Connect with us

Sports

Canada's first medal of the Olympics is silver: Women's 4x100m freestyle relay team edges U.S. for second place – National Post

Published

 on


Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way

Article content

Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way serving notice they are driven to be a world powerhouse in their sport.

Advertisement

Article content

Anchored by yet another brilliant swim from 2016 superstar Penny Oleksiak, the 4 x 100-metre relay team claimed their country’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday night, finishing second in the final.

It was a buoyant performance on the first medal night of the meet, immediately backing up the breakout six-medal heist the Canadian women extracted out of the pool in Brazil. The silver medals the four Canadian women placed around each other’s necks during the post-race ceremony were a shiny update from the bronze they captured in Brazil.

And the legend of Oleksiak continued as she won a fifth Olympic medal, tying middle-distance runner Phil Edwards and rowing coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie for the most summer Olympic medals among Canadian athletes.

Advertisement

Article content

Based on the form the foursome flashed, Saturday’s effort set the tone for more success to come in the nine-day meet. Medal opportunities could come almost nightly and the confidence created from the opening silver could be huge for the Canadians who had far less racing opportunities than most of their competitors.

First-time Olympian Kayla Sanchez swam the opening leg of Saturday’s event, held at a spectator-free Tokyo Aquatic Centre. Sanchez was followed by Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith. Those three kept the medal pursuit alive, even if the favoured Australians were sprinting away to a runaway gold.

And then it was Oleksiak – the four-time medallist from 2016 – who brought it home, sending an early indication that she’s returned to top form by doing what she does best. The 21-year-old once again showed her pure racing prowess, a trait that earned her gold in the 100-metre freestyle event at Rio.

Advertisement

Article content

Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak celebrate after winning the silver medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak celebrate after winning the silver medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“If you are going to want someone racing the 100 free or anchoring your relay, you probably want it to be Penny,” Sanchez said in an interview prior to the Games. “She knows how to finish those last 50 metres. She knows how to do anything in her power to touch that wall first.”

Favoured Australia took gold, as expected and set a world record in the process while U.S. with Simone Manuel anchoring took bronze.

Emma McKeon of Australia, Meg Harris of Australia, Cate Campbell of Australia and Bronte Campbell of Australia celebrate after setting a new World record REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Emma McKeon of Australia, Meg Harris of Australia, Cate Campbell of Australia and Bronte Campbell of Australia celebrate after setting a new World record REUTERS/Marko Djurica Photo by MARKO DJURICA /REUTERS

Gunning for Canada’s first medal of the Games, the Swimming Canada braintrust juggled the lineup from the heats to the final, a strategy it has employed in the past for big event relays. Taylor Ruck, who like Oleksiak was part of the 4 x 100 bronze medal relay squad in Rio, was replaced by Mac Neil for Saturday’s final and inserted in the second spot, following leadoff swimmer Sanchez.

Advertisement

Article content

“I’m so proud to be part of this team,” Sanchez said. “We did what we needed to do. We’ve been saying all afternoon: ‘it’s Game 1 and Canada has so much more to go.”

It was the first Olympic medal for Sanchez, Mac Neil and Smith, who are all making their Games debut.

Smith, Sanchez, and Mac Neil react after winning the silver medal in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final.
Smith, Sanchez, and Mac Neil react after winning the silver medal in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final. Photo by Tom Pennington /Getty Images

Despite limited racing opportunities over the past four years, the Canadians have kept their competitive drive engaged, something Oleksiak unleashed yet again on Saturday.

“Honestly, we are already one of the most dominant countries in the world in swimming and all the girls are working so hard every single day,” Oleksiak said. “I’m really excited to see these specific girls make a mark on the world again.

“Hopefully we can get a few more going.”

And in every event they have been called upon to leave the blocks.

Advertisement

Article content

Swimmers dive off the blocks in the final of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. (AFP/Jonathan NACKSTRAND)
Swimmers dive off the blocks in the final of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. (AFP/Jonathan NACKSTRAND) Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND /AFP via Getty Images

The focus on strong relay teams is a huge part of the Canadian program under head coach John Atkinson. With an emphasis on depth, Canadian women showed their strength in that area at the 2016 Rio Olympics where they captured a pair of medals.

