Winter Olympic stock watch: Who's up or down after an eventful weekend
Jennifer Jones, Brad Gushue headed back to the Games
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Olympic stock watch: Ageless curlers, Canadian short trackers are on the rise
Here's who and what are trending up or down after a very eventful weekend in winter Olympic sports:
Down: Father Time
A pair of skips in their 40s earned the right to play for their second Olympic gold medal as Jennifer Jones and Brad Gushue won their respective tournaments at the Canadian curling trials in Saskatoon.
Gushue's return trip will come 16 years after he won the men's title in Turin. Back then, he was a talented yet somewhat raw youngster still learning how to win at the game's highest level. Though Gushue threw fourth rocks, he 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 won three Brier titles from 2017-20 and took care of business as the favourite at the trials, winning all but one of his games en route to defeating Brad Jacobs 4-3 in last night's final.
Jones' victory was more of a surprise. Yes, she's curling royalty — the winner of a record-tying six Scotties titles and Olympic gold in 2014. But she's 47 years old now, and three younger skips were given better odds of winning the trials — red-hot Tracy Fleury, reigning Scotties champion Kerri Einarson and defending trials champ Rachel Homan. Jones lost to all of them in the round robin. But when the chips were down, she came through, trouncing Krista McCarville in the semi before stealing the final from an undefeated Fleury 6-5 in an extra end. Hats off also to Jones' third, Kaitlyn Lawes, who's going to her third consecutive Olympics. After playing on Jones' gold-winning team in 2014, she teamed with John Morris to win the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles event in 2018.
Speaking of mixed doubles, the Canadian trials for that begin Dec. 28 in Portage la Prairie, Man. Read more about the men's and women's trials finals and watch highlights here.
Up: Kim Boutin
The winner of three Olympic medals in 2018 got off to a rough start this season, failing to reach the podium at the first two World Cup stops. But she's hit her stride, capturing five medals (three individual, two relay) over the last two. Boutin peaked at this weekend's season finale in the Netherlands, where she won her first gold of the season by skating the second-fastest time ever in the women's 500 metres. She added silvers in the 1,000m (her first of the season in that distance) and the women's relay, re-establishing herself as a threat to win multiple Olympic medals again this February.
Look out for Courtney Sarault as well. She took silver in the women's 1,500m this weekend for her third podium of the season in that distance, and was also part of the silver-winning relay team.
On the men's side, Charles Hamelin capped off his brilliant World Cup career with a silver in the men's relay. Hamelin's 142nd (!) World Cup medal gave the Canadian squad the season title in that event, boding well for the 37-year-old's chances of reaching his sixth Olympic podium in Beijing. That would match long track speed skater Cindy Klassen's record for the most by a Canadian in the Winter Games. Hamelin plans to retire after competing in the world championships in Montreal in March.
Pascal Dion might step into Hamelin's skates as Canada's top male short track athlete. His fourth-place finish in the 1,000m yesterday gave the 27-year-old his first World Cup title (he took a silver and two bronze in previous races). Dion was also part of the title-winning men's relay team.
Though the World Cup season is over, there's one more major short track meet before the Olympics: the Four Continents Championships in mid-January in Salt Lake City.
Down: Canada's Olympic figure skating medal hopes
Not that they were high to begin with, but this Grand Prix season has confirmed the Canadian program is still in rebuilding mode. After the regular stops wrapped up over the weekend in Russia, Canada earned only one entry for the upcoming Grand Prix Final. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are seeded fourth out of six qualifiers in ice dance after winning a gold and a silver in their two Grand Prix assignments. The 2021 world championship bronze medallists look like Canada's best (and maybe only) hope for a figure skating medal at the Olympics.
Canada's Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen are the second alternates for the Final in ice dance after winning their second bronze medal of the season in Russia. Skaters from the host country won three of the four events, including a stunning performance by 15-year-old Kamila Valieva in the women's competition. She hit three quads in the free skate and set new world-record scores in the free, short and overall. Valieva should be considered the favourite to win the Grand Prix Final, which opens Dec. 9 in Japan, and Olympic gold. Read more about the top performances in Russia and watch highlights here.
Up: Canada's Olympic bobsleigh medal hopes
After the first two World Cup events of the season, it looks like several Canadian sleds will have a shot at the podium in Beijing. The leaders in that department right now are the women's duo of Christine De Bruin and Kristen Bujnowski, who took their second bronze in as many weeks (both on the same track in Austria). De Bruin and Kristen Bujnowski also placed third in an Olympic test event in Beijing last month.
