The 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games are right around the corner, and a fresh set of Olympic heros are waiting in the wings. The Canadian delegation—225 athletes strong—is the largest in history. While every athlete hopes to capture Olympic gold, only a select few—from a wide variety of backgrounds—will have a shot.
As usual, neither Canada’s long-track nor short-track speed skating teams have a shortage of stars. Of particular note on the men’s long-track roster, four-time Olympic medallist Denny Morrison, who incredibly bounced back from both a motorcycle crash in 2015—including a punctured lung and fractured femur—and a stroke in 2016. Morrison will be joined in PyeongChang by his wife, long-track skater Josie Morrison, who looks to cement her presence on the international stage after a career-first World Cup medal in November 2017. Meanwhile, Dutch-born 31-year-old Ted-Jan Bloemen heads into the Games fresh off of four World Cup podium finishes in Fall 2017—including a world record-setting 5000 m time in Salt Lake City.
While only four of the 19 Canadian long-track skaters hail from Quebec, the short-track side—save for one coach and one skater—is entirely Quebecois, including Olympic veterans and power couple Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais, who have said they will retire later this year. The former, who has four Olympic medals to his name, is competing in multiple short-track events and has a shot at becoming Canada’s most-decorated Olympian ever, while his brother, François, will also return to represent Team Canada again. The women’s roster features a large pool of new talent in three promising Olympic rookies, Kim Boutin, Jamie Macdonald, and Kasandra Bradette.
Sending a powerhouse team to the Olympics, Canada is a safe bet to bring home some hardware—especially since the squad is the largest figure skating team at the Games—with 17 skaters in 11 total entries. The team is led by veterans Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford, and flag-bearers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who all hope to go out with a bang before retiring. The team also features some of the next generation’s stars, with as Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau participating in their first Olympic games.
Your new favourite Olympic event is here: For the first time ever, the 2018 Olympic Games will feature the mixed doubles event in curling. Representing Canada, Alberta’s John Morris and Manitoba’s Kaitlyn Lawes hope to take down seven other pairings from across the world. Morris is a full-time firefighter and author of a curling-specific fitness guide titled Fit to Curl, and Lawes is a sales representative for a curling supplies company. Prior to their run at the Canadian Olympic trials, the two only had one opportunity to practice together. If Olympic mixed doubles curling is on, you’re going to want to “hurry hard” to the nearest television.
Bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton
These Olympics have the potential to be very successful for Canadian sliders. In women’s bobsleigh, Kaillie Humphries hopes to become the first-ever bobsledder to win a third consecutive gold medal. On the men’s side, pilot Justin Kripps will arrive in PyeongChang as a gold-medal favourite, rolling off a red-hot World Cup season in which he finished atop the standings. After placing fourth in three of the four luge events in Sochi, the Canadian sliders will aim to add to the single bronze medal in their collection. Outside of Canada, Latvia’s Martins Dukurs is the man to watch: He will be chasing his second consecutive gold in men’s skeleton, and just the third ever for his country.
Ski Jump/Nordic Combined
With a rigorous qualification process behind them, two Calgarian ski jumpers hope to land a podium spot in PyeongChang over the next few weeks. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes will represent the Canadian men and Taylor Henrich will represent the Canadian women.
No Canadians qualified for Nordic Combined events. Instead, you’ll find Germany’s Eric Frenzel, who looks to defend his gold medal from the individual normal hill/10km event at the 2014 Olympics. Silver medallist Akito Watabe from Japan is right on his tail, as is 2010 Olympic gold medalist Jason Lamy-Chappuis from France—who doubles as a French border patrolman when he’s not on the slopes.
Alex Harvey, a 29-year-old from Quebec, has earned more medals than any other Canadian skier in non-Olympic competitions. Yet, he has never won a single Olympic medal—similar to his father, Pierre Harvey. Pierre competed in four different Olympic games between 1976 and 1988 as both a cross-country skier and a cyclist, becoming the first Canadian man to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games, but without a medal to show for it. He’ll be cheering on his son in PyeongChang with the hopes that the Harveys can finally add an Olympic medal to their long list of accomplishments.
After winning more medals (nine) than any other country in freestyle skiing at the 2014 Sochi Games, Canada is a clear powerhouse. As one of the most exciting disciplines on display at the Winter Games, freestyle skiing includes four judged events: Moguls, aerials, halfpipe, and slopestyle, as well as one timed event, ski cross. Canadian teammates have grown accustomed to sharing the podium with one another, fueling team competition and drive; however, Montreal sisters Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, who split the top two spots in the women’s mogul competition in Sochi, take friendly sibling rivalry to a new level. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters were only the third pair of sisters to share the podium in Olympic history.
The alpine team event will make its Olympic debut at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang on Feb. 24, joining the men and women’s downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom, and combined individual events to round out the alpine skiing schedule. The day-long event will feature competing countries’ top two male and female skiers each individually racing another nation’s skier down parallel slalom courses. Each win earns a country a point, with the lowest combined time serving as a tiebreaker if needed. Sixteen countries will face off in a knockout bracket, seeded by their national team rankings. It’s the first Olympic alpine event to do away with the individual focus of the sport, allowing countries to better participate as a team.
Canadian hockey fans were upset that NHL players won’t be competing in PyeongChang, but that doesn’t mean the tournament won’t be exciting. Ultimately, the league’s unpopular decision might prove to be good for fans, as the playing field this Olympics may be more competitive than it’s ever been. Just because the players on the Canadian team don’t play in the NHL, doesn’t mean they won’t be exciting to root for. For example, Wojtek Wolski broke his neck playing in the Kontinental Hockey League last spring, and now he’s an Olympian. How can you not cheer that guy on?
Meanwhile, the Canadian women look poised to continue their international dominance at the PyeongChang Games as they shoot for their fifth consecutive gold medal. Most of the team that won gold in the 2014 overtime thriller against the United States is back for these games, led by dynamite forward Marie-Philip Poulin—captain of Les Canadiennes de Montréal. Among the many prominent players on the team is McGill alumnus and former Martlet hockey superstar Mélodie Daoust, who is competing in her second Olympic Games. Another name to watch out for is defender Brigette Lacquette, who is the first Indigenous woman to ever play for the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team.