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The Tokyo Olympics officially start July 23. Here’s a primer on the key Canadian athletes and teams, important events and when to watch

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After waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple pleas for cancellation, a recent surge of coronavirus cases in Japan and an official name that went out of date, the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally on. Athletes across the globe are arriving in the Olympic village and preparing to compete for international glory on the largest stage in the sports world. With spectators banned, it’ll also be the quietest stage. The Olympics are often a maelstrom of people and sports, and the 13-hour time difference (16 hours on the West Coast) from North America only adds another degree of difficulty in keeping track of events. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Olympics.

Five Canadian athletes to watch

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Andre De Grasse holds his bronze medal from the men's 100-metre event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Andre De Grasse, track

The last time we saw Andre De Grasse on the global stage was in Qatar at the 2019 world athletics championship, where he was holding a silver and bronze medal for his performances in the 200 metres and 100 metres, respectively. And the last time he was on the Olympic stage, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, he left clutching the same medals in the same events. This year, Mr. De Grasse is looking to capture his first Olympic gold medal in the 100, 200, and 4x100-metre relay.

When to watch Andre De Grasse in Tokyo
  • 100 metres, semi-final: Aug. 1 (Day 9) at 6:15 a.m. (ET). Final: Aug. 1 (Day 9) at 8:50 a.m. (ET)
  • 200 metres, semi-final: Aug. 3 (Day 11) at 7:50 a.m. Final: Aug. 4 (Day 12) at 8:50 a.m. (ET)
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Rosie MacLennan performs her gold-medal-winning routine at the trampoline gymnastics final at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Rosie MacLennan, trampoline

Rosie MacLennan’s Olympic career is filled with firsts: first Canadian trampoline gold medal at London in 2012, then first trampolinist to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2016 Rio. Ms. MacLennan also happens to be the first Canadian woman to win two gold medals in an individual event at a Summer Games and the first Canadian to successfully defend Olympic gold at the Summer Games. Now, set to compete in her fourth Olympics, Ms. MacLennan aims for an unprecedented first, a three-peat.

When to watch Rosie MacLennan in Tokyo
  • Women’s qualification and women’s final: July 30 (Day 7) at 12 a.m. (ET)
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Jessica Klimkait, right, fights Japan's Momo Tamaoki at the 2021 judo world championship in Budapest this past June.ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

Jessica Klimkait, judo

If COVID-19 hadn’t halted the sports world in 2020, judoka Jessica Klimkait most likely wouldn’t be in Tokyo. In March, 2020, months before a fight-off with teammate and 2019 world champion Christa Deguchi to determine Canada’s lone Olympic spot, she suffered a knee injury. The injury was bad enough that Ms. Klimkait admitted that she didn’t think she would have been able to prepare for the fight. But because of pandemic-related health regulations, the fight-off never happened, so Judo Canada decided the next world championship would determine who gets the Olympic spot. That world championship happened last month and, when it ended, Ms. Klimkait had a medal draped around her neck. Gold. A feat she means to replicate at the Tokyo Games.

When to watch Jessica Klimkait in Tokyo
  • Women’s 57-kg elimination rounds: July 25 (Day 2) at 10 p.m. (ET)
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Erica Wiebe, top, wrestles Adeline Gray of the United States at a 2016 Olympic test event.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Erica Wiebe, wrestling

Erica Wiebe never thought she’d become an Olympic champion but she proved herself more than worthy in 2016, capturing the gold in Rio and becoming the second Canadian woman to win wrestling gold. She then captured gold again at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and a bronze at the world wrestling championship. And when she got news of a postponed Olympics, she turned the extra time into an MBA. But the reigning champion is the reigning champion for a reason and Ms. Wiebe hopes to make that clear in her title defence in these Games.

