2022 Winter Olympics Preview – Week 1

BEIJING, CHINA, JANUARY 1, 2022: Background for winter olympic game in Beijing, China, 2022. Red pictogram of all sports in background

by Mike Brock

Special Correspondent to The Manitoulin Expositor

BEIJING – While most of us have had a pretty fluid relationship with time for these last two years, the world’s greatest winter athletes have been ticking along just fine. Despite the twists and turns that life has thrown us all, the Olympians have arrived in Beijing right on time, and are ready to take the next few weeks to realize their dreams. And you can tag along for the ride. 

One of the greatest things about being a sports fan during the Olympics is the opportunity to immerse yourself as deeply in the experience as you’d like and in Canada, we’ve been lucky to have broadcasters and storytellers who understand that.  

Are you going to watch every second of every sport? Are you going to try and learn about a sport that’s new to you? Are you going to have it on in the background every waking hour, no matter the sport?  Are you going to stay up ridiculously late? Or, are you going to be setting your alarm ridiculously early?

There are many storylines, but we are going to focus on the drama, the competition and the excellence provided by the athletes, because well…it’s sports, and you just can’t write this stuff.

However you decide to connect with the Beijing Winter Olympics, here are some of the big stories for Canadians can look out for over the next week or so.  

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The times listed here are pretty solid, but things can change, please check cbc.ca/sports/Olympics for the latest schedules, and where to watch.

Thursday, February 3

There are actually a few competitions—as there are at every Olympics—that get underway before the opening ceremonies start, and one of them will be right on the button for Canadians: mixed doubles curling. Let’s go! John Morris won the very first mixed doubles gold medal in Pyeongchang with Kaitlyn Lawes. This time around, he’ll be sliding with Rachel Homan, the 2017 World Champion. Their first two matches of the tournament go today. 

• Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:35 pm (ET)

• Canada vs. China, 12:35 am (ET) (Saturday).

For the water cooler:  John Morris was the skip of the Ontario Junior Championship team in 1997. His lead on that team? Mark Homan. Rachel’s older brother.

Friday, February 4

If you are of the celebratory or ceremonial ilk, then you are going to want to set your alarm on Thursday night.  The opening ceremony from Beijing will get going bright and early Friday morning. In the age of COVID, there will be no foreign fans, and perhaps only a few local fans and volunteers in the stands. While the organizing committee has promised a “simple, safe and splendid” ceremony, the last time the Olympics were in Beijing (2008) it was reported that more than $100 million was spent on the opening ceremony, so it should be a good show.  Get up, and get fired up! And, then, get ready for the drop of the puck on the women’s hockey tournament later (much later) on Friday.

• 6:30 am (ET) opening ceremony

• 11:10 pm (ET) hockey (W), Canada vs. Finland

Impress your friends, and say something like: “I remember the exact day the last time they opened the Olympics in Beijing.” 

(It was 08/08/08.  The number 8 is a symbol of luck and wealth in Chinese culture.)

Saturday, February 5

If you’re a fan of Women’s ski jumping, well this is the day for you. The only individual women’s ski jumping event takes place today. Canada’s chances at a podium finish are slim in that event, but some of Canada’s most dominant winter athletes of the last decade are also up today.  Mikaël Kingsbury and the freestyle mogul skiers will be bumping and jumping for medals this day.  

There are a couple of speed skating events handing out medals today, as well.  On the short track, the mixed relay will fire up. Two male skaters and two female skaters on each team alternating laps over 2,000 metres.  While Canada is only ranked 5th in this event heading into the Games, look for them to challenge for a medal.

On the big oval, the women will be competing in the 3,000m. Canadian team leader Ivanie Blondin will be competing, as will Isabelle Wiedemann who is currently ranked first in the world in both the 3,000m and 5,000m events.

If you’re into “shredding the gnar” the snowboard slopestylers will be sliding today. The men, including Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant and Mark McMorris will have two qualification runs, while the women will be competing for medals.  Laurie Blouin will be Canada’s best bet again this time around. In 2018, she battled back after a hard training crash to win the silver. 

• 1:05 am (ET) curling (mixed), Sweden vs. Canada

• 3:30 am (ET), speed skating (W), 3,000m

• 6:35 am (ET), ski jumping (W), normal hill final

• 7:05 am (ET), curling (mixed), USA vs. Canada

• 7:40 am (ET), freestyle skiing (M), moguls 

• 8:26 am (ET), short track mixed team relay

• 9:24pm (ET), snowboard (W), slopestyle final

Sunday, February 6

The marquee Alpine event takes place today with the Men’s downhill from Yanqing National Alpine Centre.  Broderick Thompson leads the young Canadian squad in what is always an exciting event.  Women’s freestyle moguls skiers also go for gold today.  Canada’s Dufour-Lapointe sisters are back at it again. Justine Dufour-Lapointe won gold in Sochi and silver in Pyeongchang. Her sister, Chloe, who happened to pick up the silver in 2014 right behind Justine, will be competing in her fourth Olympic Games.  

