Olympic viewing guide: Can Canada avoid a curling shutout?

Olympic viewing guide: Can Canada avoid a curling shutout?

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games by subscribing here.

A massive night. And then some crushing lows.

Canada started Day 13 with its biggest victory of the Games — a cathartic 3-2 win over the United States in the women’s hockey final to take back the Olympic title Canada lost to its archrivals four years ago. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice (because of course she did), adding another clutch performance to her almost comically long list of them. The Canadians also own the world championship (thanks to — who else? — Poulin’s OT winner last year) so they’ve now reunified the two major titles in women’s hockey. They are the undisputed queens of the sport.

Shortly after the big hockey win, Marielle Thompson took silver in the women’s ski cross to bring Canada’s total to an even 20 medals — four gold, five silver, 11 bronze. 

But then the good vibes crashed hard with a pair of devastating curling results. Jennifer Jones’ women’s team missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker, and Brad Gushue’s men’s team fell in the semifinals to Sweden this morning, dashing their gold-medal dreams.

Gushue’s rink can still salvage a bronze from what’s become a nightmarish Olympics for Canadian curling. We’ll start our daily viewing guide there, and cover Canada’s medal chances tonight in a couple of skiing events. Plus, a heartbreaking ending for controversial Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.

Here’s what to watch on Thursday night and Friday morning:

It’s up to Brad Gushue to save Canada from a curling shutout

Inconceivable as this would have sounded in the not-too-distant past, Canada is in danger of leaving these Games without a curling medal — something that’s never happened in the modern era.

This, obviously, is a real kick in the rocks. But if you’ve been following the sport over the last few years, it’s actually not that shocking. The country once synonymous with international curling dominance just doesn’t, well, dominate like it used to. After winning mixed-doubles gold at the 2018 Olympics, Canada missed the podium in both four-person events — and even missed the playoffs in the women’s. In Beijing, two of the three Canadian teams — mixed doubles and women’s — failed to make the playoffs, and now the men are out of gold-medal contention as well. 

The world championships have been tough too. Canada hasn’t won a men’s world title since 2017, a women’s since ’18, and it has still — incredibly — never captured the world mixed doubles crown.

So, has the rest of the world “caught up” to Canada in curling? In terms of depth, no. This country still produces roughly half of the top 10 men’s and women’s teams. But you can only send one to the big international tournaments. And it’s becoming clear that, here, the players wearing the maple leaf are no longer exceptional. At best, they’re first among equals. Often, they’re simply among equals.

Gushue and company will try to salvage a bronze for Canada when they take on the 2018 Olympic champion U.S. team skipped by John Shuster at 1:05 a.m. ET. The women’s semis go at 7:05 a.m. ET, with reigning world champion Switzerland facing Japan and defending Olympic champ Sweden vs. Great Britain.

WATCH | Gushue misses all-or-nothing shot in 10th end of semifinal:

Gushue misses all-or-nothing shot in 10th end of semifinal

10 hours ago

Duration 1:44

Brad Gushue tried a run back double for the win against Sweden, but came up short in a 5-3 loss to Niklas Edin. 1:44

Other Canadian medal chances tonight and tomorrow morning

Here are the strong ones, in chronological order:

Freestyle skiing: women’s halfpipe final at 8:30 p.m. ET

Upsetting China’s Eileen Gu in this event is a tall order. The American-born-and-raised teenager, who now competes for her mother’s birth country, is heavily favoured to capture her second gold (and third medal) of these Games after winning the women’s big air and taking silver in slopestyle. Gu is the reigning world champion in the halfpipe and she won all four World Cup competitions this season.

But Rachael Karker has been one of Canada’s safest podium bets in any sport. Dating back to December 2019, she’s won a medal in an incredible eight consecutive World Cup starts. Not even Gu has put together a streak that long. The 24-year-old Canadian also grabbed silver at last year’s world championships. She placed second in qualifying last night — behind Gu, of course.