When to watch Erica Wiebe in Tokyo
  • Women’s freestyle 76-kg ⅛-finals: July 31 (Day 8) at 10 p.m. (ET)
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Canada's Penny Oleksiak smiles after winning the women's 100-metre freestyle final in Rio de Janeiro.GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Penny Oleksiak, swimming

When Penny Oleksiak was winning medals and setting Olympic records in Rio, she was just 16. She became the first Olympic champion born in the 2000s, the first Canadian swimmer to win four medals and the first Canadian summer athlete to win four medals at a single Games. Ms. Oleksiak was also named the CP Female Athlete of the Year in 2016. After taking a break in 2018 because there were days she simply didn’t feel like swimming, she’s made a comeback. In the Canadian Olympic trials in June, she pulled away to win the women’s 100-metre freestyle in 52.89 seconds. Still just 21, Ms. Oleksiak is already a Canadian legend looking to enhance her legacy.

When to watch Penny Oleksiak in Tokyo
  • Women’s 4x100m freestyle heats: July 24 (Day 1) at 8:15 a.m. (ET). Final: July 24 (Day 1) at 10:45 p.m. (ET)
  • Women’s 200m freestyle heats: July 26 (Day 3) at 6 a.m. (ET). Final: July 27 (Day 4) at 9:30 p.m. (ET)
  • Women’s 100m freestyle heats: July 28 (Day 5) at 6 a.m. (ET). Final: July 29 (Day 6) at 9:59 p.m. (ET)

Five international athletes to watch

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Simone Biles celebrates her performance at the women’s U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in St. Louis this past June.Jeff Roberson/The Associated Press

Simone Biles (United States), gymnastics

Simone Biles is the GOAT. Ms. Biles, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, who also happens to have four signature moves named after her, The Biles (on beam, vault and floor) and The Biles II (on floor), has made it clear that 2020 Tokyo will be her last Olympics. Her legacy is near-insurmountable but her feats this year will determine how high the pinnacle truly is.

When to watch Simone Biles in Tokyo
  • Women’s team final: July 27 (Day 4) at 6:45 a.m. (ET)
  • Women’s all-around final: July 29 (Day 6) at 6:50 a.m. (ET)
  • Women’s vault final: Aug. 1 (Day 9) at 6 a.m. (ET)
  • Women’s floor exercise final: Aug. 2 (Day 10) at 6 a.m. (ET)
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Naomi Osaka plays at the French Open in May.Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Naomi Osaka (Japan), tennis

A four-time Grand Slam champion, and reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, Naomi Osaka is a marvel at the age of 23. Now, the world No. 2 Ms. Osaka looks to add another accolade to her trophy cabinet, a gold medal in her home country. She’ll be well rested too after withdrawing from Wimbledon to take personal time with her friends and family in mid-June and clashing earlier with French Open organizers over her media obligations.

When to watch Naomi Osaka in Tokyo
  • Tennis competition order to be announced July 23
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Cyrille Tchatchet II competes for Cameroon in the men's 85 kg weightlifting at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Cyrille Tchatchet II (Refugee Olympic Team), weightlifting

After placing fifth in the 85-kilogram weightlifting competition at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, the then-19-year-old from Cameroon fled his team camp. He didn’t feel safe enough to return to his homeland for reasons he still hasn’t discussed. After a period of living on the streets of Brighton, England, with no contacts and little clothing, Mr. Tchatchet struggled to survive. But after applying for asylum in England, Mr. Tchatchet’s case was fast-tracked, and he was moved to a London immigration removal centre. From there, he was released and transferred to a hostel in Birmingham, where he eventually found a new social circle and coach. He later won the British, English and British University and College weightlifting championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. A medal in the Tokyo Games would be a culmination of a one-in-a-million life story.

When to watch Cyrille Tchatchet II in Tokyo
  • Men’s 81-kg: Group B July 30 (Day 7) at 10:50 p.m. (ET) or Group A July 31 (Day 8) at 2:50 a.m. (ET)
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Luka Doncic plays at an Olympic qualifying game in Kaunas, Lithuania, this month.Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Luka Doncic (Slovenia), basketball

Born in Slovenia, 22-year-old phenom Luka Doncic is what it looks like when James Harden is combined with Larry Bird. The fiery two-time NBA all-star, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks, has admitted that a gold medal with the Slovenian team is more important to him than an NBA championship, and with a U.S. team missing many of its staples, his dreams may not be far off.

