5 Team Canada sports to watch this weekend: December 8-10
It’s an action-packed weekend for Team Canada at home and abroad, with a lot of winter and some summer sports in action.
Team Canada’s figure skaters and short track speed skaters are both on the ice in Beijing, China. Some of Canada’s top snowboarders will be putting on a big air show at home in Edmonton, while skeleton and bobsleigh athletes are sliding in La Plagne, France. On the summer sport side, Canada’s number one beach volleyball duo are on the sand in Doha, Qatar.
Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:
Multiple Canadian figure skaters earned the opportunity over the course of the 2023 ISU Grand Prix series this fall to represent Canada at the ISU Grand Prix Final. At the senior level, Canada will be represented this weekend in Beijing by two pairs teams and three ice dance teams.
In pairs, Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps have had a stellar season thus far, snagging gold medals at every competition they’ve entered. This winning streak also included a new personal best score for the duo, as they surpassed the 200-point mark for the first time. Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud have had a big breakthrough in their first Grand Prix season together, winning silver at Skate America and gold at Grand Prix de France.
Following Thursday’s short program, Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps are in second place, just 1.34 points back of the leaders. Pereira and Michaud are in sixth place.
In ice dance, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are on the hunt for a second straight Grand Prix Final gold medal. They were the top qualifiers for the Final after winning gold at Skate Canada International and Cup of China.
They are joined by reigning Canadian Champions Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, who have silver medals from the Grand Prix de France and NHK Trophy this season. Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha round out Canada’s ice dancing contingent. The duo has also claimed two silver medals thus far this season. It is their first time competing at the Grand Prix Final. The rhythm dances get the competition underway on Friday.
Much of Canada’s top snowboarding talent will be on display at home with the FIS Snowboard Big Air World Cup taking place this Saturday in Edmonton. The competition is part of Canada Snowboard’s “Shred the North” series and is expected to draw 90 of the world’s top riders, 60 men and 30 women, from 30 different countries.
Rather than on a mountain, riders will compete within Commonwealth Stadium. Scaffolding has been built to a height of 15 storeys, rising above the stadium lights. Event organizers are calling the ramp structure North America’s largest scaffolding jump.
Among the Canadians in action will be Olympic medallist in slopestyle, Laurie Blouin, who is looking to step onto the podium after finishing fourth and fifth at the first two big air World Cups this season.
Jasmine Baird and Nicolas Laframboise will seek to return to the podium after Baird was victorious last year while Lafromboise finished with bronze. Laframboise completed his final runs last year while wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey, which he has hinted could make a return this year.
Other Canadians to watch out for include Darcy Sharpe, Truth Smith, Francis Jobin, Cameron Spalding, Liam Brearley, Finn Finestone, Jacob Legault and Juliette Pelchat. Though he’ll be in attendance, three-time Olympic medallist Mark McMorris won’t be competing as he continues to pace himself in his recovery from a broken fibula earlier this year.
Short Track Speed Skating
After competing in the first two ISU World Cups at home in Montreal in October, 12 Canadian short track speed skaters will be back in action this weekend for the third World Cup of the season. The competition will take place on the same ice that hosted the Beijing 2022 events.
Among those to watch out for are triple Olympic medallist Steven Dubois, who so far this season has won individual silver and bronze, and William Dandjinou, who earned his first individual World Cup medals in Montreal, a gold and a bronze. Jordan Pierre-Gilles also earned his first career World Cup victory. The Canadian contingent also includes established veteran Pascal Dion, Félix Roussel and Maxime Laoun.
On the women’s side, Danaé Blais won her first two individual World Cup medals this season while Rikki Doak won her first career individual gold. On any given week, Courtney Sarault can skate her way onto the podium. Florence Brunelle, Claudia Gagnon, and Renee Steenge round out the squad.
So far this season, the men’s relay team has a gold and a silver while the women’s relay can boast one gold.
Qualifying for the individual and relay events will take place on Friday. The finals of the women’s and men’s 500m and 1500m events, as well as a mixed relay, will be contested on Saturday. A second 500m event and a 1000m event for both the men and women will take place on Sunday, as will the finals of the men’s and women’s relay events.
Skeleton and Bobsleigh
The IBSF World Cup circuit is making a stop in La Plagne, France this weekend. In women’s skeleton, Mirela Rahneva will be aiming for another podium finish, having won bronze at the start of the season in Yanqing, China. Another experienced athlete, Jane Channell, will also be taking to the ice, as will Hallie Clarke, the 19-year-old who is making her return to the Canadian team after winning two World Cup medals last year when she represented the United States.
Blake Enzie, who won a North American Cup stage at the start of the season, and Jordan Rwiyamilira will be taking part in the men’s skeleton event. Those races are on Friday.
In the women’s monobob, Cynthia Appiah, third in the overall World Cup standings last season, will once again be one to watch on Saturday, as will Bianca Ribi. The two riders will be back on the ice on Sunday for the two-woman bobsleigh event, in which Appiah will team up with brakewoman Leah Walkeden and Ribi will be pushed by Niamh Haughey.
The Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Final began on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar. Team Canada’s Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes are fighting for a podium spot after coming off of a valiant effort in the final of the Pan Am Games, for which the duo also served as Canada’s flag bearers for the Opening Ceremony.
The Canadians defeated the American team of Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng in pool play on Wednesday, and then put away Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova of Latvia on Thursday. The duo fell to world number ones Ana Patricia Ramos and Duda Lisboa of Brazil on Thursday, the same competitors that defeated them in the Pan Am Games final.
Wilkerson and Humana-Paredes will play their last game of pool play on Friday against Muller and Tillman of Germany. The top three teams in each pool advance to the playoff round.