Winter is coming. Winter sports? Not so much
The pandemic is causing havoc with everyone's schedule
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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
It's looking like a rough winter for Olympic sports
Colder weather, falling leaves, even… snow?!?! (thoughts out to south-central Alberta). Yes, it's that time of year. Winter is coming (or already arriving) to Canada.
Normally, this is also the time when winter Olympic sports seasons get going. But things are, obviously, different this year. Here's a look at where things stand with some of the more prominent ones:
The World Cup season opens this weekend in Austria with a men's and a women's giant slalom race. Then there's nothing for about a month. That's actually standard procedure. You'll start noticing the big pandemic-related changes in late November. That's when Alberta's Lake Louise normally hosts the first "speed" races of the season — downhill and super-G, which are the sport's most glamorous disciplines. But the traditional November/December North American swing was cancelled and some of those races moved to Europe. The first speed events are now in mid-December in France.
Currently, 38 men's and 34 women's World Cup races are scheduled between now and the finals in Switzerland in mid-March. That includes an Olympic test event in China in late February. And there's also the world championships Feb. 8-21 in Italy. But with coronavirus cases rising in many parts of Europe (and elsewhere in the world), no one can say for sure whether any of these events will go ahead as scheduled. Read more about the unusual alpine season here and about Canadian veteran Marie-Michèle Gagnon, who's racing this weekend, here.
The Grand Prix season opens next weekend with Skate America in Las Vegas. The second event — Skate Canada International on Oct. 30 and 31 — was cancelled this week as host city Ottawa remains a coronavirus hotspot. That leaves four other stops — in China, France, Russia and Japan — before (hopefully) the Grand Prix Final. That event was scheduled for December in Beijing but is now postponed indefinitely.
The cancellation of Skate Canada wiped out the Grand Prix season for nearly every Canadian skater. Normally, athletes can enter any two of the regular events. And they qualify for the Final if they're in the top six after those are completed. But this year, everyone is restricted to one competition, and it has to be close to where they live or train. With the exception of Keegan Messing, who's entered in the men's event at Skate America, every Canadian was going to compete at Skate Canada.
Now, they'll have to wait for the national championships in January in Vancouver. That event decides who gets to go to the worlds in late March in Sweden — if either of them takes place. Today, the Four Continents Championships in February got cancelled.
Jennifer Jones and Brad Gushue are among the Canadian standouts who just recently got back on the ice for the first time in months (before this week, Gushue's last shot was the one that won him the Brier back in March). Problem is, there aren't many quality tournaments to play in. The top Canadian pros are mostly entering smaller spiels near their homes to stay sharp and earn a bit of cash.
Four of the six Grand Slam tournaments have already been cancelled. Curling Canada dropped its high-profile Continental Cup event and postponed the Canada Cup indefinitely. The Tournament of Hearts (in February in Thunder Bay, Ont.) and the Brier (March in Kelowna, B.C.) are still on the schedule. So is the women's world championship in March in Switzerland and the men's in April in Ottawa. But a spectator-less "bubble" (similar to what the NHL created) appears to be the only way the Brier and the Scotties happen, and a top Curling Canada executive basically admitted as much last week.
The first few long track World Cup stops have been cancelled — including one in Calgary and an Olympic test event in Beijing. It's probably just as well for the Canadian team because it hasn't had a place to train since a mechanical failure wiped out the ice at its home base, the Olympic Oval in Calgary. The idea of holding a bunch of World Cup races in a "hub" setting in the Netherlands is being considered, but that wouldn't happen until the new calendar year.
Short track is in limbo too. The first three World Cup stops of the season — two in Quebec, one in Seoul — were cancelled. The next one, an Olympic test event in Beijing, is postponed indefinitely. So there's nothing on the calendar until a pair of World Cups in Germany in February.
Bobsleigh, skeleton and luge are all skipping their usual North American World Cup events and holding the entire season mostly in Europe (each is also making a stop at the 2022 Olympic track in Beijing). Those get going in November, but the Canadian luge and skeleton teams plan to sit out until after the Christmas break. The bobsleigh squad is still deciding what to do.
Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are on the ropes (again). World Series favourite L.A. is on the brink of another tough playoff exit after losing 10-2 to Atlanta last night to fall behind 3-1 in the National League Championship series. Kershaw took the L again, allowing four runs in five-plus innings to inflate his career post-season ERA to 4.31 and drop his record to 11-12. The three-time Cy Young winner is 175-76 with a 2.43 ERA in the regular season but, like his team, always seems to come up short in October. The Dodgers had the best record in baseball this season and took their eighth division title in a row. But they haven't won the World Series since 1988. Meanwhile, the team that beat them in the 2017 Series, Houston, is suddenly right back in the ALCS. The Astros won their second in a row last night to cut their deficit vs. Tampa Bay to 3-2.
The Super Bowl champs got even scarier. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Andy Reid drawing up the plays and plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, Kansas City was already favoured to repeat (last week's ugly loss to the Raiders notwithstanding). Now they've added one of the most talented running backs in football by signing Le'Veon Bell to a one-year deal. True, he hasn't had a good year since 2017. But that's due mostly to the self-inflicted wounds of boycotting his final season with Pittsburgh and then signing with the pathetic New York Jets, who cut him this week. But now Bell joins a team that knows how to maximize his considerable skills — particularly his work in the passing game (the guy can run routes like a receiver). This is a great deal for both sides.
This weekend on CBC Sports
International Swimming League: The quirky upstart circuit kicked off its second season today, and you can live stream the remaining three sessions of the opening meet (Saturday from 2-4 p.m. ET, Sunday noon-2 p.m. ET, Monday 10 a.m.-noon) here. Read about what makes the ISL different here, about the new Toronto expansion team here and about Canadian swimmer Brent Hayden's comeback from depression here.
World half marathon championships: Canada decided to pull its five runners from the event in Poland due to a surge in coronavirus cases in that country. The U.S. and Japan also decided to sit this one out. Read more about those moves here. Watch the women's and men's races live Saturday starting at 4:50 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app, or catch an hour of coverage on the CBC TV network. Check your local listings for the times for that and for Saturday's edition of Olympic Games Replay, which features the 2019 world aquatics championships.
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