This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games by subscribing here.
Let the Games (officially) begin. Though competition got underway a couple of days ago, the 2022 Winter Olympics formally kicked off with today’s opening ceremony at Beijing’s National Stadium. The Bird’s Nest, as it’s known, also hosted the ceremonies for the Summer Olympics 14 years ago.
A less-festive vibe surrounded today’s show, which was closed to the public as part of the strict “safety” measures organizers are placing on fans, athletes, journalists and everyone else involved in the second Olympics of the COVID-19 pandemic. Select dignitaries were allowed to attend, but Canada declined to send any government representatives after joining a diplomatic boycott that also included the United States, Great Britain and Australia. One of the two Chinese athletes who lit the Olympic cauldron was cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who China says is of Uyghur heritage. China has been accused of severely mistreating that ethnic minority group — one of the reasons cited for the diplomatic boycott.
For the Parade of Nations portion of the show, the Canadian flag was carried by women’s hockey team captain Marie-Philip Poulin and longtime short track speed skating star Charles Hamelin. Read more about the opening ceremony, see photos and watch highlights here.
Now the focus turns to competition. As we head into the first day with a full slate of events, the big question is who (and when) will Canada win its first medal? Let’s start our daily viewing guide there, then look at other things worth watching on Friday night and Saturday morning in Canadian time zones.
Canada is very likely to win its first medal early Saturday morning
There are three good chances, of varying strength. In chronological order:
Speed skating: Isabelle Weidemann in the women’s 3,000 metres at 3:30 a.m. ET
Weidemann is ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings for the women’s long distances, which includes 3,000- and 5,000m races. But two top Dutch skaters — Irene Schouten and Antoinette de Jong — skipped the last event, costing them points. Schouten is a prohibitive favourite to win gold. Czech skater Martina Sablikova and de Jong are next in the betting odds, followed closely by Weidemann. The 26-year-old Canadian won a pair of silver medals and had a fourth-place finish in the three 3,000m races held this season on the World Cup circuit. Her first Olympic podium is definitely within reach.
Joining Weidemann in this race are fellow Canadians Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais. Both are good skaters, but this isn’t their strongest event. Look for them and Weidemann to possibly win gold in the women’s team pursuit and Blondin to contend in the women’s mass start later in the Games.
Freestyle skiing: Mikaël Kingsbury in the men’s moguls final at 6:30 a.m. ET
If you could wager on only one Canadian to win gold at these Olympics, you’d put your money on Kingsbury. The 29-year-old is the reigning Olympic and world champion, and he’s on track to win his 10th consecutive World Cup moguls season title. A third Olympic medal (he took silver in 2014) is considered a near lock for the greatest moguls skier of all time, and in fact anything less than another gold would be a disappointment for him.
Kingsbury’s chances look even better after the opening qualifying round. He posted the top score while his presumed main rival, Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, placed 16th. That’s well outside the top-10 result needed to advance directly to the final. Horishima, a former world champion who beat Kingsbury for victory three times on the World Cup circuit this season, now must go through the second round of qualifying, which takes place just before the three-run final.
Short track speed skating: Mixed team relay
This is the diciest of the three medal chances. Canada is ranked fifth in the world in this new Olympic event, which sees teams made up of two men and two women race for 2,000 metres (18 laps). Twelve teams are competing, and only four make it to the final.
But anything can happen in short track, where a multi-skater pileup is always lurking around the next corner, waiting to take out a favourite (or even several of them). That’s especially true in the relays, which can look like (barely) organized chaos.
To earn a shot at a medal, Canada will have to survive the quarter-finals at 7:23 a.m. ET and the semis at 7:53 a.m. ET. The top two teams in each semifinal heat advance to the final at 8:26 a.m. ET. The others skate in the “B” final, which can be a path to the podium if multiple teams in the “A” final get disqualified.
Individual short track events also get underway Saturday. Kim Boutin, who won three medals at the 2018 Olympics, is among the Canadians competing in the women’s 500m heats at 6 a.m. ET. The men’s 1,000m heats at 6:38 a.m. ET feature Canada’s Pascal Dion. He won the World Cup title in this event after reaching the podium three times this season.
Some other interesting stuff you should know about
The Canadian women’s hockey team faces a tougher test tonight. After smoking overmatched Switzerland 12-1 in their tournament opener, the Canadians face 2018 silver medallist Finland at 11:10 p.m. ET. The status of veteran Canadian forward Mélodie Daoust is uncertain after she left the opener with an injury.
Canada’s mixed doubles curling team will try to extend its winning streak. Since losing their opener to reigning world champion Great Britain, Rachel Homan and John Morris have rattled off three straight wins. They defeated the 2018 bronze medallists from Norway on Thursday morning, then last night beat the 2018 silver medallists from Switzerland before taking down China. Approaching the midway point of the 10-team round robin, Canada (3-1) is tied with Great Britain for second place. Italy (4-0) is the surprising leader. The Canadians face Sweden (3-2) at 1:05 a.m. ET and the United States (2-2) at 7:05 a.m. ET.
Snowboarding starts tonight, and a top Canadian is in action. 2018 Olympic women’s slopestyle silver medallist Laurie Blouin will compete in that event’s qualifying round starting at 9:45 p.m. ET. Blouin won the women’s slopestyle world title in 2017, and she’s the reigning world champ in big air, which she’ll also compete in at these Olympics. Jasmine Baird and Brooke Voigt are the other Canadians in slopestyle tonight.
Canada is off to a bumpy start in figure skating. The team event began last night, and Canada finds itself in sixth place after ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier placed fourth in their skate, the pairs duo of Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro finished fifth in theirs and Roman Sadovsky was eighth in the men’s. Only the top five teams advance to the final round, so it’s on teenager Madeline Schizas to move Canada up in the standings when the women’s short skate takes place on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Canadian men’s champion Keegan Messing is still awaiting the third negative COVID-19 test result he needs to travel to China. It’s too late for him to compete in the team event, but Canada is hoping he can make it in time for the start of the men’s event on Monday night. Read more about Messing’s situation here.
How to watch live events
They’re being broadcast on TV on CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. Or choose exactly what you want to watch by live streaming on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBC Sports’ Beijing 2022 website. Check out the full streaming schedule (with links to live events) here and read more about how to watch the Games here.
If you’re located outside Canada, you unfortunately won’t be able to access CBC Sports’ coverage of the Games on the app or the website. That’s due to the way the Olympics’ media rights deals work. But if you’re in the northern United States or other international regions, such as Bermuda, that regularly offer the CBC TV network, you can watch the Games there.