When to watch Luka Doncic in Tokyo
  • Vs. Argentina: July 26 (Day 3) at 12:40 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Japan: July 29 (Day 6) at 12:40 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Spain: Aug. 1 (Day 9) at 4:20 a.m. (ET)
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Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge celebrates in Vienna in 2019 after a successful attempt to run a marathon in under two hours.Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), track

Eliud Kipchoge, 36, is simply the greatest marathoner in history. The Kenyan won Olympic gold in 2016 by 70 seconds (the largest margin of victory since 1972), set the world record of 2:02:37 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018 and then broke the two-hour barrier in a Vienna race in 2019. The only thing left for him to cap off his career would be a sub-two-hour victory at the Tokyo Games. Time waits for no man but it seems like Mr. Kipchoge ages like fine wine.

When to watch Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo
  • Men’s marathon final: Aug. 7 (Day 15) at 6 p.m. (ET)
  • Men’s 5,000m Round 1: Aug. 3 (Day 11) at 7 a.m. (ET)

Top teams to watch

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Bam Adebayo of Team USA lays up the ball at a July 13 exhibition game against Argentina in Las Vegas.Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

U.S. men’s basketball Team + Slovenian men’s basketball

Olympic basketball is highly underrated. Take all the NBA stars you know, throw them on a single team and watch them dominate the field. If you love basketball, it’s a multiday highlight reel; if you don’t, it’s a multiday highlight reel. This time, there’s the added intrigue of Luka Doncic’s first Olympics.

U.S. men’s basketball games in Tokyo
  • Vs. France: July 25 (Day 2) at 8 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Iran: July 28 (Day 5) at 12:40 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Czech Republic: July 31 (Day 8) at 8 a.m. (ET)
Slovenian men’s basketball games in Tokyo
  • Vs. Argentina: July 26 (Day 3) at 12:40 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Japan: July 29 (Day 6) at 12:40 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Spain: Aug. 1 (Day 9) at 4:20 a.m. (ET)
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Canadian Miranda Ayim battles through Team China at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Canada women’s basketball

After going undefeated in an International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, qualifying tournament in Ostend, Belgium, in February, 2020, Team Canada will be making its third consecutive Olympic appearance at these Games. The program is ranked fourth in the world and led by Natalie Achonwa, Miranda Ayim and Kim Gaucher, making their third Olympic appearances.

Canadian women’s basketball games in Tokyo
  • Vs. Serbia: July 26 (Day 3) at 4:20 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. South Korea: July 28 (Day 5) at 9 p.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Spain: July 31 (Day 8) at 9 p.m. (ET)
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Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, shown in 2020, will play host to the baseball and softball competitions.Issei Kato/Reuters

Japan men’s baseball

For the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, baseball is back on the docket and this year it’s staged by a ravenous baseball country. Remember men’s hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics? Remember that buzz, the anticipation, the elation? Now put it around a baseball diamond.

Japanese men’s baseball games in Tokyo
  • Vs. Dominican Republic: July 27 (Day 4) at 11 p.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Mexico: July 30 (Day 7) at 11 p.m. (ET)
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Jordyn Huitema of Canada handles the ball beside Costa Rican defender Mariana Benavides at an Olympic qualifying match in Los Angeles in 2020.Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

Canada women’s soccer

The women’s soccer team that secured back-to-back bronzes in the London and Rio Games will be back in action in Tokyo. The eighth-ranked Canadians will be led by captain Christine Sinclair, who is looking to add to her world-record 186 international goals. The 22-player roster also includes 12 veterans from Rio’s squad, including Janine Beckie, Kadeisha Buchanan, Allysha Chapman and Jessie Fleming, on the hunt for another taste of Olympic glory.

