Canada won its fifth swimming medal on Day 8, with Kylie Masse taking silver in the women’s 200-metre backstroke to add to her silver in the 100m back earlier this week. That makes 12 medals overall for the Canadian team in Tokyo — three gold, four silver, five bronze. All by women. See the full medal standings and a detailed breakdown of Canada’s hardware here.
A mouth-watering Day 9 is coming up as the last night of swimming competition leads into track and field’s marquee event: the men’s 100 metres. Canada’s two biggest Summer Olympic stars, Penny Oleksiak and Andre De Grasse, can add to their already-impressive medal collections.
Our daily Olympic viewing guide will focus on them. Plus, strong Canadian medal chances in diving and gymnastics, a key women’s basketball game, and crunch time in beach volleyball and men’s golf. Here’s what to watch on this super Saturday night/Sunday morning:
De Grasse has real shot to become World’s Fastest Man
The title is truly up for grabs at the Olympics for the first time since Usain Bolt blew away the field (and blew our minds) with his then world-record 9.69 in 2008 in Beijing. The GOAT added two more 100m gold medals before retiring in 2017. Christian Coleman then emerged as the clear favourite to take the first Olympic gold of the post-Bolt era when he won the world title in 2019, but the young American got himself suspended for Tokyo by missing several doping tests.
Since then, track fans have debated who might fill the vacuum in Tokyo. 2016 Olympic silver medallist Justin Gatlin seemed like a natural choice. He beat Bolt in his farewell race at the 2017 worlds, then took silver behind Coleman in 2019. But the 39-year-old finally ran out of gas at the U.S. Olympic trials, blowing a tire in the final and failing to qualify.
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As Tokyo approached, opinion coalesced around 26-year-old American Trayvon Bromell as the consensus favourite. He posted the two fastest times of the year in June — a 9.77 and a 9.80 that won him the U.S. trials final. Bromell also won the final Diamond League 100m race before the Olympics — on July 13 in England. De Grasse finished fourth there but was clearly saving something for a 4×100 relay race an hour later.
The Canadian was also fourth in an Olympic-calibre 100m field at the Diamond League meet in Monaco four days earlier. The top-five betting favourites for Tokyo (at the time) all lined up, and American Ronnie Baker won it in 9.91. South Africa’s Akani Simbine placed second in 9.98, and Italy’s Marcell Jacobs rounded out the podium in 9.99. De Grasse ran a 10 flat, while Bromell stumbled early and finished one spot behind him in 10.01. De Grasse arrived in Tokyo this week having run under 10 seconds with a legal wind just once this year — and that was back in April.
But here’s something we need to remember about De Grasse: He saves his best for the biggest stages. In his career, the 26-year-old has started five individual events at the Olympics or world championships. He’s reached the podium in every single one — bronze in the 100m at the 2016 Olympics and the 2015 and 2019 world championships, silver in the 200 at the ’16 Olympics and ’19 worlds. Big Race ‘Dre, indeed.
Now it looks like De Grasse is peaking at the right time once again. He placed first overall in the opening-round heats on Saturday with a personal season-best time of 9.91. Bromell, meanwhile, did not look like an Olympic favourite. The top three in each heat automatically advance, and he finished fourth in his — scraping into the semifinals as one of the three wild cards. Suddenly, this event looks even more wide open than we thought.
The semifinals begin Sunday at 6:15 a.m. ET, and De Grasse is running in the first of the three heats. The top two in each advance, plus the next two fastest runners. Assuming all goes well, De Grasse will try to become the first Canadian since Donovan Bailey in 1996 to win Olympic 100m gold when the final goes Sunday at 8:50 a.m. ET. Watch it live on the CBC TV network or stream it live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website. Read Bailey’s takes on De Grasse, Bromell and the rest of the men’s 100m contenders here. Watch a CBC Sports Explains video on the history (and possible future) of the race here.
One other Canadian is competing in a track and field final on Day 9: Django Lovett in the men’s high jump, which starts at 6:10 a.m. ET. He’s not expected to win a medal.
The top event in this morning’s finals was the women’s 100 metres. Elaine Thompson-Herah repeated as champion and led a Jamaican sweep of the podium with an Olympic-record 10.61. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a gold medallist in 2008 and 2012, took silver at age 34, while Shericka Jackson got the bronze. Read more about the race and watch it here.
It’s Oleksiak’s last chance to break Canadian Olympic medal record (for now)
The 21-year-old star heads into the final night of swimming competition with two medals in Tokyo and six in her career. That’s tied with speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes for the most ever by a Canadian Olympian.
Oleksiak has an excellent chance to get the record all to herself in the women’s 4×100-metre medley final tonight at 10:15 p.m. ET. In this race, each swimmer performs a different stroke. And Canada happens to have an Olympic medallist in almost all of them. There’s 100m butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil, 100m and 200m backstroke silver medallist Kylie Masse and, of course, Penny. She won gold in the 100 freestyle in 2016, took bronze in the 200 free a few days ago and also swam a blistering anchor leg in the 4×100 freestyle relay to win silver for Canada last weekend. The other member of the team is no slouch, either. Sydney Pickrem took bronze in the 200 breaststroke at the 2019 world championships. This lineup won bronze in the 4×100 medley at that meet.
Canada also qualified for the men’s 4×100 medley final at 10:36 p.m. ET — the very last swimming race of the Games. But the team would need a miracle to medal.
Watch the final five swimming medal races starting at 9:30 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, or stream them live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website.
Other Canadian medal chances on Saturday night/Sunday morning
There are two strong ones. In chronological order:
Jennifer Abel is a podium threat in the women’s 3m springboard final at 2 a.m. ET. The 29-year-old placed fourth in this event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was also fourth at the most recent world championships, in 2019, and took bronze at the worlds in 2017 and 2011.
Abel has never won an individual medal at the Olympics, but she took silver in the 3m synchronized with Mélissa Citrini-Beaulieu last week and bronze in that event in 2012 with former partner Émilie Heymans.
Simone Biles announced yesterday she won’t defend her Olympic title in the vault or compete in the uneven bars final on Sunday. The American superstar is still dealing with a mental block known in gymnastics as “the twisties” — a loss of orientation while performing moves in the air. It’s this sport’s version of “the yips,” which you might recognize from golf or the new season of Ted Lasso — except way more dangerous. The yips may cause you to miss a putt or a penalty kick, but the twisties can result in a catastrophic injury. They forced Biles to walk away from the team final and decline to defend her individual all-around title earlier this week. She’s still hoping to compete in the floor exercise and balance beam finals on Monday and Tuesday.
Biles’s absence from the vault final, which goes at 4:52 a.m. ET, gives Canada’s Shallon Olsen a better chance at the podium. She took silver in this event at the 2018 world championships and finished fourth in 2019.
Some other interesting stuff you should know about
The Canadian women’s basketball team can make its path easier. After losing their opener to Serbia and rebounding with a win over South Korea, the fourth-ranked Canadians play their final group-stage game at 9 p.m. ET vs. Spain (2-0). Barring a blowout loss and an unfavourable result in one of the other groups, Canada will likely advance to the quarter-finals. But winning their group would be big because it means avoiding the unbeatable U.S. team until at least the semis. Read more about the scenarios and a full preview of tonight’s game vs. Spain here.
It’s crunch time in beach volleyball. The group stage is over. It’s all single-elimination from here on out. Both the women’s and men’s rounds of 16 open tonight, and Canada has two women’s teams alive. Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, who are ranked 16th in the world, play at 8 p.m. ET vs. No. 3-ranked Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil. Canada’s top duo, reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, play tomorrow night. They breezed through their three group-stage games without losing a set.
A dramatic final round is shaping up in men’s golf. With 18 holes to go, world No. 5 Xander Schauffele of the United States holds a one-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama. They were the final pairing at this year’s Masters, where Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win a men’s golf major, and Schauffele let a chance to grab his first major title slip as he tied for third. They’ll once again play together in the last grouping, along with Great Britain’s Paul Casey, who’s two shots behind Schauffele. Matsuyama is already a national hero for winning the green jacket, and a gold-medal victory on home turf would elevate him to another level in Japanese sports lore. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who’s representing Ireland here, is also in the hunt — tied for fifth and only three shots off the lead. Canadians Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes are tied for 17th — seven shots off the lead and five behind the current bronze-medal position. The final round starts at 6:30 p.m. ET. Hughes tees off at 8:47 p.m. ET, Conners at 9:03 p.m. ET, and the final group at 10:09 p.m. ET.
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 Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website. Check out the full streaming schedule here.
On the Oilers Now radio show, Oilers GM Ken Holland confirmed to host Bob Stauffer that winger Josh Archibald is the only unvaccinated player on the Oilers roster. Archibald has a one-way contract, with a $1.5 million cap hit. If he were to make the Oilers, and miss out on all games in the USA, he’d miss 30-plus games.
“It’s much more difficult being a Canadian team,” Holland said, with Stauffer pointing out the Oilers play 50 games in Canada, 32 in the USA this year. “Obviously we got to go back and forth across the border multiple times this season. Obviously it’s going to be much different playing on a U.S. team vs. playing on a Canadian team being unvaccinated.”
Here’s what Holland said earlier at his press conference about the unvaccinated player (whom he had not yet identified):
Holland said he was still talking to the player (Archibald). “As the season starts I would anticipate we would have one player that would be unvaccinated.”
Some NHL teams have banned unvaccinated players from training camp. Holland has not yet decided if the player will be welcomed at Edmonton’s training camp. “I think the player is going through a process to decide because I think it’s a difficult decision. So I want to give the person the appropriate time. I’ll see where I’m at a week from now, or ten days from now. But we’ll see.”
If a player is unvaccinated and the team goes to the United States, he must quarantine when he comes back to Canada, Holland said. “It’s going to make it very difficult.” (On a side note, the Oilers most likely brought in forward Colton Sceviour as a possibility at forward).
An unvaxxed player would miss about 30 days due to cross-border 14-day quarantines, Holland said, adding that the player might not be ready to play after being out, and if the team was going well it might not want to change the line-up. Oilers coach Dave Tippett and Holland met with the player and looked at how many times the team would cross the border this year. “It’s going to be very difficult.”
Edmonton recently brought in checking winger Colton Sceviour on a PTO. Sceviour is a similar player to Archibald, a checking winger who can play on the PK. If Archibald is sent to the AHL — and it’s hard to imagine that’s not now being considered as Plan B — that will open up an opportunity for Sceviour.
The Detroit Red Wings have invited unvaxxed Tyler Bertuzzi to camp, but the Red Wings only play nine games in Canada. U.S. teams have more ability to work with unvaccinated players than Canadian teams, which puts the Oilers and Archibald in a far more difficult spot.
Another option would be to trade Archibald to a U.S. team that doesn’t play many games in Canada, though I’m unsure if any team would take on Archibald at his $1.5 million per cap hit.
As for Archibald, let me repeat what I said in my last post, that I know what advice I’d give this player, that while there’s almost no chance he’ll get hammered hard by COVID, there’s almost no chance he’ll get hammered hard in any significant way by the vaccine.
With all that in mind, he should put his pay cheque and his family first.
That’s the same advice I gave to a vaccinate hesitant relative, by the way. In the end, but only after the vaccine passport rules came in Alberta, that individual decided to get vaccinated. That person is now at relative peace with their decision, despite the coercive new regulation that forced them to get the jab. I suspect this Oilers player will make the same call and get vaccinated, but I’m glad to see the Oilers are being patient with him, and as an Oilers fans, I’ll do the same.
There’s a huge amount of anger and intolerance directed at the unvaccinated right now. There’s a frenzy of fear and self-righteousness boiling up here, a dangerous combination. When I think of more lockdown measures of the fully vaccinated, I have felt some of that anger myself. But I try to control it.
Every one of us sees this pandemic through our own distorted and self-interested lens. We’re all trying to balance the possibility of different harms to our own selves and our families and community. I don’t see how turning on anyone helps in this situation. I see many hard and difficult discussions, as Holland is now having with his players, as the way to go. I applaud Holland’s patient and understanding approach.
P.S. Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV in Vancouver reports: “Alex Chiasson has signed a PTO with the Canucks.”
For unvaccinated players who cannot be with team due to travel/quarantine rules or COVID infections, they are not paid. For cap purposes, this is similar to players suspended without pay, where the team does not incur a cap hit while the player is suspended without pay
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.
The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.
Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.
David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.
As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.
The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.
There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.
With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.
A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.
Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.
Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.
Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.
Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.
Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.
Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.
Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.
Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.
Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.
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