Your guide to a packed Olympic sports weekend
Olympic hopefuls return to the pitch, rink, slopes and more
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Canadian Olympic hopefuls are in action across the globe
Between the return of a Tokyo 2020 champion and the unofficial start to winter, there's no shortage of Olympic sports this weekend.
Here's every reason you need not to leave your couch:
Canada's gold-medal soccer team begins its next conquest. On Saturday in Ottawa and Tuesday in Montreal, the Olympic women's champions reunite on the field for a two-game series against New Zealand. Dubbed the 'Celebration Tour,' there's more at stake than just reminiscing on the good times, as CBC Sports contributor John Molinaro explains. Coach Bev Priestman spoke about how she's torn between playing her champions or testing some new combinations as the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic cycle begins. Injured midfielder Ashley Lawrence is the only Canadian Olympian slated to miss the competition. New Zealand, ranked 23rd, is hosting the upcoming World Cup in 2023 and has played the sixth-ranked Canadians tough recently. Canada, meanwhile, claims just one World Cup semifinal appearance ever and aims to rectify that despite its overwhelming Olympic success.
The Canadian women's hockey team may get sick of the U.S. A nine-game pre-Olympic series between the two begins tonight, with another date set for Monday. The teams' most recent meeting occurred in the title game at August's world championships, which Canada won 3-2 in overtime. But the Americans are the reigning Olympic champions, by way of a shootout. Canadian goalies for Beijing have already been determined, but the skaters are still fighting for roster spots. While some of the veterans on each side may use the series mainly as a tuneup, there's more on the line for the younger contingent. Canada's relatively inexperienced defence is one area that could be tested in the lead-up to February's Olympics. Read more about the lengthy exhibition series in this piece by CBC Sports contributor Kirsten Whelan.
The figure skating Grand Prix circuit begins with a stiff test for at least one Canadian. Skate America in Las Vegas kicks off tonight with the pairs short program at 9 p.m. ET. Seven Canadian entries are in the competition, with representation in every event except women's singles. The ice-dance duo of Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen could be Canada's biggest medal threat, having won bronze at the event in 2019 and coming off a second-place finish at the Lombardia Trophy. Canadian Nam Nguyen will also skate as he tries to secure a spot in Beijing, but it could be tough sledding against Japan's Shoma Uno, an Olympic silver medallist, and American star Nathan Chen, who hasn't lost a competition since February 2018. Read more about Skate America in this preview by CBC Sports' Christine Rankin and watch action throughout the weekend here.
Skate Canada, next week's Grand Prix event, features new Canadian pairs duo Vanessa James and Eric Radford. Radford is a two-time world champion alongside Meagan Duhamel. James previously competed for France alongside Morgan Cipres, who was since accused of sexual abuse of a minor. James said yesterday she was unaware of abusive behaviour while they were together.
Pyeongchang breakout star Kim Boutin returns to the short track. After taking a step back from training last season, the three-time Olympic medallist and 500-metre world record holder will skate at the first World Cup of the season — a test event in Beijing. Boutin, the 2018 closing ceremony flag-bearer for Canada, is ramping up for success once again in 2022. Also competing is reigning 1,500m world champion Charles Hamelin in his 19th international season. One more name to watch: Florence Brunelle, a 17-year-old Canadian making her World Cup debut after a pair of top-10 finishes at worlds. Watch all the action, beginning on Saturday at 2 a.m. ET, here.
The Roar of the Rings is starting to get louder. The first Grand Slam of Curling champions of the season will be crowned on Sunday at the Masters. For Canadian rinks, the Grand Slam circuit is as much about preparing for Olympic trials (also known as the Roar of the Rings) in November as it is winning. And the stakes at trials may be higher than ever after Canada was shut out of the men's and women's podiums in Pyeongchang, salvaging it only with mixed-doubles gold. Pyeongchang Olympic representatives Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe are off to good starts at the Masters, having both advanced to the playoffs. Sochi Olympic champion Jennifer Jones dropped her first two matches in the triple-knockout format, but won her next pair to set up a must-win tomorrow morning. Read the latest from the Masters here.
It's time to shred. An interesting trio of Canadian Olympic hopefuls hit the Switzerland slopes for the first snowboard big air World Cup of the season. Two-time Olympic medallist Mark McMorris is joined by reigning Olympic big air champion Sebastien Toutant and 18-year-old Liam Brearley, a rising star who became the first Canadian to win three medals at one Youth Olympic Games in 2020. Canada's Laurie Blouin, who took slopestyle silver in Pyeongchang, is competing on the women's side. Watch it all here beginning Saturday at 1:55 p.m. ET. On the same hill today, Canada's Teal Harle snagged men's silver while Elena Gaskell took women's bronze in big air skiing — an event that will make its Olympic debut in 2022. Meanwhile, the alpine skiing season also gets underway this weekend with a more balanced event schedule than usual.
Of course Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored against the Canadiens. It was his first goal and point as a Hurricane too, in a win over his former team. The 21-year-old was booed every time he touched the ice after departing for Carolina as a restricted free agent in the off-season — a move which sparked war between the teams' management. Montreal has now dropped five straight to begin the season, scoring just four times in that span. And GM Marc Bergevin already held an emergency press conference in which he gave his entire team a vote of confidence, but said it was doubtful that top defenceman Shea Weber would ever play again. Rough times in Montreal.
Houston and Atlanta are each one win away from the World Series. MLB's championship begins next Tuesday, but the location of Game 1 is still to be determined. The Astros return home for Game 6 tonight with a chance to clinch the AL pennant for the third time in five years. Houston won it all in 2017 — a title later tarnished by the sign-stealing scandal that rocked baseball. Their ALCS opponent, the Red Sox, won the World Series a year later, with two common threads: illegal sign-stealing and beating the Dodgers. Those Dodgers topped Atlanta in Game 5 last night to cut their series deficit to 3-2, sending a scare into Atlanta fans who also watched their team blow a 3-1 NLCS lead against Los Angeles last year. The World Series combatants will be determined by Sunday. Read more about the Dodgers' season-saving victory here.
Also coming up on CBC Sports
Gymnastics world championships: Canada sent its senior men's team and a developmental women's team to the meet in Japan. China's Zhang Boheng won the men's all round finals, with Canada's William Emard taking eighth — the best-ever result for a Canadian in the event. Action on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem continues Saturday at 3:05 a.m. ET with the individual apparatus finals.
Squash: The Canadian national championships run through Sunday in Toronto at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Watch all the action here.
You're up to speed. Have a great weekend.