Team Canada, Cycling, Women’s Team Pursuit, Gold Medal Final: August 13
The women’s team pursuit has been one to watch on the international circuit since the event made its Olympic debut at London 2012 where Canada captured bronze. Canada has made the podium at every world championship since 2012—previously winning one silver and three bronze medals—as well as winning gold in women’s team pursuit at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
A member of Canada’s bronze-medal winning pursuit team at the London Olympics, Jasmin Glaesser has reached the podium in the event at the last four world championships. She won four medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, including gold in team pursuit and the road race and silver in omnium and the time trial.
When the women’s event was introduced at London 2012, it was contested by teams of three over 3000m. It has since become a four-rider race over 4000m to match the men’s event.
Glaesser, whose family left Germany when she was aged eight and relocated to Seattle for a year before making their home in Vancouver, received her Canadian citizenship in 2011. She’ll focus solely on track cycling after doubling up disciplines at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games where she won gold in the road race, silver in the omnium and silver in the time trial.
The other members of the women’s pursuit team in Rio include: Vancouver natives Laura Brown and Georgia Simmerling, along with Calgary’s Allison Beveridge and Kirsti Lay of Montreal.
Scott Grant/Swimming Canada, Swimming Canada
Ryan Cochrane, Swimming (400m & 1500m Freestyle), Gold Medal Final: August 13
He doesn’t lead with a booming voice or show any hint of bravado, but make no mistake: Ryan Cochrane is the most-decorated swimmer in Canadian history, with eight world championship medals and twice reaching the Olympic podium in the 1,500-metre freestyle event—winning silver in 2012 and bronze in 2008. He is also just the second person—after Australian legend Grant Hackett—to reach the podium in the 800m and 1500m freestyle events at three straight worlds, winning a total of four silver and two bronze from 2009 to 2013.
But don’t let his quiet demeanour fool you. The Victoria native is heading to Rio brimming with confidence. Cochrane is coming off a pair of bronze medals in last year’s world championship in Kazan, Russia. The 27-year-old will swim the 400 metres on the first day of swimming at Rio and the 1,500 on the final day.
“I think everyone is beatable,” says Cochrane, the captain of the men’s team for the 2016 Summer Olympics and Canada’s male swimmer of the year eight consecutive times from 2008-2015. “I’ve been very lucky... I don’t know where I developed this line of thought from as a kid. I always appreciated all the work everyone did but I never had idols growing up. I never had a sporting idol.”
Canada’s swimming contingent has quite the gender imbalance with 19 women and only eight men named to the team.
Ottawa Citizen Jason Ransom/COC
Rosie Maclennan, Trampoline, Gold Medal Final: August 12
HOMETOWN: KING CITY, ONTario
The reigning Olympic and Pan Am Games champion is the only active female on the planet to land three triples in international competition—a feat she pulled off at the 2014 world trampoline championships in Daytona Beach, Florida. MacLennan, who’s just been named Canada’s flag-bearer, posted a personal-best to win Canada’s lone gold medal in London and was a medallist at five-straight worlds until 2015 when concussion symptoms caused dizzy spells in the air and dropped her to fourth.
The concussion troubles began for MacLennan three weeks before the Pan Am Games when she over-rotated on a jump in training. She still won gold in Toronto despite dialling back the difficulty of her routine.
Always one to focus on the positive, the King City, Ont., native is downplaying the concussion symptoms that lingered for seven trying months—cutting into her training for the Rio Olympics and forcing her to again downgrade her difficulty.
“I feel—it sounds a little silly—unleashed,” says MacLennan. “I’ve been held back for a really long time and felt limited for a really long time. I stopped feeling dizzy in the air, which is nice. I’m loving going in every day and trying these new combinations of skills and trying to perfect my base routine. I’ve really found the joy in the sport again, and for me, that’s always been the most important thing.”
Antoine Valois-Fortier, Judo (81-kg class), Gold & Bronze Medal Matches: August 9
HOMETOWN: QUEBEC CITY
At No. 3 in the world in his weight class, Valois-Fortier has come a long way since being the London Games’ Cinderella story in 2012. The Quebec native was a relative fresh face and ranked 21st in the world in his weight class on the international scene when he won a bronze medal in his Olympic debut and in doing so became the first Canadian judoka to earn an Olympic medal since Sydney 2000, where his coach Nicolas Gill was a silver medallist. It was only the fifth medal earned in Judo by a Canadian in Olympic history.