Canada could also have multiple medal threats in the new Olympic event of women's monobob. De Bruin came just .01 of a second from reaching her first podium in this discipline on Saturday, while Cynthia Appiah finished in the top five for the third consecutive race (including a third place at the Olympic test event). Right behind those two in the World Cup standings is Melissa Lotholz, who's seventh. Canada should have two entries in the Olympic monobob event.
On the men's side, reigning Olympic two-man champion Justin Kripps had a nice weekend, piloting his sleds to bronze in both that event and the four-man. Those are his first two medals of the season.
Down: Cooperative weather
After waiting two years for the alpine skiing World Cup to return, Alberta's Lake Louise resort saw its comeback weekend cut from three races to one because of heavy, wet snowfall. The weather caused the cancellation of Friday's men's downhill and Sunday's super-G. Saturday's downhill went ahead, with Austria's Matthias Mayer winning the season opener. No one from Canada finished anywhere near the podium.
The weekend wasn't a total wash for Canadian skiers, though. Eleven-time alpine World Cup medallist Manny Osborne-Paradis, who won the super-G at Lake Louise in 2009, finally got to do his farewell exhibition run before Saturday's race. In China, reigning Olympic ski cross champion Brady Leman took silver in the World Cup season opener, which was held on the course they'll use for the Beijing Games.
Up: Mikaela Shiffrin
The American alpine star won her 46th career World Cup slalom race, matching Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark's record for the most ever in a single discipline (in his case, giant slalom). Better yet, Shiffrin did it by beating her main rival, Slovakia's Petra Vlhova, who had topped Shiffrin in back-to-back slaloms the previous weekend in Finland.
Being the GM of the Montreal Canadiens is too much for one person to handle. That's owner Geoff Molson's takeaway from the bumpy tenure of Marc Bergevin, who was let go over the weekend along with other executives. Molson said today that the search has begun for a bilingual GM who will share the job of running the the team with new vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton (the former GM of the New York Rangers). Bergevin's teams made the playoffs in six of his nine seasons at the helm, including a surprising run to the Stanley Cup final last season. But the Habs' 6-15-2 start to the current season, with stars Carey Price and Shea Weber both sidelined, was "unacceptable," according to Molson, who admitted he should have given Bergevin some help. "It's that big a job in this market," the owner said. Read more about the Canadiens' new direction here.
The CFL is down to its final four, and the Vanier Cup matchup is set. A big weekend for Canadian football began Saturday when Western clobbered StFX 61-6 and Saskatchewan beat Montreal 14-10 on a touchdown with five seconds left to earn trips to this Saturday's Canadian university title game in Quebec City. In Sunday's first-round CFL playoff games, Hamilton beat Montreal 23-12 and Saskatchewan clipped Calgary 33-30 in overtime. The Tiger-Cats will visit Toronto for the East final while the Roughriders visit league-best Winnipeg in the West final on Sunday. The winners will meet in the Grey Cup game in Hamilton on Dec. 12.
Lee Elder died. The first Black golfer to play in the Masters, Elder broke the colour barrier at Augusta National in 1975 after winning another tournament to earn an automatic invitation to the sport's most revered event. He missed the cut, but is credited with helping pave the way for Tiger Woods becoming the first Black player to win the green jacket 22 years later. Elder went on to play in five more Masters (his best finish was 17th) and appear in the other three majors as well (he tied for 11th at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship). He finished his career with four PGA Tour victories. This year, Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial opening tee shots at the Masters, though he couldn't hit one due to his poor health. Elder was 87. Read more about his life and golf career here.
Baseball teams are spending like there's no tomorrow. Maybe because, in a sense, there isn't. The collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and its players expires Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET, which has everyone rushing to sign free-agent deals. A head-spinning $407 million US was dished out on Sunday alone, including a five-year, $110-million deal between the Toronto Blue Jays and pitcher Kevin Gausman. On the flip side for the Jays, AL MVP finalist Marcus Semien left for a seven-year, $175-million bag from the Rangers, and Cy Young winner Robbie Ray also appears to be on his way out — reportedly to Seattle for five years and $115 million. The Gausman deal and the seven-year, $131-million extension given to Jose Berrios a couple of weeks ago are the two biggest contracts Toronto has ever handed to pitchers. Today, the Mets got swept up in the spending spree, giving Max Scherzer a massive three-year, $130-million deal. His average annual salary of $43.33 million shatters the previous record of $36 million given to pitcher Gerrit Cole by the Yankees in 2019.
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