Canada’s 2010 Olympic Hockey Team: Early Report, Players on the Bubble

October 25, 2009

By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter… It’s still early in the NHL season, but with the competition to make Team Canada’s roster for the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver being so tight, Steve Yzerman and company will be watching every player with a microscope.

Obviously, there are a number of players that, from the outside looking in, seem to be a lock to make Team Canada’s roster. That said, the Olympic tournament is a short tournament and, as such, every player will be asked to raise their level of play on a moment’s notice.

Yzerman will be looking closely at every players consistency. Sure, every player’s history will play a major roll in the selection process, but a stumble here and there this season may very well cause Yzerman to re-evaluate a player, which may ultimately cost said player a roster spot on Team Canada.

Canada invited a total of 47 players to their orientation camp; here’s how it shakes out: six goaltenders, 16 defensemen, and 25 forwards. For the most part, the feeling has been that there are only a few roster spots available, with the majority of the roster having been already set coming into the orientation camp.

That said, Yzerman is on record as saying that he intends to bring the best players possible and if that means he has to leave a popular player off the roster, so be it.

There are a number of “perimeter” players that were included in the orientation camp that, if they were to have a strong first half in the NHL season, may find themselves on the team. Included in that list are Forwards Marc Savard, Jonathan Toews, Simon Gagne, Derek Roy, Dan Cleary, Brenden Morrow, Shane Doan, Milan Lucic, Andy MacDonald, Derek Roy, Ryan Smyth, and Patrick Marleau.

Thus far, with four goals and three assists through seven games, Boston Bruins Marc Savard has made a good case for himself to be included on the roster. Savard is as slick as they come when it comes to distributing the puck, but, much like Yzerman before him, seems to be one of the final cuts when the opportunity to play for Canada arises.

“Captain Canada”, Ryan Smyth, has been equally impressive and with six goals and eight assists (14 points) through ten games with the Los Angeles Kings, has given Yzerman plenty to think about.

Patrick Marleau has played well for the San Jose Sharks and through ten games has netted seven goals and four assists (11 points). More importantly, Marleau has a 52.6 percent success rate in the face-off circle, a skill Team Canada will need plenty of at the Olympics.

Injuries have limited the production of Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews and, with just one goal and four assists (five points) through nine games, albeit with a plus-seven rating, Toews may find himself watching the Olympics on TV, not participating.

Another player that has been bitten by the injury bug is Boston Bruins rugged forward, Milan Lucic. Simply put, three assists in six games is not going to get it done, clearly, the likes of Ryan Smyth and Shane Doan, two players that bring similar qualities that Lucic does, are miles ahead of Lucic at this point.

As for the aforementioned Shane Doan, he has the Phoenix Coyote’s off to a unexpected tremendous start, a tribute to his leadership skills and his skills on the ice. Through eight games Doan has managed just one goal and seven assists (eight points), but again, it’s the intangibles that he brings that will be the make or break factor when it comes time for Yzerman to make the final selections.

Coming off an injury riddled 2008-09 season, Brenden Morrow has as much to prove to himself as he does to his critics. Through 10 games, Morrow has performed admirably, collecting six goals and four assists (10 points), with a plus four rating and a 60 percent face-off percentage to boot. If Morrow wasn’t on the radar before the season began, he sure as heck is now!

The Detroit Red Wings’ Dan Cleary (one goal, three assists through eight games), the Buffalo Sabres’ Derek Roy (no goals, six assists, through seven games), and the St. Louis Blues’ Andy MacDonald (three goals, three assists, through seven games), have all played well, but, in my opinion, are not likely to be selected for Team Canada, at least not at this point.

Canada’s Defense is very deep and extremely talented. As such, there is going to be stiff competition for a roster spot, thus creating a situation in which Yzerman and company will have to make some very difficult decisions.

Some of the “perimeter” players from the defense corps include, Marc Staal, Stephane Robidas, Drew Doughty, Francois Beauchemin, Dan Hamhuis, Dan Boyle, and Shea Weber.

