By Emilie Medland-Marchen, March 29th 2016 —
Team Canada is shaping up as a force to be reckoned with at this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The games are only a few months away, but Canada’s athletes are hard at work fighting for spots in numerous preliminary events that will determine their Olympic eligibility.
The spotlight this year is on Canada’s cycling and track and field teams, both of which are poised to contend for multiple medals in Rio.
Cycling Canada recently put forth a strong showing at the World Track Cycling Championships in London, securing Olympic spots in six events after winning two bronze and two silver medals. The women’s team earned spots in all five track cycling events — including the team sprint, keirin, team pursuit and omnium. On the men’s side, one berth was secured in the keirin event.
Canadian cyclists Kate O’Brien and Monique Sullivan, who both hail from Calgary, earned spots for Canada in the women’s team sprint event. The two teamed up this past July at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto, setting a track record and winning the gold medal. Sullivan, who is in her second Olympic games, will be the one to watch. She first competed in the 2012 games in London, finishing sixth in the keirin and 11th in the women’s sprint event. Expect the two to team up again in Rio, and for Sullivan to shine in her individual events.
Canada’s track and field program has garnered international attention over the past few years. Although the final team won’t be decided until the conclusion of the 2016 Canadian Championships and Rio Selection Trials in July, a number of athletes are poised to earn spots on the team.
Andre De Grasse is quickly becoming Canada’s newest sprinting star after his bronze medal finish in the 100-metre dash at the world championships — just 0.13 seconds behind Usain Bolt’s gold medal run. His wins in the 100-metre and 200-metre events at the 2015 Pan-Am Games make him a strong medal contender in Rio.
Another candidate for Canada’s track and field team is 800-metre Canadian record-holder Melissa Bishop, who is competing in her second Olympics. Bishop broke the 800-metre Canadian record after becoming only the third Canadian woman to run under two minutes in the event at the 2015 World Athletics Championships. Bishop also earned a gold medal at the 2015 Pan-Am Games.
In other sports, watch out for Canadian boxers Mandy Bujold and Arthur Biyarslanov, both of whom secured positions on Team Canada in March with their gold medal performances at the 2016 American Olympic qualifiers.
Two-time Pan-American champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winner Bujold is set to shine in the women’s 51-kilogram boxing event. This will be Bujold’s first Olympics, but she brings extensive experience to the games and has a strong chance to earn a medal.
Biyarslanov enters the games as a 20-year-old rookie. This will be his first Olympics, and he could appear as an underdog in the 64-kilogram competition.
Ontario-born Rosie MacLennan seems like a sure bet for a medal in the individual trampoline event in Rio. She enters as the reigning Olympic champion, world champion and Pan-Am Games champion in individual trampolining. MacLennan earned her spot on Team Canada by winning the Canada Cup in March. MacLennan won a gold medal in the individual women’s trampoline event at the 2012 Olympics in London, so it’s safe to say she’ll have a good shot at defending her title.
Although Canada’s diving team has yet to be announced, watch for Jennifer Abel in the women’s three-metre springboard event. Abel won silver at the Diving World Series in Dubai. In Rio, she’ll fight for a medal position against Shi Tingmao of China, who secured a gold in the three-metre springboard with a near perfect score throughout the competition.
A historic moment to watch at this year’s Olympics will be the refugees competing under the International Olympic Committee flag in Rio. The team will consist of five to 10 athletes who will compete in their qualified event. The Refugee Olympic Athletes team will be decided in June.