A bronze medallist at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Valois-Fortier has won six straight medals at the Pan American Championships, dating back to 2011, but he captured his first gold in 2016.
“Pride aside, I am really going to Rio to perform,” says Valois-Fortier. “I’m feeling a bit of pressure this time, but much of it comes from within. I have a great entourage and that is what gives me confidence going forward. I am in good shape and good health, which is the most important thing in my opinion.”
Team Canada, Women’s Rugby Sevens, Gold & Bronze Medal Matches: August 8
Led by captain Jen Kish—who, with her platinum blonde hair and multiple tattoos won’t be hard to spot on the field—Team Canada heads into the Rio Games ranked third in the world after placing second at the 2013 Women’s Rugby World Cup and finishing second or third in the past four Sevens Series.
Kish and several other veterans have been training for this moment since 2009, when it was first announced rugby would make a return to the Olympic Games—which was last under the rings in 1924 in the more traditional 15-aside version of the sport—while the core of the team has been together for the better part of five years.
“My ‘Aha’ moment, as I’ve heard all Olympians describe it as, is what I’m really excited about,” says Kish, an Edmonton native. “I look forward to stepping out onto the field with the 11 girls that I’ve trained for years with and realizing, ‘Wow, our dream just came true and it was all worth the sacrifices that we’ve made over the years.’ It’s been a 12-year journey and it hasn’t been an easy one. We’ve gone through so much together and I believe that stepping onto that field with my teammates will be the highlight of my Olympic experience.”
The tournament runs over three days, beginning on August 6. Canada has drawn Brazil, Great Britain and Japan in the group stage.
Ottawa Citizen Jason Ransom/COC
The Summer Olympic Games come to Rio, where, amidst political scandal and possible pandemics, Canada could be poised to climb higher than ever before
The list of potential pitfalls is staggering—from the mosquito-borne Zika virus and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the water at competition venues to rampant crime in a country buckling under the weight of a massive recession. Moreover, the Brazilian government is embroiled in a corruption scandal; President Dilma Rousseff is trying not to get herself impeached, and the next untarnished politician to emerge as her potential successor might be the first.
On the athletics sides of things, however, the picture gets considerably rosier. Early numbers give Canadians reason to hope for a strong performance at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Canada has posted 37 top-five finishes in world championships heading into Rio compared to 30 in 2012 and 20 in 2008.
And competitively, it may be the best of all recent Games for non-doping athletes, because of the Russian track and field and meldonium scandals, in which state-sponsored doping regimes and International Association of Athletics Federations corruption were exposed. Not to mention the World Anti-Doping Agency rattling its sabres at China, Kenya and, yes, Rio itself, where the Olympic laboratory only became WADA-compliant in March.
Jean-Luc Brassard, the former gold medal-winning freestyle skier who stepped down recently as the Canadian team’s chef de mission for Rio, said he thinks Canada may have its best ever Summer Olympics performance.
“These Olympics will be amazing, and one of the reasons is because of all these doping scandals that are going on around the world,” he said. “For one of the first times in decades, our guys will compete at an equal chance with their opponents.”
Canadian athletes won 18 medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and there’s every indication this year’s team could surpass that. The official goals are modest, with Canada striving to surpass that total of 18 and finish in the top-12 of the overall medal count. Infostrada Sports is predicting Canada will win 18 medals in Rio and finish 16th in the overall medal count.
The best chance for individual medals come in athletics, swimming, golf and boxing. Canada has five squads that qualified for the Games in team sports, matching its most ever, with beach volleyball, women’s rugby sevens and women’s soccer the best medal hopes.
Tennis star Milos Raonic—fresh off his first Grand Slam final, with a Canadian-history-making loss to Andy Murray at Wimbledon—sits atop the “bummer” list. Raonic is playing the best tennis of his life, and would have been among the medal contenders in Brazil, but announced his intention to skip the Olympics shortly after Wimbledon, citing a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus.
Raonic had been a face of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s advertising campaign in the lead-up to Rio, which weighed on him before making up his mind.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” said Raonic. “It’s still a decision I’m still struggling with, but a decision that I made and that I’ve committed to. But it’s a decision that I’m struggling, still, to accept at this point... because I want to be there. So you can’t erase that emotional factor. You want to be there.”
But enough about the no-shows! Here’s part 1 of TV Week’s profile of the top homegrown medal contenders for 2016...