The New York Rangers’ Marc Staal leads the team in playing time, averaging 22:27 minutes a game and, through 10 games, has been one of the best shut-down defensemen in the NHL. Clearly, Staal’s stock is on the rise.

A big surprise would have to be the play of Staal’s teammate, rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto. With four goals and five assists (nine points) through 10 games, Del Zotto leads all NHL defensemen in points, all within the confines of playing just 15:54 minutes per game. It’s not likely Del Zotto will make the 2010 team, but it does serve well for Team Canada down the road.

Robidas has averaged 23:02 minutes a game with the resurgent Dallas Stars. His plus seven rating ranks him right up there with the NHL’s elite. His simple game and penchant for shooting the puck may very well catch the eye of Yzerman.

Drew Doughty has quickly established himself as one of the NHL’s elite defenseman. Through ten games, Doughty has averaged 22:49 minutes in ice-time for the Los Angeles Kings and, with two goals and five assists (seven points), Doughty is right there when it comes to offensive defensemen.

The Nashville Predators Shea Weber has performed well to date. Through nine games he has scored three goals and added three assists (six points). His 25:29 minutes a game ranks him 13th overall in the NHL, clearly, Weber is worthy, but again, the competition is stiff, so he may very well be on the outside looking in when the Olympics roll around.

Dan Boyle has averaged 25:38 minutes per game with the San Jose Sharks. Through 10 games he has scored two goals and added seven assists (nine points), ranking him right up their with the NHL’s best offensive defensemen. Once again, Boyle seems worthy, but does he bring enough intangibles to crack Team Canada’s lineup?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a terrible start, unfortunately for Francois Beauchemin, he has been fingered as one of the main cogs in the Leafs’ woes and with good reason. Through seven games, Beauchemin has registered one goal and two assists (three points) and owns a glaring minus-five rating. Clearly, Beauchemin is off the radar right now and has likely played poorly enough to have been red flagged at this point.

Dan Hamhuis is probably the least known defenseman on Team Canada’s orientation roster. Through seven games he has averaged 22:45 minutes per game and is an alarming minus seven. Hamhuis has a lot of work to do, but he was a long shot anyways.

Canada’s goaltending situation is quite muddled. Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury were highly regarded as the favorites to win a spot as one of Canada’s top three goaltenders, with Luongo and Brodeur being the favorites to start.

Other candidates included Steve Mason and Cam Ward, each one of them with the potential to be Canada’s starter and, judging by the way Canada’s supposed top two goalies have played, it’s a good thing they were on the orientation camp list.

Through eight games, the Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury has established himself as Canada’s best goalie. His 8-0 record, 1.96 goals against average, and .926 save percentage puts him miles ahead of any other Canadian goaltender; he is Canada’s best right now.

The Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo has struggled mightily. Through nine games, he has a 4-5 record with a bloated goals against average 3.07 and a horrific save percentage of .881. Combine Luongo’s slow start with a spotty playoff performance in 2008-09 and he may very well have played himself out of the starting role.

Veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur has a respectable 5-3 record through eight games with the New Jersey Devils. His 2.59 goals against average and .907 save percentage are good, but hardly the kind of numbers Team Canada wants to see from it’s starting goaltender. Brodeur is in tough.

In 2008-09, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s Steve Mason had one of the best rookie season’s a goaltender has ever had in the NHL. To date, through six games, he has a 4-2 record, with a 2.99 goals against average and a .899 save percentage, far off the numbers he put up in the 2008-09 season and not the type of numbers that will endure him to Team Canada.

Seen as a long-shot to many, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward is off to a tough start. That said, his 2-4 record through six games is hardly indicative of the way he has played. Ward’s 2.47 goals against average and .922 save percentage are very good, especially when you consider how poorly the Hurricanes have played in front of him, by all indications, Ward is still in the mix.

We will not get a true read of how Team Canada’s roster will shape up until about the 30 game mark. That said, the warning signs are there for some players that were counting on their resumes to speak for them.

A players history may get you an extended look, but if a player wants a chance to “make history” with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, they will have to perform in the “now” and, judging by the early play of some of the candidates, when it comes to making the team, their dreams may in fact, be history….

Until next time,

Peace!