Canadian women’s soccer games in Tokyo
  • Vs. Japan: July 21 (Day 2) at 6:30 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Chile: July 24 (Day 1) at 3:30 a.m. (ET)
  • Vs. Britain: July 27 (Day 4) at 7 a.m. (ET)

The new events

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Surfer Johanne Defay of France works out during practice rounds for the Olympics in Lemoore, Calif., this past June.Gary Kazanjian/The Associated Press


The International Surfing Association has been lobbying the International Olympic Committee since 1995 to include its sport, so needless to say it’s been a long time coming for surfing. Forty surfers (20 men and 20 women) will compete in shortboard surfing, with judges rating athletes on the type and difficulty of manoeuvres performed and accounting for speed, power and flow. A sport that’s oft stereotyped as a stylish beach pastime, instead of an ultrahigh dexterity and agility sport, surfing will finally get its time in the mainstream.

Surfing events in Tokyo
  • Men’s/women’s final: July 27 (Day 4) at 7 p.m. (ET)
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Madeleine Larcheron, who will skateboard for France at the Olympics, skates at a park in Biarritz, France, this past June.GAIZKA IROZ/AFP via Getty Images


From the streets of SoCal to the stadiums of Tokyo, skateboarding is finally an official Olympic sport. It will consist of two events: street and park. Athletes will skate three timed runs while being scored on difficulty of their tricks, height, speed and originality. The street course is designed to replicate street skating in a city with stairs, rails and ramps, while park skate features a bowl.

Skateboarding events in Tokyo
  • Men’s street final: July 24 (Day 1) at 11:25 p.m. (ET)
  • Women’s street final: July 25 (Day 2) at 11:25 p.m. (ET)
  • Women’s park final: Aug. 3 (Day 11) at 11:30 p.m. (ET)
  • Men’s park final: Aug. 4 (Day 12) at 11:30 p.m. (ET)
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Athletes from the Dutch 3x3 basketball team practice at a court in Amsterdam on June 22.Kenneth Maguire/The Associated Press

3x3 basketball

Yes, three-on-three basketball is an Olympic sport. No, this is not a joke. And, yes, the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify. Ever played half-court pick-up at the gym? Same rules. First to 21, ones and twos, loser’s ball on a made basket and defence has to clear rebounds beyond the arc. The only differences are that the ball is slightly smaller than the FIBA ball, the court is slightly smaller, and the shot clock is set to 12 seconds instead of 24. Also there’s a 10-minute timer; whoever is leading wins. If the game is tied, then it’s overtime, with the first team to two points wins.

3x3 basketball events in Tokyo
  • Men’s gold-medal game: July 28 (Day 5) at 9:25 a.m. (ET)
  • Women’s gold-medal game: July 28 (Day 5) at 8:55 a.m. (ET)
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Asif Sultani trains on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. An Afghan refugee to Australia, he will compete in karate on the Refugee Olympic Team this year.SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images


Karate, originated in Okinawa, Japan, finally makes its debut in Tokyo to join taekwondo, wrestling and judo in combat sports. Olympic karate is divided into two disciplines, kata and kumite. Kata (forms) is a demonstration of offensive and defensive moves against a virtual opponent and is judged on power, speed, rhythm and balance via a points system. Kumite is a fight between two opponents where points are awarded when competitors lands strikes and kicks with good form on specific areas on their opponent’s body. There are three-minute matches and the first one to an eight-point lead wins.

Karate events in Tokyo
  • Men’s kumite (varying weight classes) sem-final/final: Aug. 5 (Day 13) and Aug. 6 (Day 14)
  • Women’s kumite (varying weight classes) semi-finals/final: Aug. 5 (Day 14) and Aug. 6 (Day 15)
  • Women’s kata gold: Aug. 5 (Day 13) at 7:22 a.m. (ET)
  • Men’s kata gold: Aug. 6 (Day 14) at 6:50 a.m. (ET)
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Sport climber Jan Hojer, who will compete at the Olympics, trains in a climbing hall in Hilden, Germany, this past June.Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters

Sport climbing

Sport climbing is divided into three disciplines: lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering. Speed climbing has athletes climbing a 15-metre wall along a fixed route while secured to ropes in a race. Lead climbing is the same but without the route, and bouldering is a four-metre-long climb without any safety ropes, along fixed routes. Typically during the World Cup competition, these would be their own event but in Tokyo, final rankings will be determined by a combined score as a mixed event.

