Winter Olympics watch: Who's up and who's down after the first big weekend
Chen's streak ends; Mouat making a name for himself
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The road to the Beijing Winter Olympics has begun
With the Beijing Games just over a hundred days out and several winter Olympic sports seasons opening in the last few days, it's a great time to start tracking the athletes hoping to win medals in February. So, every Monday in this newsletter, we're going to highlight the most interesting performances from the weekend by Canadian and international winter Olympic hopefuls. This should help you get to know some of the top athletes and follow whose stock is pointing up or down on the road to Beijing. Here's the first edition:
Up: Bruce Mouat
Who's the best men's curler in the world? Is it reigning Brier champion Brendan Bottcher? Four-time Brier winner Kevin Koe? Maybe one of the Brads — Gushue or Jacobs, both former Olympic gold medallists? You can make a strong argument for any of those four Canadian skips. But the numbers say it's Bruce Mouat. According to a ratings model devised by Ken Pomeroy (the statistician best known for his groundbreaking work with college basketball), the 27-year-old Scotsman's team is the top men's rink in the world. Mouat's squad has a slight edge over Gushue's and Jacobs' in Pomeroy's ratings after beating the latter in the final of the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season (the Masters in Oakville, Ont.) yesterday. Mouat took silver at this year's world championship, losing to Sweden's Nik Edin in the final, and was the bronze medallist in 2018. Dating back to last season, he's now won three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Up: Tracy Fleury
Speaking of underrated skips, Fleury repeated as women's Masters champion yesterday by defeating six-time Scotties winner Jennifer Jones in the final. The 35-year-old from Manitoba has made four Scotties appearances without reaching a final. But Pomeroy's model has her rated No. 4 in the world, behind Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni (winner of the last two world championships) and Canada's Rachel Homan and Kerri Einarson, who met in the last two Scotties finals (Einarson won them both). Most people figure it'll be Einarson and Homan battling again in the final of the Canadian Olympic trials in late November (with Jones maybe crashing the party), but Fleury is a potential spoiler to watch. Read more about the women's and men's finals at the Masters and watch highlights here.
Down: Nathan Chen
After finishing a disastrous fifth at the 2018 Olympics, the American quad king won an incredible 14 consecutive men's figure skating competitions — a streak spanning 31 months and featuring three straight world titles. But Chen finally busted on Saturday night in Las Vegas, finishing third at the Grand Prix season opener, Skate America. Vincent Zhou took gold, boosting the United States' hopes of taking two men's podium spots in Beijing. The lone Canadian in the men's competition, Nam Nguyen, finished eighth. Canada came away from Skate America with one medal — a bronze by Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen in the ice dance event. A more robust roster of Canadians will compete at this week's Grand Prix stop, Skate Canada International, which begins Friday in Vancouver. For more on the big takeaways from Skate America, watch the latest episode of That Figure Skating Show below.
Down: Kim Boutin
The triple short track medallist (and Canada's closing ceremony flag-bearer) from the Pyeongchang Olympics had a rough start to the World Cup season. Boutin placed fifth in the women's 1,500-metre final and failed to make it to the medal round in the 1,000m at this weekend's meet, which was held on the same ice where the Beijing Olympic races will take place. It wasn't all bad news for Canada, though. Courtney Sarault took silver in the women's 1,500, and Pascal Dion grabbed bronze in the men's 1,000.
Up: Canadian big air skiers
The event will make its Olympic debut in Beijing (big air snowboarding was included in Pyeongchang, but not skiing) and two Canadians won medals at the World Cup season opener in Switzerland. Elena Gaskell took bronze in the women's event, while Teal Harle got silver in the men's. Snowboard big air events were also held at the same venue, and Canada's Jasmine Baird grabbed bronze in the women's. Read more about that and watch highlights here.
Up: The Canadian women's hockey team
The first of nine Olympic warmup games between archrivals Canada and the U.S. took place Friday night in Pennsylvania, and the Canadians came away with a 3-1 win. They'll face off again tonight in Hartford, then meet for two games in Ontario in late November. Canada took back the world title in August, beating the U.S. 3-2 in overtime of the gold-medal game in Calgary. But the Americans are the reigning Olympic champs by virtue of their shootout victory in Pyeongchang.
Succession, except in real life and Canadian and involving sports. That might be a pretty good elevator pitch for a reality TV show. It also captures what's currently going on with the Rogers family — the Roy-esque clan that owns the eponymous telecom giant and a big chunk of the company that owns the Leafs, Raptors and several other Toronto sports teams. Similar to what's happening on TV's most critically acclaimed show, members of the Rogers family are fighting for control of the conglomerate built by the late Ted Rogers. His son Edward, who claims to be in command at the moment, reportedly tried to oust popular Raptors president Masai Ujiri over the summer. According to the Toronto Star, Rogers decided that the man who delivered Toronto an improbable championship in 2019 wasn't worth the money he was being paid. Rogers was eventually overruled, but this could explain why Ujiri, who's highly respected in the NBA and even in the broader world of pro sports, wasn't re-signed until August. Read more about the non-sports aspects of the Rogers family drama in this story by CBC News' Pete Evans.
Canadian bobsledder Cynthia Appiah boosted her Olympic medal hopes. She took bronze in today's women's monobob race at an Olympic test event in Beijing. Monobob will make its Olympic debut in February on the same track where this race was held. Appiah, 31, finished fifth at the world championships last season in Germany. Read more about today's third-place result and watch highlights here.
The Ottawa Redblacks fired the only GM they'd ever had. Marcel Desjardins, who'd held the job since the expansion Redblacks joined the CFL in 2014 and brought the team a Grey Cup title in 2016, was let go today after Saturday's 32-3 loss to Hamilton dropped Ottawa to 2-9 on the season. The Redblacks also made two other Grey Cup finals in their first five years, but they went 3-15 in 2019 — the season before the 2020 campaign was cancelled due to the pandemic. Read more about Desjardins' firing here.
And in case you missed it…
Some other things from the weekend that you should know about:
Canada's Maggie Mac Neil was named the best female athlete of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 21-year-old swimmer won the honour from the Association of National Olympic Committees, which named repeat men's marathon gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya the top male athlete. Mac Neil won gold in the women's 100-metre butterfly in Tokyo, then added a silver and a bronze in relay events. She's also the reigning 100m butterfly world champion. Read more about Mac Neil's winning the Tokyo award here.
Canadian track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell added to her dream year. The 27-year-old, who won a surprise gold medal in the women's sprint event near the end of the Tokyo Olympics, captured her first world-championship medal on Friday in France. She beat fellow Canadian Lauriane Genest (also a Tokyo Olympic medallist) in the head-to-head race for the sprint bronze. It was Canada's only medal of the worlds.
You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.