Searching For The Olympic Soul

August 27, 2008

by Josh Lewis… Another Olympiad has come and gone, and with its passing comes a significant let-down for sport fanatics. But they aren’t the only observers who felt a great rush of disappointment as the Beijing Games came to a close on Sunday.

Legions of people who couldn’t care less about who wins the Stanley Cup or the World Series will now return to the drudgery of everyday life. They can’t help but feel a small void in their souls, a little hole that for the past two weeks had been lit up by the wonder and amazement of the Olympic Games.

Butchers and secretaries, sales managers and teachers, doctors and carpenters. For 17 days, the world’s best captivated them all. Even the stereotypical housewife, who’d rather watch her soaps while her husband is forced to catch the ball game in the basement, is reeled in every four years.

What is it about these Games, this collection of athletic pursuits that would normally bore most people, that demands attention? Why does a working person, who routinely falls asleep on the couch during Hockey Night in Canada, feel the need to get up two hours early so they can watch a Norwegian shotputter go for the world record?

The Olympic spirit means something different for every person watching at home. It is plain to see, yet impossible to capture; complex and yet so simple.

The Olympic Games are the ultimate test of character and dedication. It requires a truly special person to put in four long years of pain, endurance and hardship. Only the most committed and hard-working souls are able to keep pushing their limits, to squeeze out one more lap, one more stroke, one more lift, even as their muscles cry out for respite.

And when the inevitable setbacks begin to claw into the psyche, only those blessed with incredible mental toughness are able to dig deep, find that ounce of resilience in their inner reserves, and bounce back.

When we witness an athlete standing atop the podium donning a newly-won medal and basking in the patriotic glow of town and country, we see the pinnacle of achievement. But we can’t possibly know the journey of enduring sacrifice, hard work, and excruciating heartbreak. We don’t see what that swimmer or long-distance runner has learned about themselves, or how they have grown as a person.

Simply put, the Olympics reveal just how much we are capable of—as athletes, as competitors and as human beings.

Aside from witnessing incredible sporting feats, it’s the stories and legends of the Olympics that keep bringing me back for more. I can’t help but tear up to see Eric Lamaze, a man who has overcome so much personal hardship, reach the pinnacle of sporting success.

Then there’s the Canadian men’s eights rowing squad, which was devastated by a fifth-place finish in Athens and vowed to spend every waking hour of the next four years working toward a gold medal and personal redemption in Beijing. I feel privileged to have witnessed them receiving their shiny new hardware on a sunny afternoon at Shunyi, belting out Oh Canada and knowing, deep down inside, that they had achieved something truly exceptional.

Why do the Olympic Games hold such a dear place in our hearts? Because they transcend sport. They tell an extraordinary tale of perseverance, sacrifice, determination, disappointment and jubilation.

In sports, as in life, all are road signs on the path to success.

SUMMER OLYMPIC’S: WHY “WE” CANADIANS SHOULD BE PROUD

August 26, 2008

by Mark Ritter… Every four years, with varying expectations, Canadian citizen’s dust off their remote controls and tune into one of the greatest sporting spectacles your eyes will ever behold, the Summer Olympics. Canada, by in large, is not expected to have “huge” success at the Summer Olympics, that said, why is it the entire Country seems to feel that Canadian Athlete’s have somehow let Canada down in 2008?

Canada has participated in 23 Summer Olympics, missing only the inaugural 1896 Olympics in Athens and the Boycotted 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Canada’s best results were at the 1984 Olympics in Atlanta where they pulled off a huge Medal count capturing 10 Gold’s, 18 Silver and 16 Bronze Medals respectively for a total of 44 Medals, no easy feat. At present, Canada’s all-time medal count stands at 256; factor that Canada has participated in 23 games that gives Canada an average of just over 11 Medals per Olympic Games. With 14 Medals (May Change) currently having been awarded in Beijing why all the fuss about Canada’s supposed lack of results? Give your collected heads a shake Canada, I for one believe Canada has done just fine, thank you very much!

