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Final Olympic tuneups are upon us
The weekend is already off to a good start for Canada’s winter Olympic athletes. Ski cross racer Kevin Drury captured a silver medal in today’s World Cup men’s race in Alberta, while Mirela Rahneva took bronze in the World Cup skeleton season finale in Switzerland. She’ll head to Beijing ranked eighth after earning Canada’s only two medals of the season (both bronze).
Here’s what else to look out for this weekend with the Olympic opening ceremony just three weeks away and several Canadian standouts competing for the last time before Beijing:
Drury can win his second medal in as many days
Another set of men’s and women’s ski cross events is being held Saturday in Alberta. While Drury looks to keep the momentum from today’s podium performance going, other Canadian stars will try to do better. Reigning Olympic men’s champion Brady Leman and defending World Cup champ Reece Howden were both eliminated in the quarter-finals today. In the women’s event, 2014 Olympic gold medallist Marielle Thompson also lost in the quarters, while 2018 silver medallist Brittany Phelan couldn’t get past the semis.
Saturday’s races start at 2:15 p.m. ET. Then there’s one more World Cup stop before the Olympics, next week in Sweden. But Canada’s Olympic athletes are likely to skip it with their trips to Beijing so close and everybody looking to avoid COVID-19 infection right now.
Mikaël Kingsbury is on a serious roll
The Canadian moguls superstar hit a few bumps earlier this season, losing his World Cup lead to Japan’s Ikuma Horishima. But Kingsbury is back on top and riding a three-competition winning streak after beating Horishima yesterday at Utah’s Deer Valley. That was Kingsbury’s 100th career World Cup podium and 71st victory. He’s on track to capture his 10th consecutive World Cup moguls season title and is the overwhelming favourite to repeat as Olympic champion in Beijing.
Kingsbury and Horishima are battling for the last time before the Olympics today at Deer Valley. The event started at 4 p.m. ET. If you’re reading this in time, watch it live here.
Canada’s Olympic bobsleigh contenders can finish strong
The World Cup season finale is happening in Switzerland, where bobsledders have one last chance to build momentum for the Olympics. First up is the women’s monobob, which starts Saturday at 3 a.m. ET. Canada’s Christine de Bruin ranks fourth in the World Cup chase and has a pair of victories under her belt. Cynthia Appiah is two spots behind her on the strength of three podium appearances. They both look like strong medal contenders for the Olympic debut of this event, which has been delightfully unpredictable this season. A tiny number of points separates the sixth-ranked Appiah from second place, with former Canadian team star Kaillie Humphries (now racing for the U.S.) part of that mix in third. Even the leader, American Elana Meyers Taylor, could fall from her perch if she has an off day.
De Bruin is also an Olympic medal threat in the two-woman event with brakewoman Kristen Bujnowski. They’ve won four World Cup bronze medals this season, plus a third-place finish in the Olympic test event in Beijing. The Canadians rank third in the World Cup standings heading into the final race, which goes Sunday at 3 a.m. ET. Read more about how they’re preparing for the Olympics in this story by CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison.
On the men’s side, Canadian pilot Justin Kripps is a long shot to repeat the Olympic gold medal he won in the two-man event in 2018. The man he tied for the title, Germany’s Francesco Friedrich, has won six of the seven World Cup races this season. But Kripps should contend for the podium again in Beijing. He ranks third after winning three bronze medals this season. The two-man race goes Saturday at 7 a.m. ET.
Kripps also has a good shot at an Olympic medal in the four-man. He’s second in the World Cup chase after making it to the podium three times so far this season. Unfortunately, Friedrich is somehow even more dominant in this event. He’s won all seven races. The four-man goes Sunday at 7 a.m. ET.
How to watch:
Everything mentioned above is being live-streamed on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Those platforms are also carrying one of the jewels of the alpine skiing season — the World Cup men’s races on the revered Lauberhorn mountain in Wengen, Switzerland. There’s a downhill race Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET, followed by a slalom Sunday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Plus, you can stream World Cup luge, snowboard (slopestyle and halfpipe) and freestyle ski halfpipe events. See the full schedule here.
Saturday’s Road to the Olympic Games show on the CBC TV network features ski cross, moguls, snowboard slopestyle and the Lauberhorn men’s downhill. Watch it from 1-6 p.m. ET. Sunday’s show features bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 1-2 p.m. in your local time.
Alphonso Davies will miss Canada’s next three World Cup qualifying matches due to a heart issue. The soccer superstar has been diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. It was detected in the follow-up exam conducted by his club, Bayern Munich, when Davies returned to training Wednesday after a bout with COVID-19. Viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19, are considered a potential cause of myocarditis. Bayern’s manager said Davies’ case appears mild, but he’ll be sidelined for a few weeks. The Canadian national team officially ruled Davies out today for all three matches in the upcoming World Cup qualifying window. The first one is Jan. 27 in Honduras, followed by a big showdown with the United States in Hamilton, Ont., on Jan. 30, then a visit to El Salvador on Feb. 2. Losing Davies for this stretch is tough, but Canada has put itself in great position to reach this year’s World Cup in Qatar by soaring to the top of its regional qualifying table with six matches left. The top three teams will receive a ticket to Qatar, and the fourth-place team can still get in by winning a one-match intercontinental playoff. The second-place U.S. is a tough opponent in the upcoming window, but El Salvador and Honduras are the two worst teams in the standings. The final window is in late March. Read more about Davies’ heart problem here.
Novak Djokovic appears to be getting the boot from Australia. The defiantly unvaxxed tennis star is once again facing deportation after the country’s immigration minister exercised his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa for not complying with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign visitors. Djokovic and his lawyers are appealing — a move that worked last week when his original deportation order was overturned. If they’re unsuccessful this time, the world No. 1 will miss the Australian Open, which begins Monday. Djokovic has won it nine times, including the last three in a row. He needs one more Grand Slam singles title to break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the all-time men’s record. Read more about the latest developments in the Djokovic/Australia saga here.
Something else to check out
The 4% Rising newsletter: A study done a few years back found that only four per cent of traditional media coverage was devoted to women’s sports. Hence the name of this newsletter focused on helping you find live women’s sports on TV and online. Sample the latest edition and subscribe here.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.