Sports

Next up: Top sports events to catch in 2022

2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February will boast a range of exciting events, from popular sports like hockey, skiing, and figure skating, to more unique sports, like the skeleton, the luge, and bobsled. These Games will feature 45 per cent female athletes, the largest share to ever compete in the Winter Olympics, due in part to the introduction of more mixed-gender events like the freestyle skiing aerials and snowboard cross. Notable Canadian athletes to watch for include ice dancing duo Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, as well as bobsledder Cynthia Appiah. On the Paralympic side, notable athletes include Josh Dueck, the first athlete to land a backflip on a sit-ski; Brian McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Paralympian who will retire after the 2022 Games; Ina Forrest, who is looking for her fourth medal in wheelchair curling; and Billy Bridges, one of the most accomplished Canadian Para ice hockey players, who hopes to lead his team to gold against the top-ranked U.S. team.

The Games’ have been shrouded in controversy due to China’s human rights violations, namely their detainment of Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority, in the Xinjiang region. Several countries floated the idea of boycotting the Games, but as it stands, none have officially rescinded their participation—and neither have any competing athletes. Instead, Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia have announced a “diplomatic boycott,” where government officials will not attend the Games. As for pandemic restrictions, Chinese officials are planning to welcome spectators from mainland China who meet the vaccine requirements, in contrast to the Tokyo 2020 Games, which were played in empty stadiums. 

Fallout from the MLB lockout

The Major League Baseball (MLB) offseason is always rife with dramatic deals, trades, and contract negotiations. But in December 2021, after the Atlanta Braves took home their first World Series title in nearly 30 years, the MLB imposed a lockout. This comes after a labour dispute between the Player’s Association and the league teams, and their disagreement on player salaries and the competitive disparities among different teams. During this work stoppage, teams are barred from communicating with players, even about simple things like workout regimes, and players are locked out from training facilities. Though the lockout is intended to put pressure on the union to speed up negotiations, the shutdown may extend into the beginning of the regular season, which is slated to start on March 31. Regardless, these restrictions will undoubtedly reduce players’ abilities to build team chemistry and adequately prepare for the start of the season. 

Djokovic’s chance at greatness

The Serbian tennis star walked away with the 2021 Wimbledon title, and this year, has the chance to surpass Nadal and Federer for the most Grand Slams of all time. All three greats are tied for 20 apiece, but Djokovic has not been plagued by injury like the other two—that is, if he can even get into the Australian Open. Originally unable to enter the country due to his unvaccinated status, and now waiting to see if the Australian government will cancel his visa, it is unclear whether he will have the chance to compete for the major title. Currently, there is an online campaign to #BoycottAustralianOpen in support of Djokovic’s decision to not get vaccinated; on the other hand, many Australian citizens are against the player flouting the regulations and endangering others. Despite his anti-science stance, the tennis player has donated millions of euros to COVID-19 relief funds in three different countries. Barring what happens (or doesn’t) in Melbourne, Wimbledon in July will serve as another opportunity for the trifecta of tennis masters to tiebreak their three-way majors lead, and is not to be missed. 

2022 FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is the first to take place in the Middle East, held in Qatar this November. While the milestone is welcomed by many, the host country has come under scrutiny for allegedly bribing FIFA officials for their bid, and using migrant labour to build the stadiums. Potentially qualifying teams for the tournament include Canada, the United States, and Mexico from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Italy and Portugal have yet to hash it out in the European playoffs, so there is a chance that Cristiano Ronaldo will not be playing in Qatar. The favourites to take home the cup this year are Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands; however, that could all change if Italy does not qualify. As for women’s soccer, the qualifying competition for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics will take place in July.

Will Tiger Woods return to the Masters? 

Casual and dedicated golf fans alike were shaken when Tiger Woods, arguably the best golfer to ever grace the green, was injured in a life-threatening car accident in February of 2021. He shattered his ankle and suffered two fractures to his legs. After news broke that he would make a full recovery, the world has been waiting to see if, or when, he will make his return to professional golf. After coming second place in the 2021 PNC Championships with his son Charlie, the odds of Woods playing in the Masters shot up significantly. He told reporters after the tournament that he would not return to competition anytime soon, but many fans are still hopeful that he will attend, if not play in, the Masters. More likely is that he will return to the course for the British Open, whose St. Andrews course has fewer hills to climb. 

NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and the implosion of the Habs

The 2022 Stanley Cup has a myriad of possible contenders. The Colorado Avalanche, despite failing to make the conference finals since 2002, are a favourite to win. Tampa Bay is another team favoured to do well in the playoffs this year. The Lightning have won the Stanley Cup two years in a row, and the only people rooting for a three-peat are Lightning fans. Tampa Bay’s cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, are also having a strong season and could potentially pose a challenge to the defending champions as they are currently tied. In the Metropolitan division, the Carolina Hurricanes are dominant, a shift that could see the organization winning its second-ever Stanley Cup championship. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens, having won only seven of their 35 total games, will not be in contention for the cup this year. The only Canadian team with a real chance of winning is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just behind the Lightning in terms of points, the Leafs have a roster filled with star players. If they can find a way to make it past the first round of the playoffs, the Leafs could be a team to be reckoned with.

(Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Formula 1 Season

2022 will bring with it a new car design and a longer season. While the season will feature a new Miami Grand Prix, favourite courses such as Montreal will be reinstated after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from hosting in previous years. There will be several exciting battles between teams that finished neck-and-neck in the 2021 season. Ferrari and McLaren will be battling for third place this season, with Mercedes and Redbull a fairly certain top two. Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris have breathed life back into their respective teams and will be extremely exciting to watch this season. Unfortunately for Mercedes, George Russell is ranked eighth in the power rankings, a gap that might allow other teams to better challenge the defending champs. In the midfield, the triple As—Alpine, Aston Martin, and AlphaTauri—will battle it out once again. Pierre Gasly for AlphaTauri is a phenomenal driver and will keep his team in the hunt for fifth place in 2022. Aston Martin finished significantly behind the other two teams in 2021, and while they may have potential, most of it comes from billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll’s potential to spend money. However, he will have to contend with the new spending cap of $140 million for 2022, which aims to give smaller-budget teams a better chance at victory.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Canada, the U.S., and Mexico had qualified for the FIFA World Cup. In fact, all three countries are only potential qualifiers. The Tribune regrets this error.

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