I think most of the backlash directed towards Canadian Athlete’s comes due to the lack of results in the so-called “Gucci” events; by that I mean the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m events. How soon we forget the great results brought to us by the likes of Donovan Bailey setting a World Record in the Men’s 100m race in Atlanta and the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Team destroying a “cocky” American team by nearly half a second at the same games. Ben Johnson, vilified for his steroid use, had the entire Country leap out of their chairs when he crossed the finish line in 9.79 seconds in Seoul Korea, then the fastest recorded 100m time ever. I think it’s pretty obvious that Johnson was not the only one on steroids that day, the difference is he got caught, that said, cheaters have no place in the Olympics or any other sports, so I digress. But that moment was incredible, just the same.

Maybe “We” as a Nation need to be a little more supportive, look at the Spirit of competition and not just the results. Any Athlete fortunate enough to participate in the Olympics and represent their Country is worthy of your support, admiration and attention, regardless of the results or lack thereof. How is it that an Athlete such as Canada’s 200m Breaststroke participant Mike Brown gets dumped on for finishing fourth? Sure it “sucks” to be fourth, but how do you think the Athlete feels? I don’t know about you but I would love to be the fourth best in the World at anything I did! Sure, First, Second or Third is better, but Fourth ain’t too shabby Brother!

Trust me, every Athlete wants to bring home a Medal, they spend countless hours working out, practicing their event, make countless sacrifices and endure financial hardships just to get to the Olympics and get one shot at a Medal every four years, how can anyone suggest for a minute that they are not giving it their all? Canada will never dominate the Summer Olympics; the Country simply does not have the financial wherewithal or the talent to compete against the Medal favorites, anyone who thinks otherwise is a lunatic! Besides, when is the last time, outside of an Olympic year, that you cared one iota about any of these events/Athletes? Most Canadians sit on their couches with a mouth full of peanuts and beer and criticize every Canadian Athletes performance without knowing “Diddly” about the event they are watching. Maybe if Canadians spent as much time getting involved in their communities and supporting Amateur sports as they do complaining about the supposed lack of results Canada could send more Medal contenders. My advice to the “Couch Critics” is to get off your collective keisters and get involved then, and only then, should you have an opinion.

Canada has put fourth a great team of Athlete’s to compete at the Beijing Olympics. Sure there have been disappointments, but that’s the beauty of the Olympics, you never know who is going to put fourth their best performance on any given day. If the events were predictable then there would be no need for the games. Competition fuels interest, interest drives ratings, ratings drive revenue, revenue contributes to making Olympic dreams possible and that’s the bottom line.

Hey Canada, “Chill-Lax”, enjoy the games, let the spirit of the games and the glory of competition move your Soul. Let’s focus on praising the likes Simon Whitfield, Carol Huynh, Ian Miller, Karen Cockburn, Alexandre Despatie and the surprising performance of Pricilla Lopes-Schliep, to name a few. Let’s not forget the Athletes who fell just short of a Medal like Mike Brown, Dylan Armstrong, Blythe Hartley, Christine Girard, Christopher Cook, David Ford and the Women’s Softball Team, to name a few. There is no sense in complaining, the Athletes don’t deserve it and even if you do not share the sentiments, the rest of the World respects our results and our efforts to bring forward a product that every Canadian should be proud of.

Now get off that couch and start training, the 2012 games are only four short years away!

Lightning Strikes Thrice at National Stadium for Jamaican Usain Bolt

August 26, 2008

http://blog.mlive.com/olympics_impact/2008/08/large_jamaica400.jpgby Brady Rynyk… Not since the Bobsled team entered the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988 has there been so much publicity and hype surrounding Jamaican Olympians.  Considering he is a relative newcomer to the sport, the now 22 year old, Usain Bolt, from Trelawny, Jamaica (the same hometown of fallen Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson) did not make his foray into this year’s Beijing games as a clear cut favourite.  He immediately catapulted his status, however, as the biggest threat on the track after he eased his way to a first place finish in his very first heat.  Despite setting a world record in the 100m with a time of 9.72 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York in May, many experts in the field felt he may not contest for the gold medal due to the 1.7 m/s tail wind that aided him during that race.

