Going for gold under the cloud of COVID-19 makes the Tokyo Summer Games an Olympics like no other. This newsletter is here to help you make sense of it all, with original stories from Globe reporters in Canada and Tokyo, tracking Team Canada’s medal wins, and past Olympic moments from iconic performances. Tokyo Olympics Update is sent every Friday in June and July and twice daily during the Games, which run from July 23 to Aug. 8. You can sign up here. Let us know what you think by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good afternoon, here’s the latest Olympic news:
With mom waiting in the parking lot, 14-year-old Summer McIntosh becomes an Olympian
Fourteen-year-old Summer McIntosh wears colourful masks with sparkly jewels and has a family cat named Mikey, aptly named after Michael Phelps. While she might be like her peers in some ways, in one significant way the teen is not: she’s about to be an Olympian.
The ninth grader, regarded as a fierce competitor by her coach and peers, will be Canada’s new kid on the block in Tokyo – a similar role then-16-year-old Penny Oleksiak held at the 2016 Rio Games. With her mom waiting outside in the car, McIntosh beat Oleksiak in one of her races at the Canadian Olympic swim trials last week, solidifying her spot in the 200-, 400- and 800-metre freestyle races and will team up for the 4x200m freestyle relay, an event Canada won bronze in at the Rio Olympics.
McIntosh will be Canada’s youngest swimmer at these Games – and likely the country’s youngest athlete. Her teammates and coach have seen her ethic and demeanour propel her to a new level over the past 12 months.
“When you speak to her, there’s a steeliness to her face … She reminds me of a great white shark. That’s how I describe her – just so focused on what she wants to do,” her coach, Ben Titley, told The Globe’s Rachel Brady.
How Team Canada is shaping up
The Tokyo Games are 21 days away. Here’s how Team Canada is looking:
- A total of 337 athletes have earned a spot on Canada’s roster as of Friday morning, surpassing the 314-athlete field it sent to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold will be in Tokyo. COVID-19 hit right after Bujold took a year to have a child, eliminating opportunities for her to qualify for the Games, resulting initially in a failed appeal she argued was discrimination based on sex. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled this week that the International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualifying period, meaning she’ll be able to make the trip.
- Canada’s cohort of young tennis talent may have an opening to make a splash in Tokyo. U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu and newcomer Leylah Annie Fernandez, alongside Félix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil, will headline the Canadian team in a tournament that so far will be missing Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
- Competing in a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament, the Canadian men’s basketball team secured a spot in the semi-finals with a 30-point win over China on Wednesday. The team, needing to win the tournament to earn an Olympic berth, faces its next challenge Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. against the Czech Republic.
- A handful of Canadian runners scored much-needed Olympic standards with the qualification period closing Tuesday: Regan Yee raced a Canadian record and qualifying time of 9:27.54 in the 3,000-metre steeplechase at the 11th hour Tuesday night and at last weekend’s Canadian Olympic track and field trials, Lindsey Butterworth (women’s 800m), John Gay (men’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Django Lovett (men’s high jump) hit their respective Olympic standards. And, on Thursday night, news broke that U.S. sprinter and potential podium finisher Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana, leading to a month-long suspension that’ll keep her out of the women’s 100 metre but may allow the American to return for later relay events.
- The country’s women’s rugby sevens team was cemented last week, the first official step in the team’s effort to match its bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games. The men’s team, making its first appearance on the Olympic stage, was also selected.
An uptick in infections in Tokyo, expected to continue rising, prompts talks of extending prevention measures
Tokyo’s COVID-19 infections rose to 714 on Wednesday – its highest mark since May 26 – prompting the country to consider extending prevention measures that could last through the Games. Japan had originally planned to lift much of the country’s ‘quasi’ state of emergency on July 12, allowing up to 10,000 local spectators into venues. Maintaining current measures would cap stadiums at 5,000, and discussions are turning toward banning spectators from night events. As cases rise and the first dose vaccination rate sits at 23 per cent, researchers and experts have said in the “most optimistic scenario” Tokyo’s daily caseload could hit 1,000 in July and 2,000 in August because of the increase in travel.
Keeping COVID-19 out of the Games has already proved difficult with two Ugandan athletes testing positive after arriving in Japan last week. The government has reportedly been spinning up plans to ensure any athletes who test positive and close contacts will halt training and quarantine in one of the village’s rooms.
And, after public pressure and pleas from athletes to change a rule that would prevent breastfeeding mothers from bringing their children to Tokyo, organizers nixed the rule, allowing mothers such as Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher to bring her three-month-old daughter with her.
Aug. 2, 1992:
Silken Laumann completes a feat of the imagination with bronze at the Barcelona Games
Silken Laumann walked toward her boat with a cane in hand. Seventy three days earlier, Laumann had gruesomely shattered her right leg in a collision with a coxless German team in the warmup area of competition, requiring five surgeries and a three-week stay at the hospital. An injury that would’ve seen less fit individuals lose most of the muscle in their lower leg, Laumann returned to the water a month and a half after the accident to continue training.
The 1992 Barcelona Games’ gold-medal favourite before the injury, Laumann still managed to place second in her first heat and won her semi-final race. In the final she raced to bronze, an achievement nothing short of a miracle having been told she’d never row again months earlier – though she still suffers from issues related to the injury. She was later selected to be Canada’s flagbearer at the closing ceremony. Laumann continued her career until the 1996 Olympics where she earned silver in the single sculls, the last competitive race of her career.
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