Thursday, August 4, 2016

16 Reasons to watch 2016 Olympics

Leading up to the 2012 Olympics, I shared an article from CTV Olympics that I wished I had written. It was "12 Reasons to Watch the 2012 Olympics".

This time around, I have had fun compiling my own list of 16 reasons to watch the 2016 Olympics. Thanks to CTV for the inspiration.

16. Swimmer Penny Oeksiak (16 years old) and the swim team

The 16 year old may surprise in Rio after breaking the Canadian record in the 100-metre fly which was at the time the 5th fastest time in the world this year. She is also competing in the 100m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x200m freestyle relay.

Two London Olympic medallists are back aiming for the podium in Rio - Ryan Cochrane in the 400m and 1500m freestyle and Richard Weinberger in the 10k open water marathon. Ryan Cochrane competes on Day 1 and may win Canada's first medal in the 400m.

Another exciting swimmer is 21 year old Santo Condorelli who made his international debut in 2015 and won 4 medals at the Toronto Pan Am Games.

The swim team has a special place in my heart as they were the team I was responsible for during the 2012 Olympic parade in Toronto. Front and center in the photo is returning Olympic medallist Richard Weinberger showing off his bronze medal.

Also really hoping for a great performance by Brittany MacLean who competed in 2012 with her sister Heather. This year she's competing in 4 events and swimming better than ever with a national record at the Olympic trials.

My daughter was thrilled to have her photo taken with her at the send-off party for the 2012 team. We had seen the sisters qualify for the Olympic team when the Olympic trials were televised that year.

15. Frederic Winters (Jersey #15)

Men's Volleyball captain and #15 Frederic Winters leads the team to Canada's first Olympic Games in 24 years.

My sister who was travelling last week was very excited (for me) when she saw Team Canada athletes at the airport. She didn't know who they were, but took photos for me. Even with the first one being blurry, I instantly recognized our volleyball team. Apologies to the team if it was too early in the morning to hear "Go Canada Go" but she was very excited.

14. Athletes from 14 of the 18 medals we won in 2012 are back in Rio.

  1. Rosie MacLennan - trampoline gold
  2. Men's Eight Rowing (Will Crothers, Conlin McCabe, Rob Gibson)
  3. Women's Eight Rowing (Lesley Thompson, Lauren Wilkinson)
  4. Ryan Cochrane - swimming
  5. Jennifer Abel - diving synchro
  6. Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion - diving synchro
  7. Antoine Valois-Fortier - judo
  8. Tara Whitten and Jasmin Glaesser - cycling team pursuit
  9. Derek Drouin - high jump
  10. Mark de Jonge - canoe kayak sprint
  11. Mark Oldershaw - canoe kayak sprint
  12. Adam van Koeverden - canoe kayak sprint
  13. Richard Weinburger - swimming 10K marathon
  14. Women's soccer - Alysha Chapman, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott, Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson

13. Children of Olympians
  1. Ashton Baumann (Swimming, father Alex)
  2. Émilie Fournel (Canoe/Kayak Sprint, father Jean) 
  3. Hugues Fournel (Canoe/Kayak Sprint, father Jean) 
  4. Kennedy Goss (Swimming, father Sandy)
  5. Nick Hoag (Volleyball, father Glenn)
  6. Lynda Kiejko (Shooting, father Bill Hare)
  7. Kai Langerfeld (Rowing, father York)
  8. Amy Millar (Equestrian, father Ian)
  9. Mark Oldershaw (Canoe/Kayak Sprint, father Scott)
  10. Sergio Pessoa (Judo, father Sergio)
  11. Micha Powell (Athletics, mother Rosey Edeh, father Mike Powell)
  12. Ben Saxton (Beach Volleyball, father Don)
  13. Dori Yeats (Wrestling, father Doug)

12. Christine Sinclair Jersey #12 
In 2012, #12 Christine Sinclair led Canada's women's soccer team to bronze. They're ready to compete for a medal in Rio and already won their first game upsetting #5 ranked Australia two days before the Opening Ceremony. They play again on Saturday.

11. Number of Canoe Kayak sprint and slalom Canadians

In 2012, three sprint athletes won medals. Will they repeat? Look out for Mark de Jonge (K1-200m), Adam van Koeverden (K1-1000m) and Mark Oldershaw (C1-1000m).

I'm also particularly excited that Hugues Fournel who I first met during the 2012 Olympic Heroes Tour was added to the team this week with fellow 2012 Olympian Ryan Cochrane (yes there are two Ryan Cochrane's on Team Canada once again). I was responsible for taking athletes to schools for inspirational talks and enjoyed listening to Hugues' story about being the son of an Olympic athlete (1976) to being the brother of an Olympic athlete (2008, 2012) and finally becoming an Olympian himself in 2012.