Bolt, who was uncertain if he would even race in the 100m event, left the decision up to his coach, Glen Mills, to determine whether or not it made sense for the sprinter to run in addition to what was considered his specialty, the 200m.

Any uncertainty would all change after the qualifying rounds when the Lightning Bolt, as his is fittingly called, embarassed everyone he was matched up against with his lightning speed in each heat.  The 6’5 runner, who never seems to get a good spring out of the starting blocks, seemed to prance to a definitive lead crossing the finish line without anyone on his heals.

By the time he stepped into the blocks of the medal round of the 100m race, Bolt still may not have been the clear cut favourite for the event considering other runners in the field included former world record holder and teammate Asafa Powell, American Walter Dix, and Churandy Martina.  However, the looks on the faces of the runners participating in the event told a different story.  While the other sprinters noticeably looked anxious and nervous, Bolt bolstered with confidence and determination.  In a heartfelt talk with Willie Bolt two days before the final, Usain assured his father that he would “carry the gold back home.”  He would not dissappoint as he broke away from the pack by the 50m mark and clearly pulled back with about 15m left in the race, still managing to beat his own World Record.  Without anyone remotely close to him, he crossed the finish line with a time of 9.69 seconds, ahead of Richard Thompson who crossed .20 seconds afterwards – almost an eternity in the world of track & field.  As Bolt celebrated during and after the race, he emphatically pumped his chest, while many of his supporters and fellow counrtymen rejoiced by spraying Red Stripe beer into the air.  Surprisingly, Bolt’s victory marked the first time in Jamaican history that a sprinter would finish first in the 100m event, which was justifably a good reason to celebrate.

Four days later, just hours before his 22nd birthday, The Lightning Bolt proved that his finish in the 100m was certainly no fluke when he showed the 200m was truly his specialty at the Beijing Summer Games.  The 200m men’s final may have appeared to be a tighter race until Bolt turned the final corner and seemed to go into another gear, leaving the rest of the pack in his wake.  Despite being impeded by a 0.9 m/s headwind, the running phenom crossed the finish line at 19.30 seconds, shattering American hero Michael Johnson’s 12 year World Record.  Adding to the illustrious evening, following the race at the stroke of midnight, “Happy Birthday” was played across National Stadium’s sound system in tribute to Bolt who had just received his birthday present, a second gold medal.  In doing so Bolt also become the first sprinter, since American legend Carl Lewis, to finish 1st in 100m and 200m within the same Olympic Games.

But the speedster was not finished. On Friday, he aided his Jamaican teammates, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, and Asafa Powell, to a first place finish in the men’s 4×100m relay.  As Bolt passed off the baton to anchor runner Powell, it was clear that no other team would come close to challenging the group of spinters.  The team finished with a time of 37.10 seconds, giving Jamaica yet another World Record and solidifying Bolt’s place in history.   

After his performance in this year’s games, the Jamaican runner will possibly go down in history as the greatest sprinter of all time after his emphatic and certainly decisive results, which clearly embarassed the competition.  However, despite Usain Bolt’s convincing finishes, there are some, like Olympic medalist Kriss Akabusi and IOC president, Jacques Rogge, who construed the world’s fastest man’s antics on the track as disrespectful.  Bolt, who in celebration belted his own chest before crossing the finish line, irked some with the perceived signs of showboating. Some also felt he could have finished with even more convincing times had he done so without boasting.  Former Trinidadian Olympic sprinter and finalist in the 100m, and NBC 2008 Olympic analyst, Ato Boldon, commented, “That [the race] was great television, but I think it was poor sportsmanship.” After being subject to some controversy, especially after being baited into debate during an interview with Bob Costas, Boldon, who meant no disrespect to Bolt went on to say, “My stance as a track purist is that an athlete should celebrate as much as possible before and after, not during a race - simple as that.”

