TOKYO — Sporting white pants, a blue jean jacket and black ballcap, decathlon champion Damian Warner proudly waved the Maple Leaf as he entered the Olympic Stadium as Canadian flag-bearer.
The image was a fitting one to wrap up a very successful Olympics for Canadian athletes, who made 24 trips to the podium while staying clear of COIVD-19 complications.
Track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell sent the Canadians out on a high note, winning gold in the women’s sprint competition.
That gave Canada seven gold, six silver and 11 bronze medals in Tokyo. Those numbers are significant.
The 24 total medals set a new standard for Canada in a non-boycotted Olympics, while the seven gold tied the nation’s output at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The only time Canada took home more hardware was in the 1984 Los Angeles Games when Canadian athletes won 10 gold and 44 total medals. Those games were boycotted by 14 Eastern Bloc countries, including the Soviet Union and East Germany.
Canada finished 11th both in the official medal standings and the overall medal count.
The United States won three gold medals on the final day of competition to pass China for the top spot in the medal standings. The U.S. finished with 39 golds to China’s 38.
The overall medal race wasn’t even close. The Americans finished with 112, with China well in the distance at 88.
No doubt sweating up a storm in the muggy 32 C conditions, Warner — who entered 45th out of 206 countries — was sandwiched between Qatar and Gabon as flag-bearers formed a large circle on the infield.
Volunteers held flags for countries that did not have athletes present at the ceremony. Many athletes left Japan shortly after their respective competitions.
Warner was later joined by about 120 Canadian athletes, coaches and support staff who marched in the parade.
The ceremony, with its jazzy soundtrack, had a more celebratory feel than the muted and rather sombre opening ceremony over two weeks earlier.
Athletes danced, hugged and took pictures as festive music filled the 48,000-seat venue.
Earlier, Mitchell capped Canada’s Games in an emphatic fashion. The 27-year-old from Sherwood, Park., Alta., beat Ukraine’s Olena Starikova in two straight heats to capture the women’s sprint title.
She won the first race by 0.061 seconds and the second race by 0.064.
Not bad, for someone who only picked up the sport four years ago. Driving a truck as a municipal worker, the former varsity soccer player was looking for a way to get back into competitive sport.
“I hadn’t ridden a track bike before, I’d ridden a bike as a kid but nothing since,” Mitchell said.
“I had dreamt of going to the Olympics, and in the back of my mind you want to go and you want to win. So to have a gold medal, it’s pretty surreal.”
She is the second Canadian woman to win track cycling gold in an individual event following Lori-Ann Muenzer’s sprint gold in 2004.
Mitchell and Muenzer met four years ago, just after Cycling Canada had first approached Mitchell about joining their team. Mitchell’s aunt was in Muenzer’s spin class and suggested she take part to meet the former Olympian.
“I went up and introduced myself and I said, ‘I want to try track cycling and I want to go to the Olympics,’ and she was probably like, ‘Who the hell is this girl?'” said Mitchell. “But she was super nice and was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’
“It was a long time ago. It feels like it was a really long time ago, but I guess it was only four years.”
Elsewhere at the velodrome, Calgary’s Allison Beveridge finished ninth in the women’s omnium.
The only other event featuring Canadians on the final day was the men’s marathon, where simply finishing the race was no mean feat. Thirty men in the field of 106 didn’t finish.
Ben Preisner was the top Canadian, finishing 46th in his Games debut. Calgary’s Trevor Hofbauer was 48th, while Cam Levins, of Black Creek, B.C., hung with the lead group through the first half of the race, but faded over the final 10 kilometres to finish 72nd in 2:28.43.
“I really wanted to finish out of respect for a guy like Tristan Woodfine (who qualified but wasn’t selected for the team),” Levins said. “I felt like it was only right to finish this race, and only three of us got to go. And so, yeah, I think that’s kind of what motivated me to stay in.
“It’s hard to call yourself an Olympic athlete if you can’t even finish the race … so, wanting to do my best to get through it no matter how slow or tough the second half was.”
Marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, the defending champion and world record-holder, pulled away over the final 10 kilometres to win gold.
Overall, Team Canada has plenty of reasons to be thrilled with its performance in Tokyo. Warner in the decathlon, the women’s soccer team, Andre De Grasse in the men’s 200 metres and women’s eight rowing crew captured Olympic titles in high-profile events.
Mitchell, swimmer Maggie Mac Neil and weightlifter Maude Charron also topped the podium as Canada’s women Olympians once again made up the vast majority of the medals.
Swimmer Penny Oleksiak won three medals in Tokyo to become Canada’s most decorated Olympian with seven career medals, while De Grasse won three to give him six overall, the most all-time among Canadian men.
But where there is Olympic ecstasy, Olympic agony is rarely far behind. Canada also had its share of close calls and disappointments.
Cyclist Michael Woods finished just off the podium in the men’s road race on the first day medals were awarded at the Games. Two-time Olympic champion trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan, the women’s 4×400 relay team, weightlifter Boady Santavy, divers Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay, artistic gymnast Ellie Black and even Oleksiak — in two separate races — were among those with fourth-place finishes.
Meanwhile, Canada came up empty in golf and tennis, two sports in which the nation is becoming a power.
“No point or second was ever easily taken from Team Canada,” chef de mission Marnie McBean said.
“We saw there is a knife-edge difference between brilliance and breakdown. It takes bravery to believe in one when you know when you are risking the other.”
Canada’s successes were made more remarkable, however, considering they came with Tokyo in a state of emergency due to a rise on COVID-19 cases. Athletes also had to battle oppressive heat and humidity throughout the Games.
The Canadian Olympic Committee said none of its delegation had tested positive for the virus as of Sunday.
“One of our key goals was to come to Tokyo and to return to Canada COVID-free,” COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker said.
“We’ve approached this as critical for our protection, critical for our performance goals and critical for the protection of our hosts here in Japan.
“We’ve come this far with zero COVID cases among the 840 athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers in the Team Canada delegation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2021.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Michael Woods as a track cyclist. In fact, he is a road cyclist.
Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail
A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.
The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.
One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.
The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.
But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.
Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.
In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.
But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.
But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.
Their first job was deflecting.
In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.
Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.
This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.
Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.
But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.
But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.
While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.
On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.
By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?
This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.
Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.
Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.
This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.
Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.
While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.
This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.
It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.
It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.
The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.
At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.
Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.
Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.
Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open
Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.
“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.
We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.
I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.
Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.
Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.
The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.
Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.
The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.
“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.
Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca
RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.
Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.
Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”
Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.
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