Olympic Odyssey: Final stretch in the Tokyo Games

Brooke Henderson Shutterstock

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week marks the sixth installment of Olympic Odyssey by Mike Brock, an Olympics television producer for the CBC, a special for Expositor readers. 

by Mike Brock

The home stretch, the bell lap, the anchor leg, the fourth quarter. That’s where we’re at with the Tokyo Games. The good news, though, is that the next Olympics are taking place in six months when the Winter Sports take over Beijing, China and the surrounding area. The next Summer Olympics are only two years and 11 months away! They’ll take place in Paris, France. But let’s get back to Tokyo, and check out what you should be checking out over these last few days.

Thursday, August 5

There’s a good chance that you think skateboarding is a sport for kids. The “Danish Destroyer” would disagree. Rune Glifberg is a 46-year-old skateboarder who was already in his 30s when most of his competitors were born. He competed in the very first X-Games in 1995, and will drop in on the first ever Olympic Skateboard Park competition. 

From one of the newest sports, to one of the oldest. Modern pentathlon is a sport that was based on military skills: fencing, equestrian, swimming, running and pistol shooting. It may not be a sport that a lot of people have even heard of, but it has been a part of the Olympic program every Games since 1912. 

Karate will make its first appearance at the Olympic Games, but it may be its last. While added to the program for the Tokyo Olympics, in part because Japan is the birthplace of the martial art, Karate is not on the program for Paris in 2024. 

Canadian veteran diver, and three-time Olympic medallist Meaghan Benfeito will try to add to her medal collection when she climbs the 10-metre tower.

Friday, August 6

It was 25 years ago this week that I sat in Aunt Vi Vincent’s living room on Robinson Street in Little Current and watched Donovan Bailey anchor the 4 x 100-metre relay to a gold medal. It was exactly one week earlier that Bailey had set a new World Record in the individual 100-metre race. This time around, it’s Andre De Grasse as the poster boy for Canadian sprinting, and there’s a shot that he can lead the squad to another podium finish.

There are 49.6 kilometres between Little Current and Espanola. Evan Dunfee, the guy from those Kraft Dinner commercials? He can walk it in under four hours. Dunfee, who finished just off the podium in Rio, is back for another shot at a medal in the 50km racewalk. The race will be one of the most gruelling events of the Olympics, and has been moved outside of Tokyo, to Sapporo, in order to combat the heat.

Beach volleyball medals will be awarded today. The women’s team of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes went undefeated in the preliminary round, and Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson weren’t that far behind. There’s a good chance that at least one of these duos will be around when the hardware is handed out.

Saturday, August 7

Meaghan Benfeito Shutterstock

There are thousands of kayakers paddling off the shores of Manitoulin every summer, but most of them aren’t in any hurry to get somewhere. Well, Mark de Jonge is looking to get to the finish line of the 500-metre as fast as possible. He won bronze in London, and came 7th in Rio. Heats start on August 3, but at age 37, he’s hoping to still be in the hunt for a medal today.

The fourth and final round of the women’s golf tournament tees off today. Canada’s Brooke Henderson is definitely a pre-tournament favourite, and if she’s anywhere near the leaderboard by the time Saturday comes around, look for her to challenge for a medal.  

Since professional players were first allowed to play in the Olympic Games in 1992, the Americans have won six of seven gold medals (Argentina won in 2004.) A few pre-tournament losses made headlines, but don’t bet against the red, white and blue being on top of the podium again.

Sunday, August 8

For the first time ever, Canada will enter three men into the Olympic Marathon. Cameron Levins is the current Canadian record holder, and was an NCAA champion in the 5,000-metres. Ben Preisner didn’t run his first marathon until December 2020, but in his first attempt, he ran the 5th fastest time ever by a Canadian. Trevor Hofbauer is the third Canadian marathoner, having qualified at the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. 

Anything can happen in sports, and that’s why they “play the games,” but it would be surprising if the American women aren’t competing for the gold medal today. Spain has separated themselves from the field, so perhaps the Spaniards can give the US a run for their money.

The American women have exerted a similar dominance in the sport of basketball over the last few decades. The US have won eight of the last nine gold medals. Look for them to dominate again. Canada had a slow start to the tournament, but there’s still a chance that they could go on a run, and make it to the medal round.

And, finally, at the end of the day—or first thing in the morning Manitoulin time—the closing ceremony. It will be another spectacle, and likely a celebration of a Games that unfolded like no other before them. And, unlike the opening ceremony, when each country walks in under their own flag, the closing ceremony sees the athletes parade into the stadium together. As one. Not separated by geography, or politics, but connected by sport. And that’s really what it’s all about.

Next week, I’ll look back at some of the most memorable moments from Tokyo 2020.