In retrospect, the fact that the runner was able to coast to the finish line, take-in his surroundings and glance up at the crowd, while pounding his chest in celebration should be a true testament of how incredible he really is. When asked to comment, American sprinter Shawn Crawford stated, “I don’t feel like he’s being disrespectful.  If this guy has worked his tail off, every day, on his knees throwing up like I was in practice, he deserves to dance.”  Maybe the naysayers would rather if Bolt slowed up enough to make the race interesting or better yet stopped before the finish line to let all his competitors take the glory.  Regardless,  Usain Bolt’s accomplishments in Beijing are like no other sprinter, and one can only imagine what the future holds for this incredible athlete. Some optimists suspect a gold medal and World Record in the 400m might be next on his list of career goals.

The Dream Scheme

August 18, 2008

by Michelle C. Williams… The 1992 Summer Olympics was indeed a dream when it allowed men’s basketball teams to use NBA players for the first time ever.  In came Bird, Jordan and Johnson (Magic that is) for the U.S. men’s team.  They went on to win all of their games by at least a 30 point margin.  Their stardom on the courts even had them being approached by opposing teams for autographs.

But that was 1992 and now it’s 2008 and the team, after winning a measly bronze medal in 2004, is now on the quest to redeem themselves.

If by chance though that they are unable to do this expect them to do what Americans sometimes do best, make excuses*.

There are a lot for them to choose from but they will most likely stick to their favourite one from the past, our big stars declined to be on the team.

The question is though, how many stars does it take to win gold?  So what if all-star Tim Duncan and no one from champion winners Boston Celtics plays for the U.S.  Does that mean they can’t compete against teams like Angola and Iran who have no NBA players?  Nope.  It just means that if they don’t even get bronze, we (the rest of the world) will have to put up with their whining because apparently having more medals than everyone else at practically every Olympics is not enough.

All insults aside, the U.S. is the most dominating team in summer Olympics men’s basketball and have won 12 gold medals to date.  Therefore I would be shocked if they don’t win gold.  But if they don’t at least they qualified, more than I could say about Team Canada and our crappy Canada Basketball initiative.

*for examples of excuses please refer to every and all things President Bush

Five Reasons why Canucks are at the XXIX Summer Olympics

August 14, 2008

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/4/4071363_2c7178fd12.jpg?v=0by Michelle C. Williams… (Because obviously they didn’t go there to win medals)

5. To see real athletes
Don’t we all wish we could be in Beijing watching people make history like gymnast Yang Wei and sprinter Usain Bolt? Clearly athletes like our women’s swimming relay team, who came in dead last, must be taking note of what real athletes (who are usually American or Chinese) look like.

4. So that RBC, HBC, Roots Canada and so many other sponsors don’t feel cheated
Historic supporter of Canadian athletes fund their trip to the Olympics and sometimes even fund their training. So even if after our athletes train and realize that they have no chance of winning they still have to go, not to try to win but to sport the red and white hoodies that are exclusively available at The Bay.

3. Because we do whatever the U.S. does
They invade Afghanistan, we do too. They have American Idol, we have Canadian Idol. They go to Iraq and begin the never ending war and we…well we didn’t go to Iraq but there does seem to be a trend with us following behind our “big brother”. They’re competing in the Olympics, so gosh darn it we will too. Even if our athletes are no competition for them.

2. We don’t want to offend China by not going
With all the talk about countries not wanting to support the Olympics in Beijing, us not showing up would look like we don’t like China and not that we don’t have good enough athletes to compete.

And the number one reason why we are at the 2008 XXIX Summer Olympics is because we are the only country in the world that actually rewards athletes just for going
It may seem like a shame when athletes from certain countries are threatened to ensure they win a medal but what’s even worse is that here we have athletes like Perdida Felicien, who hasn’t won a single medal at an Olympics, on cereal boxes and in ads campaigns for major companies.

In the states you have to be a real athlete like Lance Armstrong (cancer survivor and Olympic cycling medalist) and swimmer Michael Phelps (holder of the record for the most medals of any Olympic athlete) to get on a Wheaties box. Even then your time is limited because you will be ousted but the next star athlete.

Note: The above was written by a very patriotic Canadian who just wants her country to do better in world competition. No disrespect to Mongolia or Tajikistan but how the heck did they get a medal before us?

We’re Number ?

