I got my first journalism job during the 2014 Winter Olympics. My friend Nate and I prepared daily updates on Canadians competing in Sochi for our middle school’s morning announcements. We hardly did school for two weeks as the games took our school – and the country – by storm. I fondly remember us convincing my eighth grade math teacher Mr. Gautreau to let us stay late after school to watch the women’s hockey gold medal game.
It was a good thing he let us stay.
Down 2-1 to the United States and desperate to score, Canada pulled goaltender Shannon Szabados from net with just over 90 seconds left in regulation. Marie-Philip Poulin leveled the score at 2-2 with only 55 seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime. Later in overtime, Poulin found the back of the net again to lift Canada to its fourth straight Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey.
I haven’t forgotten moments like that. I still remember Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in 2010 and Jon Montgomery’s memorable victory walk with fans in Vancouver. Both the Canadian men and women taking gold in curling in 2014. Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse speeding to another gold medal in the two-woman bobsleigh.
If you haven’t caught wind that the 2022 Winter Olympics are less than a week away from starting, I’m here to catch you up before the opening ceremony on Feb. 4. Psst… there are actually events starting before the opening ceremony too! Athletes and coaches have been arriving in China over the past week, as host city Beijing is under the strictest of strict COVID-19 protocols.
“Why haven’t I heard about these Olympics?”
It’s a good question. There are a few reasons why I think Olympic hype is down this year. First, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics wrapped up less than six months ago after being delayed more than a year. We’ve become accustomed to a longer gap between the games.
Second, due to the strict COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing, there are less media members covering the games in-person. American broadcaster NBC isn’t sending any announcers to the games and CBC is doing things mostly remotely as well.
Finally, and the number one reason I think we’re hearing less about these games than Olympics in the past, is the diplomatic boycott. Diplomatic boycott, you ask? Yes, there is a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022 which includes Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and several other countries.
Without getting into the weeds of potential human rights violations and accusations, this means the boycotting nations aren’t sending government representatives to China. At a typical Olympics, countries send diplomats to represent their nation and take part in meetings with other countries. While this doesn’t affect the athletes competing, I do believe it means boycotting countries are less likely to help build up the hype and excitement at home for the games.
But the Olympics are happening – the most spectacular sporting spectacle of them all! And I can’t wait.
What to watch for
New events at Beijing 2022 include women’s monobob bobsleigh, mixed team relay short track speed skating and women’s and men’s big air freestyle skiing.
Only women will be competing in monobob, where one athlete pushes the sled and hops in to steer. A unique twist for this bobsleigh event is that the sled is standardized. All athletes will use the same one – other than the paint job representing their country’s colours.
The team events show us which country is the best in the world at particular sports. They’re all structured slightly differently, but most include male and female athletes. A favourite of mine when it comes to the mixed events is mixed doubles curling. Defending Olympic gold medalist John Morris and new teammate Rachel Homan will be sweeping to add to Canada’s medal tally.
There’s so much more to keep track of, in terms of Canadian athletes. Some storylines: Can the Canadian women reclaim gold in hockey after they took silver in 2018? Can snowboarder Mark McMorris, the all-time leader in winter X Games medals, claim his first Olympic gold?
Which heroes will emerge? Who haven’t we heard of among Canada’s 215 athletes attending the games? There will almost certainly be one, maybe more, relatively unknown Canadian elevated to legendary status over the course of the games.
What will you be watching for over the next several weeks? Watch for weekly columns from me highlighting the top Canadian performances and storylines as the world watches 3,000 of the highest performing athletes on the face of the earth.