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.
Olympic stock watch: Brads up, Scotties finalists down
This past weekend was the first really busy one of the winter Olympic sports season. The Canadian curling trials got underway, the Grand Prix of Figure Skating staged its second-last event before the Final, the long and short track World Cup seasons continued, and the sliding sports pushed off their 2021-22 campaigns. Here’s whose stock is pointing up and whose is down coming out of the weekend:
Up: Curlers named Brad
Former Olympic gold medal-winning skips Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs came into the Canadian curling trials as favourites to meet in the final for a trip to the Beijing Games. So far, so good for the Brads: they’re tied atop the men’s standings in Saskatoon after both going 2-0 on opening weekend. Gushue’s wins were more impressive: he beat 2017 trials winner and four-time Brier champion Kevin Koe and reigning Brier champ Brendan Bottcher. Jacobs defeated John Epping and Matt Dunstone, neither of whom has reached a Brier final. Bottcher is a surprising 0-2 after also losing to 23-year-old trials rookie Tanner Horgan.
The lone men’s draw today started at 3 p.m. ET. Gushue was squaring off with Epping while Jacobs looked to put Bottcher in an 0-3 hole. Check the live scoreboard here.
Down: Kerri Einarson and Rachel Homan
The women’s trials, meanwhile, are not going according to plan. Many fans expected to see Einarson and Homan squaring off in the final this Sunday after they met in the last two Scotties title games. But the star skips have some rallying to do after going a combined 1-4 on opening weekend. Homan’s situation is especially urgent. She’s 0-2 after losing to Jacqueline Harrison and Krista McCarville — both long shots to win this event.
The other two skips considered strong contenders to win the women’s trials are doing a lot better. 2014 Olympic champion Jennifer Jones tops the standings at 3-0 after defeating Harrison, McCarville and Laura Walker. Pre-event betting favourite Tracy Fleury is right behind at 2-0 after beating Einarson and Kelsey Rocque.
The women are back on the ice tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Jones plays Casey Scheidegger (2-1), Fleury faces McCarville (1-2), Homan meets Rocque (0-2), and Einarson takes on Walker (1-2). Harrison has the bye in this draw, but watch out for her going forward. She’s 2-1 despite facing a murderer’s row so far of Homan, Einarson and Jones.
Up: Laurent Dubreuil
Canada’s long track speed skaters are off to a strong start to the season, and Dubreuil is leading the way. The reigning world champion in the men’s 500 metres has reached the podium in all four races at that distance so far, including a gold on Saturday in Norway. Dubreuil followed up his first World Cup individual victory in four seasons by adding a silver in Sunday’s 500m race. He captured a pair of silvers at the World Cup opener in Poland the previous week and now leads the men’s 500m standings.
Canada’s other individual medal winners this weekend were Isabelle Weidemann (silver in the women’s 5,000m) and Ted-Jan Bloemen (bronze in the men’s 10,000). Maddison Pearman, Alexa Scott and Ivanie Blondin took silver in the women’s team sprint. The next World Cup stop is Dec. 3-5 in Salt Lake City, then the following week in Calgary.
Up: Pascal Dion and Kim Boutin
Dubreuil isn’t the only Canadian speed skater on an impressive winning streak. Dion captured his third consecutive medal in the short track men’s 1,000m yesterday in Hungary. The silver put him atop the World Cup rankings for that distance through three stops. Dion also took silver in the 1,500 on Saturday — his first career World Cup medal in that distance — and helped Canada win gold in the men’s relay, teaming with Charles Hamelin, Steven Dubois and Jordan Pierre-Gilles in the final.
Boutin was one of the heroes of the 2018 Canadian Olympic team in Pyeongchang, where she overcame some disturbing social-media comments from fans of a South Korean rival to capture three short track medals. That gutsy performance earned Boutin the honour of carrying the Canadian flag for the closing ceremony. But her chances of having another big Olympics this February looked dicey as she failed to reach the podium at the first two World Cups of the season.
Boutin finally broke through Saturday in Hungary, taking bronze in the women’s 500m for her first appearance on an international individual podium since she won five consecutive World Cup 500m races in 2019-20. Boutin also helped the women’s relay team capture silver — its first medal of the season.