August 13, 2008

By The Angry Sports Bastard… The Olympics are well underway and again Canada is nowhere to be found when it comes to standing on a podium. In fact, if you check the tote board we are officially tied with bottom-feeders such as Libya and Yemen; hell even Thailand has struck Olympic gold. Let’s face it. What’s happening in Beijing is an utter embarrassment and it’s time for Canada to decide if we are ready and willing to invest in athletics to compete with the big boys. I for one am tired of the accolades being thrown around for achieving personal bests. As we learned in Athens, fourth-place really means you are no place.

I’m not going to dig up ancient history here but what else have I got to go on? Remember when Canada owned the pool with Alex Baumann, Victor Davis and Anne Ottenbreit? And who can forget Canada in the boxing ring? Lennox Lewis (a turncoat with a phony English accent) struck gold by whacking Riddick Bowe in Seoul; Shawn O’Sullivan won a silver medal at the ’84 Games after getting hosed by the judges and; Egarton Marcus winning silver in 1988. What did Canada’s boxing “team” look like in Beijing? It consisted of one guy who got destroyed. Hey, he can now enjoy the rest of his vacation.

The Games aren’t even half over and reality is starting to set in that we aren’t up to snuff on the world stage when it comes to the Summer Games. Canada’s medal count has been in a steady decline over the years with no hint of reversing the trend in sight. The finger-pointing has already started that the lack of funding is doing a disservice to athletes; corporations aren’t putting their money where their mouth is to provide support; the lack of facilities and coaches has driven our best athletes south of the border and parts unknown to train. And who can blame them?

The Americans and a lot of other countries figured out a long time ago that serious money can be made from competing in athletics. We are still in the sporting wilderness. Countries like Kahzakstan are even offering their athletes $250,000 for winning a gold medal; Canada is giving its competitors jobs at Home Depot. (Hey, Mark Boswell, clean up in aisle 7).

Need more evidence we don’t take this stuff seriously and are turning into a nanny state? Just stop by your nearest soccer or baseball field or grade chool and see how much coddling is taking place on the playing grounds and the emphasis is not on winning but participating; where everybody gets an equal chance to play no matter what their ability and in the words of Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a winner baby.” Blue ribbons all around. Please.

I can’t wait for Vancouver 2010. Summer sports may not be Canada’s thing but this drought can’t continue. All I know is if some bobsled team from Jamaica rolls into our yard and hits pay dirt there will be hell to pay.

You’ve been great. Keep listening to Nash the Slash.

The Baltimore Bullet

August 13, 2008

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/00788/michael-phelps_788329c.jpgby Brady Rynyk… Like a mako shark toying with a tuna feast, Michael Phelps took sight of all the swimmers in the men’s 200m freestyle like prey and devoured the field with his inconceivable acceleration. Right from the sound of the starter’s buzzer Phelps found himself with a significant lead after getting an explosive blast off the starting blocks. The Baltimore Bullet’s deep water entry and emphatic dolphin kick propelled Phelps with great ease to his 3rd gold medal of the Beijing Olympics. As his head breached the waters surface to take his first breath, Michael Phelps quickly discovered that the pack of swimmers would pose no threat to his inevitable victory, keeping The Quest for Eight alive. From the sixth lane Phelps plunged into the water and attacked the competition with relentless focus and determination. It took less than 20 seconds for the phenom to catapult himself to a full bodies length lead ahead of the other swimmers in the heat. Even before making his first flip-first turn, it was undoubtedly apparent that the 22yrs old Olympian would surpass his own 2007 world record of 1:43.86. As the race continued it was clear that none of the other finalists would even come close to challenging Phelps for the lead, leaving the rest of the field in a hunt for the silver medal. Republic of Korea ‘s Park Tae-hwan could only catch glimpses of the wake Phelps left behind with his motoring flutter kick.. The task proved too challenging for Park who could not close in on the American and finished in second place, 1.89 seconds behind. The race was so lopsided that with about 10 meters left in the swim, it was as though Phelps seemingly glided into the finishing block with relative ease to set both an Olympic and World Record at the National Aquatic Center. Shaving close to a full second from his best time, The Baltimore Bullet had the pool erupt with cheers when he finished with an official time of 1:42.96.

