Tomorrow marks the opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics. Putting aside all the worries and concerns going into these particular games, it’s always an exciting time to cheer on our talented athletes as a country. It’s a rare occasion that all of Canada can join together the cheer for a team (other than when the Blue Jays play I suppose) and it fills every Canadian with pride to see a fellow Canuck come home with a medal. There are plenty of athletes and teams that have us all excited but before the games get underway, we thought it would be a good opportunity to examine the top Canadian athletes worth watching for in Rio.
JENNIFER ABEL, diving
Rio will be Abel’s third Olympic appearance which began in Beijing in 2008 when she became Canada’s youngest diver to compete at the games. Four years later this Montreal native won bronze in London. Now she heads to Rio with high hopes on her shoulder for capturing another medal. And she’s 24 years old. While the diving partner she won bronze with (Émilie Heymans) has since retied, she will be joined by another promising Canadian, Pamela Ward.
SHAWN BARBER, pole vault
Barber is a Canadian record holder in a sport that Canadians rarely make an impact in. But Barber has been striving for this moment since his childhood in Toronto where he practiced with makeshift poles. Since then he’s been making a name for himself and became a regular fixture on the winners’ podium. His gold medal at the 2015 world championship put him at the front of the pack for Olympic glory.
ELLIE BLACK, gymnasitics
Coming from Halifax, Black was Canada’s little engine that could at the 2012 London games. She was far from a favourite for the national team and made the cut by the skin of her teeth, but once she started competing, it became clear she was a vastly overlooked talent. She was the biggest scorer for the team and now the 20-year-old looks to get even farther.
RYAN COCHRANE, swimming
Victoria native Cochrane is a name many Canadians will know and one that many are putting their hopes on to bring home some gold. He is the most decorated Canadian swimmer and this will be his third Olympic games, winning silver and bronze in previous years. Rio will also be Cochrane’s last Olympic games and he’s got his mind set on walking away with gold.
ANDRE DEGRASSE, sprints
De Grasse comes from Toronto, but he didn’t have the same ambition for Olympic glory at a young age like Ryan Conchrane. He only began his track career at the age of 17. Now at the age of 21 he’s won both the 100- and 200-metre 2015 NCAA titles, double gold at the Pan Am Games and bronze in the 100-metre race at the 2015 world championships. Needless to say, he’s accomplished a lot in a short time and even though he has tough competition in the form of Usain Bolt, he stands a good chance at winning big in Rio.
BROOKE HENDERSON, golf
Henderson is maybe the most recognizable name on this list and given the fact that she’s only 18 years old, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Even before the Olympics came into question, Henderson was shaping up to be one of the most promising Canadian athletes of the year. This is the first summer games since 1904 that golf is included. As it turns out, this is the perfect year to bring it back as far as Canada is concerned.
MARK DE JONGE, kayak
The oldest competitor on the list but in no way does that diminish the potential he has at standing on that podium. Now 32 is certainly not to be considered old by any stretch of the imagination, but in a group of 20-soemthings in prime physical condition, this Haligonia has managed to stay in the game and preformed well on the world stage. Next stop Rio!
BRIANNE THEISEN-EATON, heptathlon
Theisen-Eaton is being touted as Canada’s best hope at getting a medal in athletics. Many track and field fans already expect to see her make it to the podium. She finished 11th in the event at the 2012 Olympics and has excelled since, winning silver at the 2013 and 2015 world championships. She’s now looking to score some gold for her country and herself.
DAMIAN WALKER, decathlon
Walker has been slowly making his presence known in the track world after an unexpected fifth-place finish in the last summer games and he followed tat up with a bronze at the world championship. Even more promising, he now holds Canadian total points record which he broke while winning gold at the 2015 Pan Am games.
Good luck to all our Canadian athletes– Go Canada Go!