The breakthrough athlete for the Canadian men’s speed skating team four years ago was Ted-Jan Bloemen and he will be in the spotlight for the 5,000m today.  He won silver in Pyeongchang to go along with his gold in the 10000, and has been one of the most dominant forces on the men’s circuit since transferring to the Canadian team after starting his career with the Dutch.

• 1:05 am (ET), curling (mixed), Canada vs. Czech Republic

• 3:30 am (ET), speed skating (M), 5,000m final

• 7 am (ET), ski jumping (M), normal hill final

• 7:05 am (ET), curling (mixed), Canada vs. Australia

• 7:40 am (ET), freestyle skiing (W), moguls 

Monday, February 7

While the big event on the docket this day will be the USA/Canada Women’s Hockey preliminary round showdown, the fastest women on the ice will be at the short track venue. Canadian Kim Boutin won three medals in Pyeongchang and she hasn’t slowed down since.  Look for her to be in the thick of the final for the 500m. On the men’s side, Canada’s most decorated male Winter Olympian looks to win his first medal in the 1,000 metre race: Charles Hamelin, who has won three gold, one silver and  one bronze over the last four Olympics.  

Freestyle skiing has a new discipline making its debut at these Games. The freeski big air event is not for the faint of heart, but if you want to see athletes strapped to a snowboard hucking themselves as high and as twisted as humanly possible, then this is for you.  Canada has some real chances at success in this event.  On the women’s side, Elena Gaskell is a former Crystal Globe winner, and finished 6th at the recent X Games.  Megan Oldham was 2nd at the X Games, while 17-year old Olivia Asselin finished 3rd at the X Games.  

The men’s figure skating event taps in.  Canada’s hopes rest with Keegan Messing, who has solidified himself as a Top 10 skater for the last 5 years.  If you’re looking for a Manitoulin connection, frequent Island visitor Jason Brown will be competing for the United States.

Medals will also be handed out in the Figure Skating team event and the Women’s 15km Biathlon.

• 12 am (ET), snowboarding (M), slopestyle final

• 3:30 am (ET), speed skating (W), 1,500m final

• 7:51 am (ET), ski jumping (mixed), final

• 8:15 pm (ET), figure skating (M), short program

• 9 pm (ET), freestyle skiing (W), freeski big air final

• 11:10 pm (ET), hockey (W), USA vs. Canada

Track Trivia:  

Q: Who is the only Canadian male with more Olympic medals than Charles Hamelin? 

A: With a medal in Beijing, Hamelin would tie sprinter Andre de Grasse at 6.

Tuesday, February 8

If all goes well, John Morris and Rachel Homan will have survived the mixed doubles curling tournament gauntlet and are in a medal match today. 

On the speed skating oval, Canadian Connor Howe is ranked third in the world at the 1,500m distance and hopes to turn that into some Olympic hardware.  

The men’s freeski big air final flies this evening. Canada will be led by Teal Harle (third at X Games) and Edouard Therriault (fourth at X Games).

• 1:05 am (ET), curling (mixed), bronze medal

• 5:30 am (ET), speed skating (M), 1,500m final

• 10 pm (ET), freestyle skiing (M), freeski big air final

• 7:05 am (ET), curling (mixed), gold medal

Wednesday, February 9

Brad Gushue’s squad gets underway with their first curling match against Denmark. Gushue won the gold at Turin in 2006 will be joined by his long-time partners Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker.

While Canadians haven’t had a dominant skier in a skill event on the World Cup for years, there is some hope. Laurence St-Germain was 6th at the most recent World Championship in the Slalom discipline and hopes to carve a place on the Olympic podium. She’ll have to get down faster than American icon, Mikaela Shiffrin and current World Cup leader Petra Vlhova from Slovakia.

The “downhill roller derby” takes place today, in the form of the snowboard cross. Zoe Bergermann, Tess Critchlow, Audrery McManiman and Meryeta O’Dine will have their elbows high and legs pumping for Canada.

Doubles lugers Tristan Walker and Justin Snith anchored the Canadian team relay to a silver in PyeongChang and hope to challenge for another medal.

• 1:45 am (ET), Alpine (W), salom

• 7:20 am (ET), luge (M), doubles

• 8:20 am (ET), short track (M), 1,500m final

• 2:07 am (ET), snowboard (W), snowboard cross QF

Lots here to look forward to this week, and this is just scratching the surface!  Next week, the men’s hockey and curling tournaments pick up steam and Canada should make their presence known on the Bobsleigh track.  It should be a lot of fun.  Enjoy the Olympics, everyone, and GO CANADA!