Phelps would barely have enough time to enjoy the moment, as he stretched out his muscles on the winner’s platform just before the medal presentation and American anthem was broadcast over the arena speakers. Phelps quickly posed for a few camera shots and handed a bouquet of flowers to his sister Hilary, before rushing off to prepare for his semi-final heat in the Men’s 200m butterfly – an event which he currently holds both the Olympic and World Records for, in addition to being the defending World and Olympic champion. As the swimmer returned to the pool deck to defend his title in the butterfly event, Phelps looked cool and collected, lip-syncing the lyrics of the music on his iPod. From his focused demeanour it was obvious by the time Phelps got out of his warm-up gear, another victory would only be moments away, bringing him once race closer to Speedo’s million dollar endorsement deal. As he entered the water, the swimmers stroke was flawless, and gave him an immediate lead over the field of eight. With results mirroring that of his 200m men’s freestyle, Phelps breezed through the heat with yet another Olympic record to add to his portfolio with a finishing time of 1:53.70 – almost one and a half seconds ahead of the second place finished.

Experts have suggested with the passing of Monday evenings Race of the Ages team relay, Phelps’ toughest challenges are said to be behind him. With another gold medal in hand and yet another gold medal race in the 200m butterfly just around the corner, Phelps is now one step closer to his Beijing goal. An achievement The Baltimore Bullet came just one first place finish shy of at the previous 2004 summer games, and once again remains on course to surpass Mark Spitz’s 1972 Munich record of 7 gold medals in one Olympics.

Kyle Shewfelt: One for the Ages

July 24, 2008

by Jordan Bishop

Kyle Shewfelt’s has a good chance of being the top story of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, it was Donovan Bailey who stole the spotlight. In 2000, Simon Whitfield was the star in Sydney. Athens gave us a heartbreaking performance from one of our best, Perdita Felicien. Anyone who calls themselves a Canadian sports fan can remember these moments like they were yesterday, and Kyle Shewfelt may be the story to remember from Beijing.

In 2004, Shewfelt claimed gold in the gymnastics event of men’s floor exercise after a tiebreaker with Romanian Marian Drăgulescu. It was the first Canadian gold medal of those Olympic Games, as well as the first ever medal by a Canadian in an artistic gymnastics event. However, Shewfelt was robbed of a second medal in the vault competition, where he placed fourth behind Drăgulescu, who received the bronze despite a fall on his second vault. Kyle has continued to excel after the Athens Olympics, collecting individual and team medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, as well as winning both the floor and vault events in the Pacific Alliance competition in Hawaii.

Things took a turn for the worse though, when Shewfelt suffered a serious blow to his athletic career in August of 2007. Just prior to the World Championships in Germany, Shewfelt experienced a fluke landing while training for floor exercises. He fractured both kneecaps and tore a ligament in the fall, causing him to get surgery to repair the damage. There was much speculation whether Shewfelt would be ready to compete in the Beijing Olympics, or whether he could make a full recovery at all. However, Kyle never gave up hope. He stated just weeks after he endured the gruesome injury that, “I will be in Beijing, I’m gonna be there!” Clearly, he never quit on himself and his abilities and it is paying dividends.

With the Games less than a month away, there is no doubt Shewfelt is ready to compete at a high level. Ten months ago, when he was sitting in a wheelchair with both legs propped up, who would’ve thought Shewfelt would be competing at the 2008 Olympic Games? Not many. Perhaps even fewer than those who thought Canadian flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden would hit the podium in the ‘04 Games. But that’s a different story.

The fact of the matter is, Kyle Shewfelt is ready and wound up to compete in these 2008 Olympics. In doing so, he will become only the second Canadian gymnast to qualify for three Olympics at the young age of 26. He is a true warrior, someone who refuses to give up on himself or his country. Shewfelt’s will power is sure to be on display in Beijing as he competes for Olympic gold, and with the way he has persevered over the past year, this milestone is not at all beyond his reach. His incredible comeback story is indeed a good one, and may provide him with that extra bit of motivation he needs to achieve ultimate athletic superiority next month at the 2008 Olympic Games.