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Olympic stock watch: Long live the King(sbury)
Here’s whose stock is pointing up and whose is down after another busy weekend of winter Olympics sports action:
Up: Mikaël Kingsbury
When you’re the most dominant athlete in the history of your sport, true challenges are few and far between. But Kingsbury ran into a big one a year ago when he fractured two vertebrae in his back while training for the moguls World Cup season opener in Finland. The injury caused him to miss three events, but the Canadian star roared back to win his ninth consecutive season title while adding his second straight gold medal at the world championships.
If any demons remained from that painful start to last year, Kingsbury slayed them on Saturday by winning the World Cup opener on the same course in Finland where his injury occurred. Barring another unexpected setback, he’ll be the heavy favourite to repeat as Olympic champion two months from now in Beijing.
Up: Kaillie Humphries
From 2010-2018, the most successful bobsledder in Canadian history won two Olympic gold medals, two world championships and three World Cup season titles in the two-woman event. But a bitter falling-out with the Canadian team led to Humphries suing for her release. She eventually got it and took her talents to the U.S. team (her husband is an American former bobsledder), where the star pilot has re-established herself as a top Olympic contender — in multiple events.
At this past weekend’s World Cup stop in Germany, Humphries won both the two-woman event and the women’s monobob — a new solo competition that’s making its Olympic debut this winter in Beijing. The golden double capped a wonderful (though extremely hectic) week for Humphries that saw her fly some 12,000 miles round-trip from Germany to San Diego and back to get sworn in as an American citizen, clearing the way for her to compete for the U.S. at the Olympics.
The Canadian team certainly misses Humphries’ high-end results, but it’s doing OK without her. Cynthia Appiah took silver in the monobob, losing to Humphries by just 0.06 of a second but still coming away with her first World Cup medal as a pilot. Christine De Bruin and brakewoman Kristen Bujnowski got another bronze in the two-woman. They’ve placed third in all three World Cup races this season (and at the Olympic test event in Beijing in October), putting them third in the standings — one spot ahead of Humphries’ sled.
Up: Ivanie Blondin
Canadian speed skaters captured two gold medals at this weekend’s World Cup stop in Salt Lake City, and Blondin had a hand in both of them. Individually, she won the women’s mass start, and she also teamed with Isabelle Weidemann and Valerie Maltais to take the women’s team pursuit. Canada is now ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings in the pursuit, and Blondin is atop the mass start.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Laurent Dubreuil continued to roll along, winning another pair of bronze medals in the men’s 500 metres. The reigning world champion has reached the podium in all six of his races at that distance this season (including one gold), and is No. 1 in the World Cup standings. The season continues this week in Calgary, where races begin Friday.
Down: Canada’s big air skiers and snowboarders
Canada is rich in talent in this sport, which involves athletes launching themselves off a giant ramp to perform aerial tricks. That’s especially true in the snowboard version, where the reigning men’s and women’s world champions (Mark McMorris and Laurie Blouin) and the reigning men’s Olympic champ (Seb Toutant) are all Canadian.
However, Canada came away empty-handed from the second and final World Cup event of the season, failing to win a medal in any of the four snowboard and ski events in Colorado. Max Parrot (a silver medallist at the 2021 worlds) and Elena Gaskell came the closest, finishing fourth in the men’s snowboard and women’s ski events, respectively. We’ll see these athletes again before the Olympics at the Winter X Games in January.
Up: Sofia Goggia
Alberta’s Lake Louise hosted the first three women’s alpine skiing “speed” races of the season, and the reigning Olympic downhill champion took them all. Goggia, a 29-year-old Italian, won back-to-back downhills and a super-G to join Lindsey Vonn and Katja Seizinger as the only women to pull off the Lake Louise sweep.
Up: Canada’s Para nordic skiers
Three months out from the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, Canadian athletes opened their season by racking up seven medals over the weekend at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup event in Canmore, Alta. Seventeen-time Paralympic medallist Brian McKeever and 20-year-old Natalie Wilkie, who won three medals at her Paralympic debut in 2018, led the way with a pair of gold medals each. Read more about the Canadian team’s medal haul here and watch the standing cross-country sprint and sitting cross-country sprint events live Tuesday at noon ET and 2 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
The United States will stage a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. That means U.S. athletes can still compete, but no government officials/dignitaries will attend. The move is being made to protest China’s alleged human rights abuses. American athletes will “have our full support,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, but “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.” The Chinese government has called the idea of a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics “grandstanding” and an “outright political provocation” and promised “firm countermeasures.” It’s unclear whether other countries will join the U.S. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not signalled support for a boycott. Read more about the Biden administration’s move here.
The Grey Cup matchup is set. It’s a rematch of the last CFL title game — played in 2019, before the pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 season. Winnipeg beat Hamilton in that one, snapping its 29-year championship drought, and is now a 4.5-point favourite to repeat. The Blue Bombers dominated the regular season, going a league-best 11-3, before holding off rival Saskatchewan 21-17 in yesterday’s West final despite turning the ball over six times. Hamilton rallied to beat Toronto 27-19 in the East final after backup QB Dane Evans came off the bench to complete all 16 of his passes and rush for a pair of fourth-quarter TDs. The Tiger-Cats will have homefield advantage for next Sunday’s game, which is being played at their stadium. Hamilton’s last Grey Cup victory came 22 years ago — the CFL’s longest active drought. Oh, and spare a thought for football fans in the Land of the Living Skies. The day before the Riders lost, the University of Saskatchewan fell to Western in the Vanier Cup game.
The reigning Brier champions broke up. After their disappointing performance at the Canadian Olympic trials, where they went 3-5 and missed the playoffs, Brendan Bottcher’s team announced Friday night on Twitter that vice-skip Darren Moulding was “taking time away from the game for personal reasons.” The wording upset Moulding, who made it clear on Twitter that he intends to keep playing and resents the insinuation that he might be dealing with a mental-health issue or some crisis in his private life. “Complete BS,” is how he described the statement. Bottcher apologized for the phrasing during a conference call with reporters on Sunday and clarified that the unusual mid-season breakup was caused by a loss of “chemistry” on the team. Moulding suggested an unequal split of prize money played a role in that. The foursome of Bottcher, Moulding, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin reached the last four Brier finals, losing three before finally winning last March. The remaining three members and a TBD teammate will defend their title as Team Canada in March. Read more about the breakup and watch a special edition of CBC Sports’ That Curling Show featuring Bottcher and Moulding each giving their sides of the story here.
Bianca Andreescu is taking some extra time off. Citing a desire to “re-set, recover and grow” from a “very challenging” last two years, the Canadian tennis player announced on Twitter today that she won’t play in the 2022 season-opening events in Australia, which include the Australian Open in January. Andreescu mentioned her grandmother’s battle with COVID-19 and her own experiences quarantining in isolation among the challenges that affected her “both mentally and physically.”
NHL teams are getting restless. A week after the Montreal Canadiens fired general manager Marc Bergevin and some other executives below him on the org chart, the struggling Vancouver Canucks conducted an even deeper housecleaning yesterday, dismissing GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. They were replaced, respectively, by Stan Smyl (on an interim basis) and the oft-recycled Bruce Boudreau. Those men take over a Canucks team that sits last in the Pacific Division with a 8-15-2 record. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers lost patience amid an eight-game losing streak, firing head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant Michel Therrien.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.