Olympics: Canada's top gold medal contenders heading to Beijing Games

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From Winter Olympics veterans to starry-eyed newcomers, here are Canada's top gold medal threats in Beijing. (Getty)
From Winter Olympics veterans to starry-eyed newcomers, here are Canada's top gold medal threats in Beijing. (Getty)

In any Olympic year, the Games are the highlight of the sports programming calendar. Unfortunately, the usual wait between Olympics is a two-year slog.

In 2022, however, that's not the case. Just over five months after the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games wrapped up, the best athletes in the world will take centre stage once again. Only this time, heat exhaustion won’t be such a concern.

The Beijing Winter Games are set to get underway in just one week’s time, with the first date of competition scheduled for Feb. 2, while the opening ceremonies will "officially" welcome the athletes on Feb. 4.

And like recent Winter Games, Team Canada is expected to be near the top of the medal count when the torch burns out. Canada sent its largest ever team to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics when 225 athletes donned the red and white, and although the official number is still to be determined for this year’s games, it is expected to be similar.

As for what we can expect from this iteration of Team Canada, Gracenote, a world-leading data and technology company, projects Canada to bring home 22 medals — seven below their total in 2018. Projections are made to be broken though, and Canada has a number of athletes who won’t just be eyeing any medal, but have dreams of hearing their national anthem played as they stand atop the podium.

Here are 10 athletes who could have gold tossed around their necks over the next few weeks:

Mikael Kingsbury: Moguls

Some on this list might seem foreign to the casual Canadian sports fan, but if there's one name everyone should know, it's Mikael Kingsbury.

One of the most decorated athletes in the nation’s history, the 29-year-old has been on the World Cup podium over 100 times throughout his career, including 70 World Cup victories. He is also the reigning Olympic champion, taking home the gold four years ago in PyeongChang.

The native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., will lead Canada’s freestyle ski team into Beijing looking to improve on the 25 medals Canadians have won in the sport since it was introduced in 1992 – the most of any country.

And barring the unthinkable, it is fairly safe to say that with Kingsbury leading the charge, Canada’s total is sure to grow to at least 26 after Beijing.

Ivanie Blondin: Speed skating

Here’s hoping the third time's the charm for Ivanie Blondin. The 31-year-old out of Ottawa, Ont., is heading to her third Olympic Games, and is still looking for that first taste of Olympic glory.

But this is looking like it could be the year for Blondin, as she seems to be peaking at just the right time. At the Speed Skating World Cup this past December, Blondin took home the gold medal in the women’s mass start. She also has a history of success with the event, as she has twice won the overall World Cup title in the mass start, taking home the crown in both 2014-15 and 2019-20.

Not only will Blondin have a chance at individual success, but she will also be a part of the women’s pursuit team, which will have gold in its eyes after finishing first at the World Cup this past December.

Mark McMorris: Snowboarding

Every Olympic athlete wants to be in their best form heading into the Olympic Games, and right now there is no better example of that than 28-year old snowboarder Mark McMorris.

Just this past weekend, McMorris captured gold at the X Games in the snowboard slopestyle event. The victory brought his career X Games medal count to 21, which includes 10 gold.

Now, McMorris will set his sights on Olympic gold, the one accolade that has eluded him throughout his illustrious career. The Regina, Sask., native does have two Olympic medals to his credit, as he won bronze in slopestyle at both the Sochi and PyeongChang Games, but there is no doubt that McMorris is aiming for more than bronze this time around.

And while his best chance will be in the slopestyle event, McMorris is always capable in the men’s big air as well, an event in which he just finished fourth at the X Games and actually won at the 2021 FIS World Championships.

Laurent Dubreuil: Speed Skating - Long Track

There are no sure things at the Olympic Games, that’s part of what makes them so entertaining. But along with Kingsbury, Canada’s other athlete that seems destined for a podium finish is speed skater Laurent Dubreuil.

The 29-year-old long track speed skater has reached the podium in all eight of the 500m 2021 World Cup events, finishing with two gold, two silver and four bronze in the event. He also broke Jeremy Wotherspoon’s Canadian record in the 500m this past December, recording the second-fastest time of the event’s history when he posted a 33.77. He was also the first Canadian to ever break the 34-second mark.

Dubreuil will now look to carry the momentum from his outstanding World Cup season into his second Olympic Games.