  1. Canada's Kylie Masse competes in a heat of the women's 100M Backstroke during the swimming competition at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest

    Kylie Masse’s Olympic journey: How the 25-year-old became one of the swimming world’s best backstrokers

  2. Among the 16 first timers are Summer McIntosh, a 14-year-old Torontonian who beat Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle at the Canadian trials. Another Toronto teen, Josh Liendo, is an up and coming prospect that could help key the resurgence of the men’s arm. 

    The pandemic disrupted their training, but Canada’s swimmers aren’t afraid of Tokyo

The emphasis for most swimmers such as freestyle ace Oleksiak, backstroker Kylie Masse and butterfly speedster Mac Neil is their individual events. But Atkinson is determined to parlay that talent into relay success.

“It’s a nine-day competition in the pool,” Atkinson said. “We have selected a team that can compete in six relays and be competitive through all nine days, in individual events as well as relays.”

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Training camp questions: Edmonton Oilers – TSN

Published

 on


With summer officially coming to an end and training camps set to open across the National Hockey League this week, TSN gets ready for the preseason by looking at the three biggest questions facing each of the seven Canadian franchises.

On tap for today are the Edmonton Oilers, who finished with their highest points percentage in over 30 years (.643) but were swept away by the Winnipeg Jets in the opening round of the playoffs.

1. Is the defence better or worse than last year?

The Edmonton Oilers made massive changes to their defensive corps over the summer.

Gone are Adam Larsson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and Oscar Klefbom, with Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci as the primary replacements. We know the Oilers won’t have much of an issue scoring goals, but did they do enough over the summer to prevent giving them up?

Like most off-season overhauls, that answer will likely depend on a few different things.

For starters, what does Keith have left in the tank? Keith is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, a three-time All-Star and a two-time Norris Trophy winner. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015 and has 625 points in 1,192 career NHL regular-season games.

But Keith is 38 now and as TSN’s Travis Yost points out, no Chicago Blackhawks skater conceded more goals or expected goals against – goaltender neutral – over the past two seasons. Chicago allowed the seventh-most goals last season and Keith was second-worst on the team at minus-13.
The 27-year-old Ceci was signed to a four-year, $13 million contract by the Oilers in free agency but will join his fourth team in the last four seasons. As things stand right now, it’s likely he’ll play with Keith on the second pairing.

Edmonton locked in their top pairing with contract extensions for Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie. Nurse had a career-best 16 goals last season and Barrie recorded 48 points in 56 games.

Considering the firepower the Oilers have up front, this team shouldn’t have any trouble scoring, especially with their defenceman contributing at that level.

Another intriguing option for head coach Dave Tippett is 21-year-old Evan Bouchard. The No. 10 selection from the 2018 draft, Bouchard only has 21 NHL games under his belt and might be asked to take on a much bigger role than in years past.

2. How will major free agent signee Zach Hyman fit in?

As the clock ticked toward free agency last season, Hyman told reporters he would like to remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs if it made sense. But given the Leafs’ cap situation and Hyman’s desire for a long-term deal, what made sense to one side didn’t to the other.

In swooped the Oilers, who signed Hyman to a seven-year, $38.5 million deal in one of the most debated signings of the off-season.

Hyman’s offensive numbers – 15 goals and 18 assists last season – aren’t necessarily eye-popping considering the kind of dollar value and term he got, but the Toronto native brings a lot more to the table than just points. A skilled two-way player with or without the puck, Hyman is a combined plus-70 the past four seasons. Sure, playing alongside Toronto’s other elite forwards helps that, but it’s not like there’s going to be much of a drop-off with the Oilers.

Hyman is expected to slide in beside Connor McDavid – the same Connor McDavid who had 72 assists in 56 games in 2020-21 – on the top line and should have an instant impact for the Oilers on both ends of the ice in the short term.

Time will tell if that holds up as the years go by. History hasn’t been kind to seven-year deals for 29-year-old forwards like Hyman, especially ones with a documented history of knee injuries. But finding a player like Hyman on the open market isn’t easy and is never cheap.

3. Is Jesse Puljujarvi poised to take the next step?

Two years ago, Puljujarvi appeared to have moved on from the Edmonton Oilers.

