Olympic Odyssey: Week two of the Tokyo Games

Olympic Games at the Panathenaic Kallimarmaro Stadium

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

by Mike Brock

Are you not entertained?!?!? An 18-year old Tunisian with the outside smoke swim to win the 400-metre freestyle. A Norwegian leaving everything on the course to win the gruelling men’s triathlon. Penny, Maggie and the pool party.  The results are all there in the history books, but it’s the hearts and souls behind the numbers that you are going to remember.  And the best part is, we’re only halfway there.  Here is what you can look for in the second week of the Tokyo Olympics.

Thursday, July 29

Gymnastics is a classic Olympic sport. It may not get a lot of attention most of the time, but every four years the athletes amaze, inspire and entertain. Simone Biles, the American superstar who was just recognized with her own Olympic GOAT emoji, will be the odds on favourite, but Canada has a contender too. This country has had a few stars in the gymnastics world, but they have never had a star like Ellie Black. In Rio, she was fifth in the all-around competition, and a year later, she became the first ever Canadian to win an all-around medal at the World Championships. Look for her to fly in the final.

The men tee off for the first round of the Olympic golf tournament. Canadians Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes are fresh off of great performances at this year’s British Open, but they’ve been shooting low all year on the PGA Tour. There’s more than a good chance that either of these men can contend for a medal.

Everyone has an idea of what rugby looks like, but Rugby 7s is a version of the sport that fewer are familiar with. The athletes are fast, tough, strong, skilled and the format promotes intensity and is built for an audience. Seven minutes per half. Seven players a side. This is a fast sport, and Canada is actually very good at it. The women’s tournament gets underway today, and the Canadian team, winners of the bronze in Rio, are one of the medal favourites. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.

The Canadian swim team could have a very big day today. The 4 x 200-metre final runs today. In Rio, Canada earned a bronze medal. They’ve got a good shot reach the podium again. Penny Oleksiak will be part of the effort, as will Summer McIntosh to the roster. Both swimmers will also have individual events today. Oleksiak will be looking to defend her 100-metre gold from Rio, while the youngster McIntosh will swim the heats of the 800-metre freestyle. 

Friday, July 30

Athletics, arguably the biggest draw of the Olympic Games, gets underway today. Mohammed Ahmaed is the 4th ranked 10,000 metre runner in the world, so he has a legitimate shot at the podium. Eight hundred-metre veteran Melissa Bishop-Nriagu has been at the top of the international field for years, and presents another solid medal chance.

As the track stars take centre stage, the swim meet finishes up over the next few days. One of the most inspirational stories  under the Canadian flag is the return of Brent Hayden. He swims the heats in the 50-metre freestyle. Don’t hold your breath (most of the swimmers won’t for the whole race). It will last just over 20 seconds, but will be as dramatic as they come. The favourite will probably be Caleb Dressel of the USA. The 100-metre freestyle champ, and all-time leading Summer Olympic medallist from Canada, Penny Oleksiak, will be joined by training partner, and relay medallist Kayla Sanchez.

And, finally, trampolinist Rosie MacLennan starts her quest to become the first Canadian to win the gold medal in the same event three Games in a row.

Saturday, July 31

Andre De Grasse has been consistently one of the fastest humans on the planet for half a decade now, and he’ll see if he can add an Olympic gold medal to his collection of hardware. First round of the 100-metre is today.

Jen Abel finished a heartbreaking fourth in both the individual and synchro 3m competitions at the 2016 Games. She won the silver on Day 2 of this year’s Games in the synchro, and today she’ll try to match that in the individual 3m.

There is a more than decent chance that the rugby women will be playing for a medal today. They won a bronze in Rio.

While she’s had more success in the 100-metre, Kylie Masse had a great swim in the 200-metre at Canadian trials, and will be looking to compete with the world’s best in the longer event.

A new event in the sport of triathlon, the relay, makes its debut at the Olympics today. Four athletes from each team, two females and two males each complete a 300-metre swim, a 6.8km bike and a 2km run. Canada should finish in the Top 10.

Sunday, August 1

On the gymnastics schedule, Shallon Olsen is hoping for a medal in the vault. She was a world silver medalist in the discipline in 2018. 

On the track, the 100 metre final could see two Canadians contend. Andre De Grasse would love to share the podium with Aaron Brown. Brown is one of only four Canadian men to go under 10 seconds.

It’s the final day for the swimmers. The women’s 4 x 100-metre medley relay will likely contend for a medal with Masse swimming backstroke, Tokyo gold medalist swimming butterfly and Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak swimming the anchor freestyle leg. Sydney Pickrem, who is a world medalist in her own right, to swim the breaststroke portion. Hopefully, Brent Hayden will be in the final of the 50-metre freestyle, too.

Monday, August 2

The leader of the Canadian gymnastics team, Ellie Black, qualified for the individual final on the floor, and while she may have a tough time dethroning Simone Biles, there’s a good chance she could reach the podium.

The quarter finals of the beach volleyball tournament take place today. A real possibility for both of Canada’s women’s teams to be in the mix.

Tuesday, August 3

Even in a discipline that is dominated by African nations, Mohammed Ahmed has already established himself as a world class distance runner, and he’s soon to be joined on that list be Toronto’s Justyn Knight. Knight, a recently graduated star at Syracuse University, is quickly making a name for himself. He is the second fastest 5,000-metre runner in North American history, behind only Ahmed. They both race the event in Tokyo.

In a race that is only four percent of that distance, De Grasse and Brown will both be on the starting lines for the heats of the 200-metre sprint, an event that saw De Grasse win a silver in Rio.

In the individual jumping event, Mario Deslauriers, with his horse Bardolina 2, will make his third Olympic appearance. While there was a good chance that his daughter Lucy was going to represent the USA in this event, he will be competing against another famous person’s daughter. Jessica Springsteen (yes, Bruce’s daughter) will also be competing in this event.

If you are a fan of Spiderman, you will want to tune into the sport climbing event. Sean McColl and Alannag Yip will represent Canada.

Wednesday, August 4

It might be the truest test of athletics, and Canada has one of the best ever to do it. Decathlete Damian Warner was 5th in London and third in Rio, and recently achieved the fourth highest score of all-time. He is definitely one of the favourite to win the event. He’ll be joined by Pierce LePage, who has an outside shot at the podium.

Meaghan Benfeito, who lost most of her possessions, including her three Olympic medals, in a fire this past year is a medal contender in the 10 metre platform diving event.

Canada’s greatest golfer of all time, Brooke Henderson, will begin play in her second Olympics. At 23-years old, she’s already a 10-time winner on the LPGA Tour and is currently the 7th ranked golfer in the world. She’ll be joined by PGA veteran Alena Sharp.

Women’s sport climbing makes its debut at the Olympics. Canada’s Allanah Yip will do her best to reach the top…of the podium