Canada also boasts the defending Olympic champ in Cassie Sharpe. The 29-year-old returned to competition in December, less than a year after tearing two knee ligaments and fracturing her femur in a crash at the Winter X Games. Sharpe is ranked seventh in the World Cup standings and she placed sixth in qualifying. Amy Fraser (eighth in the World Cup) gave Canada three skiers in the final when she placed 11th in qualifying.

A trio of Canadians will also compete in tomorrow night’s men’s final after Brendan Mackay (fifth), Noah Bowman (sixth) and Simon d’Artois (eighth) all advanced from last night’s qualifying round.

Men’s ski cross

Four Canadians will try to add a men’s medal to the women’s silver won by Marielle Thompson last night. None of them have won a World Cup event this season, and none are favoured to reach the Olympic podium, but they’ve all proven they’re capable of doing it.

Brady Leman, 35, won Olympic gold in this event four years ago. He’s reached only one podium in eight World Cup starts this season, but it came at the Olympic test event in November.

Reece Howden, 23, is the reigning World Cup champion. But he’s struggled this season, falling to 22nd in the rankings while winning just one medal in eight starts.

Kevin Drury, 33, is the top Canadian in the World Cup standings, ranking 11th. He’s also won only one medal this season, but he picked up steam in the last few events, with three top-fives in his last four starts.

Jared Schmidt, 24, is 32nd in the World Cup chase and also has one podium this season.

Competition begins with the seeding round at 10:45 p.m. ET, but it really gets going when the elimination rounds start at 1 a.m. ET. The medal final goes at about 2:15 a.m. ET.

Some other interesting stuff you should know about

Laurent Dubreuil has a second chance. The Canadian speed skater came up short in his best distance, missing the 500m podium for the first time in nine races this season. He’ll compete again Friday morning in the 1,000m, where he’s ranked sixth in the World Cup standings. Dubreuil’s medal chances aren’t the greatest, though: his best result in four races this season was a fifth-place showing. The other Canadians in this race, Connor Howe and Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu, are even longer shots for a medal. The event starts at 3:30 a.m. ET, with Dubreuil skating in the 15th and final pairing.

The men’s hockey semifinals are tonight and tomorrow morning. At 11:10 p.m. ET, Finland takes on Slovakia, which upset the top-seeded U.S. in the quarter-finals. At 8:10 a.m. ET it’s the defending-champion Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) vs. Sweden, which bounced Canada in the quarters.

The final figure skating event gets started. Canada has two entries in the pairs competition, which opens with the short program at 5:30 a.m. ET. National champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro are joined by Vanessa James and Eric Radford. Radford won bronze in this event in 2018 with former partner Meagan Duhamel, but neither Canadian pair is expected to reach the podium this time.

And also…

Kamila Valieva finally broke. Heavily favoured to win gold in women’s figure skating, the embattled 15-year-old Russian finished a shocking fourth after stumbling her way through a disastrous free skate this morning that included two falls and some other slips. She was in tears as the scores came in confirming fellow Russian Anna Shcherbakova had won the gold. The controversy and anger swirling around Valieva after a court decided to allow her to compete despite her failing a doping test didn’t seem to bother her when she won the short program. But it may have finally overwhelmed her today. And this sad story isn’t over yet. Valieva is still facing an investigation into her positive test for a banned heart medication in December, which could result in her and her Russian teammates being stripped of the gold they won in the team event (and fourth-place Canada being elevated to bronze). Read more about Valieva’s implosion and watch video from the women’s free skate here. Read more about the anger being directed at Russia’s skaters here.

How to watch live events

They’re being broadcast on TV on CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. Or choose exactly what you want to watch by live streaming on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBC Sports’ Beijing 2022 website. Check out the full streaming schedule (with links to live events) here.

Hear it straight from the athletes

Listen to conversations with Canadians competing at Beijing 2022 on the Player’s Own Voice podcast, hosted by Anastasia Bucsis. Today’s guest was the great Charles Hamelin, who’s still celebrating yesterday’s gold-medal victory in his final Olympic race. Check out all the episodes here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Published at Thu, 17 Feb 2022 21:40:05 +0000