Olympics: 10 breakout Canadian athletes to watch in Beijing

·5 min read

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging onward and a diplomatic boycott from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada will arrive at the Beijing Olympics with a strong, resolute delegation overall, ready to dominate the podium.

There are a number of returnees across various sports, but there are several relatively unknown Canadians who could shine on the brightest stage in international sports. You’ve been waiting four years for the Olympics, so we’re not going to bore you with further preamble.

Here are 10 athletes poised to break out at the Beijing Olympics and make a run at the podium.

Eliot Grondin, snowboard cross

Grondin is rounding into top form at the right time, capturing a bronze medal at a World Cup event in January, while winning silver at a World Cup competition in December. The 20-year-old is back for his second Olympiad, previously featuring for Canada as a 16-year-old in Pyeongchang. You’re going to feel old as Grondin counts U.S. phenom Shaun White among his inspirations.

On a star-studded Canadian snowboard team, Grondin is peaking at the right time and could sneak onto the podium in one of the most exciting sports — at least to this writer, anyways.

Here is some footage of Grondin’s bronze-medal performance in Russia, via CBC Sports.

Elizabeth Hosking, halfpipe

Like Grondin, Hosking was one of the youngest members of Canada’s team in 2018 and is back with a vengeance this time around. The 20-year-old finished seventh at the 2021 World Championships in Aspen, and is coming off a career-best fourth-place finish at a World Cup event in December held in Colorado.

Hosking showed off a pretty sick routine during her warmup from the X Games on Instagram. With an effortlessly cool style and showing real growth in her latest performances, she could be bound for imminent stardom.

Cynthia Appiah, monobob, two-woman bobsleigh

Appiah is competing in the two-woman bobsleigh with Dawn Richardson Wilson and individually in the monobob competition. It’s the latter event where Appiah has the best chance of medaling. She finished third in the World Cup monobob overall standings in 2021. Appiah, a former track and field star at York University, was an alternate brakewoman in 2018 but never had a chance to participate in the competition.

​​"Being a Black athlete in a winter sport, you do come across, unfortunately, some negative stereotypes about your abilities," Appiah said to Tyler Cheese of CBC News. "And I find that it just makes it that much sweeter when I am successful."

Appiah is clearly motivated to dominate on the bigger stage and with a series of stellar performances in 2021, Beijing could be her breakout platform.

Jack Crawford, alpine skiing

Crawford finished 20th in alpine combined at Pyeongchang 2018 and is looking to surprise with a medal after finishing fourth overall at the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championship. It’s the greatest indicator that he is on the verge of shocking the competition and finding his way onto the podium.

At 23, Crawford has participated in 33 World Cup events and he has the necessary experience to be unfazed by the stakes here.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, ice dancing

Canada’s ice dancers are always under scrutiny at the Olympics with the nation’s eyes firmly fixed on what it believes to be one of its best medal hopes. Gilles and Poirier are no different and though they don’t have the household name-brand recognition that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had, a stellar performance in Beijing could change that.

Gilles and Poirier won bronze at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships. With a routine set to The Beatles’ The Long and Winding Road, perhaps the road unfurls itself in the form of a gold medal this winter.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier have a chance to win the hearts of Canadians at the 2022 Olympics. (Photo by Annice Lyn/Getty Images)
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier have a chance to win the hearts of Canadians at the 2022 Olympics. (Photo by Annice Lyn/Getty Images)

Emma Lunder, biathlon

Lunder finished 10th in the relay at Pyeongchang in 2018, but is perhaps better suited for a medal this time around. In a first-person essay for CBC Sports, the 30-year-old wrote about how her previous experience at the Olympics was daunting, but she’s better prepared mentally and physically this time around.

Lunder posted a career-best sixth-place finish in the 15km World Cup event in Sweden last November. There’s no better time than the present to improve upon that record.

Laurent Dubreuil, speed skating

Dubreuil is back for his second Olympics, and this time he could be walking away with a few shiny medals. The 29-year-old won a gold medal in the 500m at the 2021 World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships, adding a bronze in the 1000m. He didn’t fare particularly well in Pyeongchang, with an 18th-place finish in the 500m and a 25th-place finish in the 1000m.

That may be all the motivation needed for Dubreuil to submit a performance that will elevate his profile to the next level, atop the podium.

Isabelle Weidemann, speed skating

Recent performances suggest that Weidemann is on the verge of medaling at Beijing. She finished seventh in the 3000m and sixth in the 5000m in PyeongChang, but during two events in 2021, she finished fifth in the 3000m and fourth in the 5000m at World Cup and World Single Distance Championship events.

Weidemann also finished second in the 1500m at an ISU World Cup event in November, and all indicators suggest she’s bound to improve upon her performances at Pyeongchang with a genuine chance of medaling in the 5000m.

Keegan Messing, figure skating

Messing won the gold medal at the 2021 Golden Spin of Zagreb, a senior-level event, while finishing third at Skate America. Figure skating is always one of the competitions that Canadians flock to their televisions for during the Olympics. The recent history of Canadian figure skaters can perhaps make the stakes feel impossibly high, but Messing is well-prepared and at 30, he’s no longer a rookie happy to be here.

If Messing medals in Beijing, he could arguably be the breakout star of the Olympics for Canada.

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