Sport climbing events in Tokyo
  • Men’s combined final – speed/bouldering/lead: Aug. 5 (Day 13) at 4:30 a.m. (ET)
  • Women’s combined final – speed/bouldering/lead: Aug. 6 (Day 14) at 4:30 a.m. (ET)

What to look for off the field

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U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith, middle, and John Carlos, right, raise their fists during a playing of the American national anthem at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.The Associated Press


The 2020s are no stranger to athlete protests. We’ve seen them in every major North American sport in varying forms and it’s been evident at the Olympics in the past. The clearest example was at the 1968 Olympics, where American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested on the podium against the civil rights problems in the United States by raising fists clad in black gloves.

Now with racial tensions heightened in the United States after numerous high-profile killings of Black men by police officers, some form of protest by American athletes can almost be expected. And with the recent discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a form of protest by a Canadian athlete either. This is especially the case since the International Olympic Committee has recently announced rules allowing for more freedom of expression from athletes.

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An employee at the Olympic village checks a man's body temperature at a press preview in June.Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images


Spectators have been completely banned from the Tokyo Olympics and Japan is under a COVID-19 state of emergency. This is the worst-case scenario for atmosphere at the Games but it does bring a level of intrigue. All the athletes are now effectively in a vacuum; there are no outside influences that can affect their performance; everything comes from within. So while some may argue that the gravitas of the Olympics makes the event what it is, completely silent stadiums offer a level of assessment that a raucous crowd muddies. There’s no momentum, no crowd favourites and very little in the way of hometown advantage. This is as flat a playing field as one can get, barring playing the Games on the moon.

In terms of the virus itself, it’s already among a few athletes in Tokyo. Athletes from each of Lithuania, Israel, Uganda and Serbia have tested positive for COVID-19. Two workers in the Tokyo Olympic village have also tested positive for the virus, a few days ago. Athletes will also be required to put their medals around their own necks during ceremonies. The coronavirus is going to be a part of the Games, which kept their original 2020 Tokyo Olympics name despite being postponed a year because of the pandemic; the question is how much.

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Jessica Springsteen, riding RMF Zecile, clears a hurdle at a 2018 jumping competition in Paris.Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Jessica Springsteen

Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of Bruce Springsteen and singer-songwriter Patti Scialfa, is one of four members of the U.S. equestrian team. The 29-year-old will join the veteran trio of Laura Kraut, McLain Ward and Kent Farring, who’ve competed in a combined seven Olympics. Ms. Springsteen will be ranked third behind Ms. Kraut and Mr. Ward at the Games and will be riding 12-year-old stallion Don Juan van de Donkhoeve in her first Olympics.

When to watch Jessica Springsteen in Tokyo:
  • Jumping team qualifier: Aug. 6 (Day 14) at 6 a.m. (ET)
  • Jumping team Final: Aug. 7 (Day 15) at 6 a.m. (ET)

How to watch

CBC, Sportsnet, TSN and TLN are all homes of the Tokyo Olympics on Canadian TV. Online, Sportsnet and TSN will let you watch by either buying their standalone streaming service or by signing in with your television provider on their website. CBC’s live streams can be found through the CBC website and CBC Olympics app. TLN’s coverage of the Tokyo Games on TV will include select live soccer matches in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Tokyo is also 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time and 16 hours ahead of Pacific. Meaning, evening events in Tokyo will take place in the morning here in Canada and morning events in Japan will happen during the evening here.

Olympians to follow on Instagram and Twitter


Canadian Olympic Team (@TeamCanada)
Matt Berger (@mattberger_), skateboarding
Penny Oleksiak (@typicalpen), swimming
Emily Batty (@emilybatty1), cross-country mountain biking
Sean McColl (@mccollsean), sport climbing


Team Canada (@TeamCanada)
Sarah Pavan (@SarahPavan), beach volleyball
Janine Beckie (@janinebeckie), soccer
Andre De Grasse (@de6rasse), athletics

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