Rio 2016 Preview

Rio 2016 Preview

by Wes Gilbertson

Somebody tell Paul Dunphy, David Spence and the entire crew at Weather Channel that the pressure is off for the next two weeks.
We don’t care about the forecast.

Rain or shine, we’ll probably be parked on the couch — or better yet, on a barstool at Home & Away — with our eyes glued to coverage from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
From Mark Tewksbury to Sylvie Frechette to Kyle Shewfelt and others listed below, we’ve been treated to a lot of magical, memorable Canadian performances at past instalments of the Summer Games. By the time the flame is extinguished in Rio, we’ll have a fresh batch of national sporting heroes.

Let’s take a look back, and a look ahead …

REWIND: Millions of Canucks set a new personal-best for most screeches or finger-nail chomps in a 9.84-second span. That’s how long Donovan Bailey needed to reach the finish line in the 100-metre showdown in Atlanta in 1996, becoming the fastest man on the planet and cementing his status as a Canadian icon. He wasn’t done, either. Bailey ran the anchor as Canada cruised to gold in the 4x100 relay.
REPEAT?: Usain Bolt is obviously the favourite, but Canada’s Andre De Grasse is a definite a threat to his throne, if not in Rio then soon after. The 21-year-old from Markham, Ont., is a rising star in the sprint world and the first Canadian since the ’90s to break the 10-second barrier without a breeze at his back. Our relay team should also be in the medal mix. 

REWIND: The magic of the Olympics is that we find ourselves mesmerized by a sport that we’ve never shown much interest in, rooting for an athlete we’ve often never heard of before. Such was the case with Carol Huynh, the B.C.-raised, Calgary-based freestyle wrestler who grappled her way to gold in Beijing and then added a bronze medal four years later in London.
REPEAT?: Huynh was the longtime star of the class for the University of Calgary wrestling club, and that mantle might now belong to former training partner Erica Wiebe. Hailing from Stittsville, Ont., but a resident of Cowtown for the past nine years, the 27-year-old Wiebe was a gold medallist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and will be a top contender in Rio. 

REWIND: Long before anybody even dreamed of television, let alone a high-def channel with 24/7 coverage of birdies and pars, Toronto’s George Lyon claimed golfing gold at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis. The sport was later dropped from the Olympic lineup, so Lyon has been the defending champion for the past 112 years. That’s quite a run.
REPEAT?: At the tender age of 18, Brooke Henderson has already announced her arrival as one of the biggest stars on the LPGA Tour. The long-bombing sweetheart from Smiths Falls, Ont., won her first major in June and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, so the return of golf as an Olympic sport couldn’t be coming at a better time.

REWIND: You must remember exactly where you were when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal at Vancouver 2010 and likely lost your voice after Marie-Philip Poulin sniped the overtime winner in Sochi. Perhaps because the elation of victory or agony of defeat is written on so many faces, there seems to be something extra-special about witnessing a team triumph on the Olympic stage.
REPEAT?: After what must have been a slushy mess at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, officials figured ice hockey was probably a better fit for the Winter Games. Ya think? So what’s our best hope for team success in Rio? Super-striker Christine Sinclair and the rest of our women’s soccer squad will try to build on bronze in London, while Canada’s females are among the favourites in rugby sevens.

REWIND: Emilie Heymans made four consecutive trips to the five-ring circus, and the Montreal-based diver always returned with a shiny keepsake in her luggage — a silver medal in Sydney in 2000, a bronze in Athens, then silver again in Beijing. With a bronze in London, she became the first Canadian Olympian to medal at four in a row. Wow.
REPEAT?: Calgary-born Mark de Jonge is Canada’s best bet for a medal on the water, but you’d be crazy to count out Toronto’s Adam van Koeverden. The sprint-kayaking ace paddled to the podium twice in Athens — one gold and one bronze — and earned silver in both Beijing and London. Now 34, he’ll try to match Heymans’ remarkable feat with another podium visit in Rio.