencing pain before and during his afternoon heat, ending his hopes of competing in multiple individual events in Tokyo.

The biggest race tonight is the women's 100m freestyle final. That's the event Penny Oleksiak won gold in at the 2016 Olympics. But she'll have to earn the right to defend the title by finishing in the top two tonight. Oleksiak swam the fastest time in this morning's prelims, followed by Kayla Sanchez and Taylor Ruck. The latter was awarded an Olympic berth in the 100 free in January by Swimming Canada after surpassing Oleksiak as the country's top swimmer in the women's 100 free over the last few years. You can watch all of tonight's finals live on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Coverage starts at 5 p.m. ET. Tomorrow is the final day of the trials, and you can watch all three sessions live at 9 a.m. ET, noon ET and 5 p.m. ET.

Summer McIntosh qualifies for 800m free after win at Olympic trials

1 year ago
Duration 10:21
The 14-year-old Canadian qualified for the 800-metre freestyle event a day after winning the 200-metre free at the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials.

Quickly...

The NHL has a refereeing problem. Selective penalty calling has been an issue in hockey since time immemorial. Especially in the playoffs, when refs tend to pocket their whistles and refuse to call obvious penalties because they want to "let the players decide the game." But fans seem to be complaining about this more than usual this year, and the idea of referees "managing" games (usually by evening out the penalty calls) has been a touchy subject for the NHL since veteran zebra Tim Peel was caught on a hot mic during a game this season saying he had wanted to give the next penalty to a specific team. So it was interesting that, after an absurdly low total of two non-coincidental penalties were called in Game 4 of the Montreal-Vegas series (one on each team, naturally), the refs awarded eight power plays in last night's Islanders-Tampa Bay game. Six went in favour of the more-skilled Lightning, and they converted three of them in an 8-0 blowout of the grit-n-grind Isles. For more on how refereeing (or the lack thereof) is overshadowing the NHL playoffs, watch this video by CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo.

Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the NFL's only openly gay active player. The 28-year-old veteran of five NFL seasons revealed on Instagram yesterday that he's gay, saying "I've been meaning to do this for a while now but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest." In 2014, University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft. But he only appeared in four pre-season games for the Rams before moving on to the CFL and playing one regular-season game for Montreal. Sam is out of football now. So Nassib has a chance to become the first openly gay player to appear in an NFL regular-season game. He played in 14 games last year for Las Vegas and started five of them. Read more about Nassib and his coming out here.

Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first known transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. The 43-year-old weightlifter was officially named to the New Zealand team yesterday and will compete in the heaviest women's division in Tokyo. Hubbard previously competed against men before transitioning in her mid-30s. She won a women's silver medal at the 2017 world championships. While many are celebrating Hubbard's selection to the Olympics as a milestone for transgender athletes, some are questioning the fairness of allowing her to compete against non-transgender women. But the International Olympic Committee allows it, as long as the transgender athlete keeps her testosterone levels below a certain point. Read more about Hubbard and the reaction to her getting a spot in Tokyo here.

Canada improved to 3-0 at the World Para Ice Hockey Championships. Today's 10-0 rout of the host Czech Republic gave Canada first place in its group and a bye to Friday's semifinals. It also clinched the Canadian team a spot in the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing. Canada took silver at the 2018 Games, losing to the U.S. in the gold-medal final. Read more about today's win over the Czechs here.

And finally...

It's the 30th anniversary of the Eric Lindros draft.

Hockey fans of a certain age will remember the controversy surrounding the junior-hockey force of nature's refusal to sign with the Quebec Nordiques after they picked him first overall on June 22, 1991. The Big E held out for the entire '91-92 season, allowing him to play for Canada at the '92 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, where he had 11 points in eight games to help Canada take the silver medal.

Nearly a full year after picking him, Quebec finally reached a deal to trade Lindros. Two of them, actually. The Philadelphia Flyers thought they had a verbal agreement with Nordiques president Marcel Aubut, but he apparently got cold feet and struck a separate deal with the Rangers. The NHL brought in a lawyer to sort the whole thing out, and he ruled that Quebec had to honour the original trade with Philly. It was a blockbuster: in exchange for Lindros, the Flyers sent to Quebec goalie Ron Hextall, defencemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, forwards Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci and Chris Simon, two first-round picks and $15 million US cash.

Lindros went on to win MVP in his third NHL season (lockout-shortened 1995), but concussion problems curdled his once-limitless-seeming potential. He wound up playing just 760 regular-season games (amassing 865 points) before his career ended with Dallas in 2007. Despite his relatively short career, Lindros was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.

Quebec won the deal, though. It got all those goodies, and Forsberg alone was a more productive player than Lindros. The skilled-yet-sandpapery Swede notched 885 points in 708 games (he had trouble staying healthy too), won the scoring title and MVP in 2002-03 and helped the Nordiques franchise win two Stanley Cups after it moved to Colorado. Philly still has not won a Cup since going back-to-back in 1974 and '75.

You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

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