Canadian Women’s Hockey Team

This should also come as no surprise to Canadian sports fans, but the women’s hockey team will be one of the favourites to claim Olympic gold in 2022. After capturing gold in both 2010 and 2014, the Canucks lost a heartbreaker to the United States 3-2 in a shootout at the 2018 Games, ultimately leaving Pyeongchang with Silver.

Canada’s roster for the Beijing Games was announced on January 11th, and of the 23 women on the roster, 13 return from the team that came up just short in 2018, while 10 members will make their Olympic debut.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston are the veterans on the squad — both appearing in their fourth Olympic Games for the red and white.

All roads likely lead to another clash between the two storied rivals. In this chapter, it will be Team Canada who will look to take back the title of Olympic champions from their neighbours to the south. The gold medal game is set for Feb. 16 while Team Canada’s first preliminary game is on Feb. 3 against Switzerland.

Max Parrot: Snowboarding

Canada is well represented on the slopes at these Olympic Games, specifically when it comes to snowboarding as medal favourite Max Parrot will suit up alongside McMorris in both the slopestyle and big air events. These Games will be the 27-year-old's third Olympics, which is especially amazing when you consider he also survived a battle with cancer after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in early 2019.

Parrot, who took home silver in the big air at the X Games last weekend, has shown over his career that he is more than capable of a podium finish in either event. In fact, he already has an Olympic silver medal from PyeongChang in the slopestyle.

This past year, he was the silver medalist in the big air event at the 2021 FIS World Championships to go along with his silver at the X Games. A double podium finish is not out of the realm of possibility for both McMorris and Parrot, and it’s why Canadians should make sure they pay extra close attention when the snowboarding events come around.

Kim Boutin: Speed Skating - Short Track

Canada’s Closing Ceremony flag-bearer from the PyeongChang games has her work cut out for her if she wants to improve on her Olympic debut in Beijing. The skater out of Sherbrooke, Que., took home three Olympic medals in 2018, one silver and two bronze.

She brought home the bronze in the 500m, bronze in the 1500m and capped off her Games with a silver in the 1000m.

Boutin was really starting to peak in the 2019-20 season, as she set the 500m world record in November of 2019 and became the first woman to ever crack the 42-second mark. After the season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boutin opted to not compete at the 2021 World Championships and instead focus on her mental and physical health with the Olympics just around the corner.

She will be the face of a young and talented short-track roster, and the favourite of the Canadian women to bring home some hardware.

Reece Howden: Ski Cross

At just 23, Reece Howden has already accomplished a lot in his career. He won gold at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics, was named 2021 FIS Ski Cross Rookie of the Year and took home Canada’s 2021 Alpine Athlete of the Year. Not to mention he also took home the 2021 Crystal Globe as the World Cup overall winner in his first full season on the tour.

Howden has six podiums and four World Cup wins to his name, but now the stakes get even bigger, as the native of Cultus Lake, B.C., will make his Olympic debut.

The Crystal Globe is near the top of the list of every racer’s career goals, but the one thing that probably always trumps it is bringing home an Olympic medal. Amazingly, Howden has a great chance to accomplish both before he turns 24.

Laurie Blouin: Snowboarding

The Canadian men aren't the only ones who have a chance at gold because of their skills on the board.

Laurie Blouin is another Canadian snowboarder with a great shot to stand on the podium when it's all said and done. In fact, it would be nothing new to her. The 25-year-old won silver in the slopestyle event at the PyeongChang Games, which was Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in the event.

In 2021, like Parrot and McMorris, she showed that she's a threat in both events when she took home gold in the big air event at the FIS World Championships. She has also won numerous X Games medals in both events and will be one of Canada’s best bets to reach the podium at least once in Beijing.

Rachel Homan and John Morris: Mixed Curling

Rachel Homan and John Morris were recently selected by Curling Canada to represent the red and white in just the second-ever mixed doubles curling event at the Olympics.

They will be tasked with defending Canada’s title in the event, as the mixed doubles team from 2018 took home gold when the event made its Olympic debut — no pressure. Taking some of the heat off is that they have both experienced the Olympic atmosphere before. Morris was one half of that gold medal-winning team in 2018, as he brought home the gold with Kaitlyn Lawes. While his partner for this Games, Homan, was unable to join him in 2018 because she was skipping the Canadian women’s curling team in PyeongChang.

Morris will be looking to keep his perfect streak alive in his third Olympic Games — bringing home a gold medal in his previous two.

The duo’s quest for a second consecutive Canadian Olympic gold in mixed curling is set to begin on Feb. 3.

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