He was drafted fourth overall in 2016 but bounced between the Oilers and American Hockey League affiliate Bakersfield Condors during his first three seasons. Things didn’t exactly go smoothly, and he signed with Karpat of the SM-liiga in Finland in July of 2019 and elected to re-sign last summer with an opt-out in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

Since he left as a restricted free agent, the Oilers retained Puljujarvi’s NHL rights. General manager Ken Holland and Tippett promised the youngster a clean slate if he ever decided to return to the NHL.

That might have been exactly what he needed.

Puljujarvi recorded career highs in both goals (15) and assists (10) and was a plus-6, far outpacing his four goal and five assist tally with a minus-14 goal differential in 2018-19, his last NHL campaign before departing for Finland.

Puljujarvi spent much of last season playing on McDavid’s right side and the duo outscored opponents 42 to 33 at even strength. His goal total from 2020-21 isn’t especially impressive alongside McDavid but when you consider that he saw limited power-play time and 13 of his 15 markers came at even strength, it makes more sense. If Hyman slides in on the left side as expected, there could be plenty more opportunity for the 23-year-old to put up some numbers heading into restricted free agency.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Jim Hughson retiring after 42-year broadcasting career – Sportsnet.ca

Published

 on


Sportsnet’s Jim Hughson is stepping away from the mic.

The Hall of Fame play-by-play commentator announced his retirement from sports broadcasting on Tuesday, ending a 42-year career.

“It’s been a fantastic run and I’d like to thank Sportsnet, Hockey Night in Canada and all my friends and colleagues over the years for the tremendous support and countless memories,” said Hughson. “This is a decision I made in consultation with my family and I’m very much at peace with it. My only goal in this industry was to work at the highest level and on the last day of the season. I’ve had that opportunity a number of times and will always be grateful for it.”

Hughson called his first game on radio in 1979. He has been the voice of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on Hockey Night in Canada.

Hughson has called a dozen Stanley Cup Finals along with the men’s hockey tournament at both the 2006 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

“Jim is one of the best this business has ever seen,” said Rob Corte, VP of Sportsnet and NHL Production. “Whether on TV, radio or in video games, for many he has been their soundtrack of hockey. He’s set the gold standard for broadcasting in this country and has accomplished pretty much everything any broadcaster would set out to do in their career. On top of that, he’s a tremendous teammate and an even better person.”

Hughson also was part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast crew during their World Series runs in 1992 and 1993.

In 2019, the Hockey Hall of Fame awarded Hughson the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award to honour his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. He is also a four-time Canadian Screen Awards winner for Best Sports Play-by-Play Announcer.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Jonathan Drouin's absence from Canadiens late last season, in playoffs due to anxiety – CBC.ca

Published

 on


Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin has opened up on the reasons why he took a break from hockey last spring during his club’s push for the playoffs.

In interviews aired Monday night on RDS and TVA Sports, Drouin revealed that he was suffering from anxiety and insomnia last season, problems that have afflicted him for years.

The 26-year-old said his problems reached a peak as the team was warming up for its April 23 game in Calgary against the Flames. Drouin was caught on camera looking pale and suddenly leaving the ice to return to the dressing room.

“That week was difficult for me,” Drouin told RDS. “I had fallen ill to the point where I was no longer controlling my body. That was really the moment when I realized that I needed to take a break from hockey, to take a step back.”

He has not played for the Canadiens since, even though the team went all the way to the Stanley Cup final before falling in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I had made the decision to take care of myself. I was happy with my decision. I respected my decision,” Drouin said. “For me, it was just being able to watch them, to give my support to my teammates and coaches. I was so happy with every game we won. The passion never left me.”

Expected on ice to open camp

The athlete from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., says he has since restored his mental health, and last week he skated with his teammates at the Canadiens’ practice facility.

“I went to find help, I went to find people to be around me,” Drouin recounted to RDS. “Now I understand how it happens, I understand the little moments when I feel anxiety. I am now better equipped than I was before.”

He addressed rumours that he had entered rehab, saying they were false.

“I have never had a drug or alcohol problem,” he said.

He is expected to be on the ice for the Habs’ training camp, which officially kicks off Wednesday, and he commented on his hopes for the upcoming season.

“I am really happy to be back. I just want to have fun and get better every day,” Drouin told RDS. “I know it’s a cliche, but just having fun playing hockey is going to be the best thing for me.”

In 229 regular-season games with the Canadiens, Drouin has 40 goals and 137 points.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending