How many medals will Canada win at the Winter Olympics?

January 4, 2022
How many medals will Canada win at the Winter Olympics?
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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Let’s try to predict the most unpredictable Olympics ever

The pandemic is a destroyer of plans. Nearly two years into this thing, who would have thought so many people in this country would once again be unable to send their kids to school, or play in a rec hockey league, or leave the country without jumping through a million hoops, or even step outside their homes after 10 p.m. It’s tough to look to the future when we’re all just trying to get through the day.

Add the 2022 Winter Olympics to the list of things that won’t turn out the way we’d hoped. Organizers insist the Games will not be postponed, but NHL players have already bailed and it’s likely that other stars will be sidelined by positive tests as the highly transmissible Omicron variant tears through the world. Some might not even make it to China. Athletes have to produce at least two negative tests before getting on the plane, plus another one at the Beijing airport. The rules are even stricter for anyone who gets COVID-19 between now and then.

Clearly, only a fool would try to predict the medal winners for what could be the most unpredictable Olympics ever. But that’s never stopped us before. To mark one month to the Beijing Winter Games, which officially open on Feb. 4, I went over the latest round of medal projections by the data company Nielsen Gracenote. Here are the most interesting takeaways from what their model spit out, along with some analysis on whether the predictions will come true or not:

Gracenote says: Canada will win 23 medals

That’s tied with the United States for fourth place in the projected standings, behind Norway (45), the Russian team (31) and Germany (25). But it would be Canada’s lowest total since tallying 17 in 2002 in Salt Lake City. It’s also six fewer medals than the Canadian Winter Olympic record of 29 set in 2018 in South Korea.

So what gives? Mostly, the Gracenote model sees Canada falling off the table in figure skating (from four medals in 2018 to zero) and luge (from two to zero). Those losses are somewhat offset by a big increase in long-track speed skating medals (from two in 2018 to six).

It’s hard to argue against the model on any of those three sports. The Canadian figure skating program is in rebuilding mode after the post-2018 retirements of several stars, while no Canadian luger is currently ranked in the top 10. On the bright side, Canada’s long track speed skaters are tearing it up this season. Laurent Dubreuil heads into the Olympics ranked No. 1 in the world in the men’s 500 metres after reaching the podium in all eight World Cup races so far this season, while the women’s pursuit team is also No. 1 after winning gold in all three of theirs. Ivanie Blondin leads the women’s mass start standings, while Isabelle Weidemann tops the women’s long distances category. Ted-Jan Bloemen, who won Olympic gold and silver in the two longest men’s races in 2018, remains a solid contender. The projections also call for four medals by Canadian short track speed skaters — just one less than their haul from 2018.

The model also sees Canada taking six medals in freestyle skiing: a repeat gold for moguls GOAT Mikaël Kingsbury, three silver or bronze in the halfpipe and another two in ski cross. Plus, three more in snowboarding — sort of a sister sport to freestyle skiing. So if you’re looking to catch a Canadian medal performance this February, your best bet is to focus on the freestyle skiing and snowboarding hills and the long- and short-track speed skating ovals. According to the model, 19 of Canada’s 23 medals will come from those sports.

Gracenote says: Canada will win seven gold medals

Three of them are in long track: Dubreuil in the men’s 500m, Blondin in the mass start, and the women’s team pursuit. As mentioned, the model likes Kingsbury to go back-to-back in men’s moguls, plus snowboarder Max Parrot to win the men’s big air and both hockey teams to capture gold.

One caveat for the hockey: these projections came out just before NHL players withdrew. Canada’s replacement roster will still be capable of capturing gold (it took bronze in 2018), but defending champion Russia is now the betting favourite to win the men’s tournament.

If Canada does end up with seven gold, that would be four fewer than in 2018 and the country’s lowest haul since it captured seven in 2006.

Gracenote says: Canada will fail to win a medal in curling

Outrageous! But don’t forget, Canada missed the podium in both the men’s and women’s events in 2018. A gold medal by Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris in the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles tournament softened the blow, but the four-player disasters put a major dent in Canada’s reputation as the world’s dominant curling country. Worse, it seemed like we sent our best. Kevin Koe, who lost the men’s bronze game, and Rachel Homan, who missed the women’s playoffs altogether, both had excellent track records and appeared to be at the top of their game before flopping in Korea. Events since then haven’t exactly restored the country’s lustre: it’s been four years since Canada’s last world title.

Having said all that, it’s tough to imagine six-time Scotties winner Jennifer Jones and three-time Brier champ Brad Gushue, each of whom already owns an Olympic gold medal, both getting shut out in China. Canada’s entry in the mixed doubles event should also be strong. A somewhat mysterious group of officials are still hashing out who gets to go after last week’s trials were cancelled, but their options include the big-name duos of Homan and Morris, and Kerri Einarson and Brad Jacobs. So, if anyone at Gracenote would like to back their model and place an even-money bet on Canada missing the podium in all three curling events, please do get in touch immediately.

Some other things to consider:

On one hand, Canada’s high vaccination rate and general tendency toward caution might help its chances of keeping its athletes out of COVID-19 protocol and in the game in Beijing. On the other, the aggressive tightening of restrictions in many parts of the country could pose a challenge. For example, Ontario announced yesterday that it’s closing all gyms and indoor sports facilities. There’s an exemption for professional athletes and those training for the Olympics or Paralympics, but the current conditions certainly aren’t making it easier for Canadians to prepare for the Games. Contrast this to the experience of American athletes, who seem at times to be living in a completely different world than we are here.

For more on what we know and don’t know just a month from the opening ceremony in Beijing, read this story by CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter.

Olympic curling is a family affair for both Team Jones and Team Gushue

While these teams are both headed back to another Olympics, it means something a little different the second time around. 2:51

Quickly…

Novak Djokovic was cleared to compete at the Australian Open. After months of uncertainty about whether he’d be allowed to participate, the world’s most dominant tennis player received a medical exemption from the vaccination requirement for the Jan. 17-30 Grand Slam event. Djokovic, who has refused to say whether he’s vaxxed (pretty safe to assume he is not), won the first three Slams last year, including the Australian Open, to match the all-time men’s singles record of 20 shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The 34-year-old owns a record nine Aussie Open men’s trophies, so there’s a good chance he surpasses them here. Before he got the exemption, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup, which started last weekend in Sydney. Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov came through with a doubles win today to beat Great Britain and keep their team in the hunt for a semifinal berth.

Tomorrow night’s Connor McDavid-Auston Matthews showdown might not happen. The NHL’s reigning points and goals champions are both uncertain for Wednesday’s Oilers vs. Leafs game after testing positive for COVID-19. Matthews’ rapid test came back positive yesterday, but his PCR today was negative and the Leafs are awaiting further results before making a decision. McDavid tested positive today, but will try again tomorrow in hopes of being cleared. Read more about this and follow the latest updates from around the sports world in CBC Sports’ daily COVID-19 roundup.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Here’s what you can live-stream Wednesday on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem:

Beach volleyball — King of the Court tournament: In this version of the sport, five teams play each other at the same time. After each rally, the team that lost it leaves the court and another one comes off the sideline. Read all the rules here. Watch live matches from Doha starting at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Alpine skiing: Watch a World Cup men’s slalom race in Croatia starting at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Freestyle skiing: Watch a World Cup aerials event in Quebec at 2 p.m. ET.

You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

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Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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