Canada took two other medals in Hungary: a bronze by Courtney Sarault in the women’s 1,500 (her second podium of the season in this distance) and a silver in the mixed relay.
The final short track World Cup of the season is this weekend in the Netherlands. It’ll be the last chance for Canadian skaters to secure Olympic entries for their country and build their personal case for being selected to compete in Beijing.
Down: Figure skating variance
The Grand Prix stop in France was pretty predictable. Olympic ice dance favourites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won gold on home ice, with Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier taking silver to secure a spot in next month’s Grand Prix Final. Reigning world champion Anna Shcherbakova of Russia won the women’s competition, while men’s favourite Yuma Kagiyama (the silver medallist at the 2021 worlds) took gold in his event too.
Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford placed fourth in the pairs event, duplicating their result from Skate Canada International. Keegan Messing was sixth in the men’s — one spot lower than he finished at Skate Canada. Read more about the results from France and watch highlights here. Watch a full recap of the ice dance event on the latest episode of That Figure Skating Show below.
Up: Canada’s Olympic women’s bobsleigh medal hopes
When Kaillie Humphries’ dispute with the Canadian bobsleigh team resulted in her leaving to compete for the United States, it was a big blow for Canada. The ace pilot won back back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and ’14, and bronze in ’18. But don’t write off Canada’s podium chances just yet. Christine De Bruin and Kristen Bujnowski took bronze at the World Cup season opener in Austria on Sunday, and they also finished third at an Olympic test event in Beijing in October.
Canada also looks to have a couple of medal contenders in the new discipline of women’s monobob, which is making its Olympic debut in Beijing. Cynthia Appiah and Melissa Lotholz both just missed the podium Saturday, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. The race was won by American Elana Meyers Taylor, a three-time Olympic medallist as a pilot in the two-woman event, with Humphries placing second.
We know where Peng Shuai is. But other questions remained unanswered. The disappearance of the Chinese tennis player who had accused a former top government official of sexual assault had those concerned for her safety asking #WhereIsPengShuai on social media last week. Peng finally resurfaced over the weekend, speaking to International Olympic Committee officials, including president Thomas Bach, in a 30-minute video call from Beijing. “She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” the IOC said in a statement. Also, organizers of the China Open posted videos and photos of Peng appearing at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing that same day. So that’s a relief. But several other questions remain unanswered, such as: Is Peng’s freedom (now or in the future) in jeopardy? And what will be done about her sexual-assault allegation? The Women’s Tennis Association is calling for China to conduct a full, transparent investigation, “without censorship.” Meanwhile, critics of the IOC, which was already under pressure for pushing ahead with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing despite China’s alleged human-rights abuses, are accusing the organization of helping that country deliver its message. Read more about the latest on Peng and what it could mean for the Olympics here.
Three members of the Canadian women’s soccer team are up for FIFA awards. Captain Christine Sinclair, who has scored more international goals than anyone in the history of soccer, was one of the 13 nominees announced today for women’s player of the year. Steph Labbé, whose penalty shootout heroics helped the Canadian women win their first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer, was shortlisted for top goalkeeper. Bev Priestman is up for best coach. Read more about the nominees here.
The Edmonton Elks cleaned house. After finishing the season a dismal 3-11, including 0-7 at home, Edmonton today fired president and CEO Chris Presson, general manager Brock Sunderland and head coach Jaime Elizondo. CFL legend Wally Buono has been brought in to consult on the hiring of a new GM, the team said. Read more about the moves here.
We have a Tiger sighting. Close to nine months from the day he suffered catastrophic leg injuries in a single-vehicle crash in California, Tiger Woods let everyone know he can swing a golf club again. Accompanied by the words “Making progress,” Woods tweeted a three-second video showing him hitting a wedge on a practice range. He was wearing one of those compression sleeves around his right leg, which was shattered in the Feb. 23 crash. It’s still unclear when (or even if) Woods, who turns 46 on Dec. 30, will be able to play pro golf again. Read more about his recovery and watch the short video here.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.