Sports·The Buzzer

Laurence Vincent Lapointe is going to the Olympics — and that's big for Canada's gold-medal hopes

CBC Sports' daily newsletter explains how the Canadian canoe/kayak team found a way to get its most dominant athlete to Tokyo.

Dominant canoeist could win 2 titles in Tokyo

Now that she finally has a spot in Tokyo, Laurence Vincent Lapointe is a threat to win double gold in the Olympic debut of women's canoe. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

It looked like one of Canada's top gold-medal contenders might miss the Olympics — but now she's in

If you don't know the name Laurence Vincent Lapointe, that's no fault of hers. She was the most dominant women's canoe athlete in the world for the better part of the past decade, winning seven world titles in the singles 200-metre event and four in the doubles 500m. The reason she's not more widely known is that she never got a chance to compete in the Olympics. And the reason for that is that there were never any women's canoe events in the Olympics. But that's changing in Tokyo, where a women's singles 200 and a women's doubles 500 were added to the program. Vincent Lapointe was favoured to win gold in both.

For a while, though, it looked like she might miss her long-overdue moment in the sun. In the summer of 2019, Vincent Lapointe tested positive for a banned muscle-building drug and was provisionally suspended. She insisted she did not knowingly take the substance, and her ban was later overturned, clearing the way for her to compete in Tokyo. But the provisional suspension had caused Vincent Lapointe to miss the 2019 world championships. That, coupled with the cancellation of regional Olympic qualifying in 2020 and '21 due to the pandemic, resulted in Canada failing to qualify a women's doubles boat for the Olympics. Canada still had a singles boat, but Vincent Lapointe lost to Katie Vincent (her current doubles partner) at the Canadian trials. So it looked like one of Canada's best bets for a gold medal in Tokyo (maybe even two of them) might not be going at all.

Given the series of unfortunate events that befell Vincent Lapointe, Canoe Kayak Canada petitioned for an extra Olympic spot that would allow her to compete in the singles event and in the doubles with Vincent. But the International Olympic Committee still hasn't responded to the request. So, with the Tokyo Games now just over two weeks away, the Canadian governing body came up with a workaround that it revealed today: in the event that the IOC doesn't end up granting Vincent Lapointe the extra spot, Canada will reallocate one of its women's kayak berths to her for canoe — based on the determination that she has a better shot at gold than the kayaker it would have went to.

Either way, Vincent Lapointe and Vincent will race together in the women's doubles canoe event, and they'll both compete in the singles — giving Canada a good shot at three medals, including two gold. That's a pretty big deal for a country expected to win around four or five gold medals and a little north of 20 total in Tokyo. Read more about Vincent Lapointe and the rest of Canada's Olympic canoe/kayak team here.

Laurence Vincent Lapointe was the best women's sprint canoeist of the past decade. (Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press)

Quickly...

Denis Shapovalov made it to the Wimbledon men's semifinals. The 10th-seeded Canadian will play in the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time after winning a five-setter over No. 25 Karen Khachanov today. This is the deepest run by a Canadian man at a Slam since Milos Raonic reached the Wimbledon final in 2016. The 22-year-old Shapovalov is in tough, though. He'll face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who's going for his third consecutive Wimbledon title and sixth of his career. Djokovic needs one more Grand Slam title to match the all-time men's singles record of 20 shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal decided to skip Wimbledon, and the sixth-seeded Federer lost his quarter-final match today to No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz's semifinal opponent will be No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, who beat 16th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime today in four sets. Read more about Shapovalov's win and today's other results here.

Canadian soccer hero Diana Matheson retired. The sturdy 5-foot midfielder spent 15 years with the women's national team and scored one of its biggest goals. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Matheson's strike in the dying seconds of extra time against France won Canada its first-ever Olympic women's soccer medal. It also helped heal the hurt from a heartbreaking near-upset of the mighty United States in the semis. Matheson helped Canada to another Olympic bronze in 2016 and is one of just three Canadians to play in at least 200 matches for the national team. The 37-year-old wanted to get to one more Olympics in Tokyo, but a lingering foot injury quashed that hope and convinced her it was time to end her international and pro careers. Read more about Matheson in this story by CBC Sports' Signa Butler. Read Matheson's reflections on her career and her ideas about what's needed to grow Canadian women's soccer in this Player's Own Voice piece.

Sha'Carri Richardson was left off the U.S. Olympic track and field team. The 21-year-old sprinter made headlines last week when she lost her spot in the women's 100-metre event in Tokyo because of a positive test for marijuana at the American trials. That landed her a 30-day suspension, which expires before the Olympic track events begin. But it also erased Richardson's victory at the trials, costing her a spot in the 100 in Tokyo. The U.S. team could have still selected her to run in the 4x100 relay, but it decided not to, explaining that it wanted to "maintain fairness" even though it "fully agrees" that international rules around marijuana use by athletes should be changed. Read more about the decision to leave Richardson off the U.S. team here.

The CFL and XFL are definitely not merging. Some people jumped to that conclusion back in the winter after the two pro football leagues revealed they were discussing a potential collaboration. No details were provided, leaving CFL fans' imaginations to run wild with fears that their beloved 63-year-old league would be Americanized. But both sides announced today that the partnership (such that it was) is over. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said his league is now "squarely focused on preparing for Aug. 5 and the start of our 2021 regular season." The dormant XFL, which was bought by a group fronted by The Rock after folding for the second time, said its talks with the CFL "reinforced our belief and commitment to developing the XFL for international spring football." Read more about the end of the CFL-XFL discussions here.

The Habs are heading into the storm. Literally: Tropical Storm Elsa has been dumping rain and wind on the Tampa area, where Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final will be played tonight (it wasn't expected to be impacted by the weather). Also, figuratively: the Lightning are averaging more than four goals per game at home in this year's playoffs. After beating them in Game 4 back in Montreal, the Canadiens are 4-0 this year when facing elimination. But the Lightning haven't lost consecutive playoff games since being swept by Columbus in the first round in 2019. Tonight's game starts at 8 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. For more on whether the Habs can come back and prevent Tampa Bay from repeating as champions, watch this video by CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Here's what you can live stream Thursday on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app:

Beach Volleyball World Tour: Watch men's and women's centre-court matches at this week's stop in Switzerland from 3 a.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET here.

Canadian Elite Basketball League: Watch Fraser Valley vs. Niagara at 7 p.m. ET here and Saskatchewan vs. Edmonton at 9:30 p.m. ET here.

And also check out…

The GIST newsletter: At the Tokyo Olympics, the bulk of Canada's medals are going to be won by women. So it's a great time to get into this fun and informative newsletter written by Canadian women with a passion for women's sports — and fresh perspectives on men's sports too. Subscribe for free here.

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