Canada’s summer Olympians have just finished their post-Tokyo vacation, but their winter counterparts are already on the final 100-day countdown to the 2022 Beijing Games. That’s the COVID effect.
For Canadian halfpipe skier Cassie Sharpe, the next few months will be a whirlwind of trips to training grounds and competitions to qualify for the Games, which will take place from February 4 to 20, and have a chance to win another medal in Olympic gold.
He has been in Switzerland training for the past two weeks and flew to Toronto to be part of Lululemon’s presentation of the new Canadian Olympic outfits on Tuesday. Then he goes to Austria to train more before competitions in Colorado and Calgary, all before the New Year.
For Brady Leman it’s a similar story, but his journey includes a cross-country ski test event in China next month and six World Cups in Europe, all before Christmas.
“It’s time to get ready to live out of a suitcase and start finding some intensity and bringing it in,” said Leman, who is looking to defend his 2018 Games gold medal.
“I’m excited. A hundred days away is just a reminder that it’s just around the corner.”
Of course, there is much controversy in the background as Canadian athletes prepare to do their best on the biggest stage possible. That is not unusual for the Olympics.
Before the 2014 Sochi Games there were calls for a boycott of Russian laws restricting LGBTQ rights and fears that “black widow” suicide bombers would sneak through the safety net. In the run-up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump were exchanging criticism about the size and quality of nuclear arsenals at their fingertips.
In 2015, when the International Olympic Committee chose Beijing to host these Games, making it the first city to host both summer and winter Olympics, it was controversial. Only it’s more now.
Human rights activists have called on governments and athletes around the world to boycott these Games over China’s treatment of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, Tibet and Hong Kong.
“It’s definitely in the back of his mind, especially with China’s politics in the news these days,” Leman said.
“For me, I believe in the power of sport. And I hope and believe that we can leave positive legacies in places where we compete when we compete in perhaps less than desirable political settings. “
So does Sharpe.
“For us as athletes, the Olympics are something that brings the world together,” he said. “So for me, that’s what I’m focusing on, the love of the sport. The way in which all countries come together to support each other and show the world what sport is ”.
And win some medals along the way, of course.
Athletes heading to these Games have big shoes to fill. Canadians won 29 medals in 2018. That put Canada third on the medal table and, more importantly, ahead of the United States.
“We are very hopeful of improving our performance,” said David Shoemaker, executive director of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
You know it won’t be easy, especially since the COVID pandemic has disrupted training, test events and competitions.
“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t have high aspirations,” he said.
So high that Lululemon’s podium jacket includes a “medal pocket.”
“I love the message it sends. It’s telling 228 Canadian Olympians that we believe you have the power and the ability and you have it in you to go to China and bring a medal home, ”Shoemaker said.
“And when you do, you should wear it proudly around your neck. But when you’re not, here’s a pocket. “
JOIN THE CONVERSATION