With kayaker Hugues Fournel and para-judo athlete Justin Karn

10. Number of events in the decathlon and 10 Medal hopefuls in Athletics

I am not saying that Canada will get 10 medals, but there are at least 10 Athletics athletes who have the potential to end up on the podium.

  1. Damian Warner (decathlon)
  2. Brianne Thiesen-Eaton (heptathlon)
  3. Derek Drouin (high jump)
  4. Shawn Barber (pole vault)
  5. Andre DeGrasse (100m, 200m, 4x100 relay)
  6. Melissa Bishop (800m)
  7. Christabel Nettey (long jump)
  8. Ben Thorne (race walk)
  9. Mohammed Ahmed (5000m and 10000m)
  10. Brendon Rodney (200m)

10. Ten athletes on #TeamRefugees

Taking a small break from my typical Canada-focus article to add an extra #10.

More importantly than Team Canada and potential medallists are inspiring stories like the refugees who will be competing in Rio under the Olympic flag.

Click here for Rio 2016 article about the athletes' arrival in Rio.

One of the refugees is Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini who helped save 20 refugees when the motor on their dinghy stopped while fleeing on the Mediterrean Sea. Click here to read more of her story.

NBC has a great website dedicated to Team Refugees including their stories. Click here.

9. Number of Cycling events in Rio
  1. BMX
  2. Mountain
  3. Road Race
  4. Time Trial
  5. Keirin
  6. Omnium
  7. Sprint
  8. Team Pursuit
  9. Team Sprint
Potential Canadian medallists include
  • BMX (Tory Nyhaug)
  • Women's team pursuit (Allison Beveridge, Laura Brown, Jasmin Glaesser, Kirsti Lay, Georgia Simmerling)
  • Mountain biking (Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty).

8. Rowing's 8 and 8th Olympics for coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie

Unfortunately Rowing Canada didn't enter a Rowing 8 team in the Olympic qualifying process for our men's team choosing to focus on teams of 4, but our women's team will be aiming for the podium led by 8 time Olympian Lesley Thompson-Willie. This ties for the most Olympics by a female athlete.

Click here to read the CBC article "Canada heading to Rio Olympics minus storied men's 8 crew".

7. Rugby Sevens

2016 will be Rugby Sevens' first Olympics and is a high paced exciting sport. Canada's men's team sadly didn't qualify for Rio, but a few sources are predicting a medal for Canada's women's Rugby Sevens team.

6. Vasek Pospisil was 6 years old when his doubles partner Daniel Nestor competed in his first Olympics in 1996. Rio will be Nestor's 6th Olympics.

Daniel Nestor and Sebastien Lareau won doubles gold at the Olympics in 2000. Can career golden slam champion Nestor team up with Pospisil who won the doubles Wimbledon championship in 2014 to create some magic in Rio?

5. Five teams have qualified for Rio:
  1. field hockey men
  2. rugby women
  3. basketball women
  4. volleyball men
  5. soccer women
Canada's women's basketball team is led by #5 Kia Nurse, Canada's 2015 Pan Am Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer.

After qualifying two teams at the 2012 Olympics, Canada's teams in Rio is partly a result of an influx of funding.

Click here to read "Cash influx revives Canadian team sports for Rio" in the Toronto Star.

4. The Fab IV

Our women's diving team won synchro bronze in 10m synchro (Meaghan Benfeito/Roseline Filion) and 3m synchro (Jennifer Abel/Émilie Heymans) in 2012.

Pamela Ware has since replaced Heymans to pair with Jennifer Abel. Both pairs are aiming to medal in 2016.

3. Andre DeGrasse will compete against Usain Bolt 3 times - 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

Degrasse was 3rd in the 100m and Canada was 3rd in the relay at the 2015 World Championships. Will they be on the podium in Rio?

2. Teams of 2

Many events have athletes competing with a partner. Canada's teams of 2 are in:
  • beach volleyball (2 women's teams and 2 men's teams)
  • canoe/kayak (K2-200m men), K2-500m women)
  • cycling team sprint (women)
  • diving (women 3m synchro and 10m synchro)
  • rowing (women lightweight double sculls, women pair)
  • sailing (men 470, women 49er FX, mixed Nacra 17)
  • synchronized swimming (duet)
  • tennis (men's doubles, women's doubles)

1. One defending Olympic gold medallist and Flag Bearer

Rosie MacLennan has been known as our only gold medallist from the 2012 Olympics but that title may change if retired weightlifter Christine Girard is upgraded to gold from her bronze after positive doping infractions by the two competitors who won gold and silver.

MacLennan is back in 2016 and aiming for the podium once again. She has been an incredible ambassador to Team Canada in the last quadrennial and is the perfect choice as our flag bearer for the 2016 Olympics.

My daughter with Rosie MacLennan at the Pan Am Countdown event

2008 Olympic Silver medallist Jason Burnett joins Rosie on the trampoline team.

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