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Olympic viewing guide: Penny can make history (again), Rosie goes for the 3-peat | CBC Sports

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening at the Tokyo Olympics by subscribing here.

For the first time since the swimming medal races began, Canada finished a day without a medal in the pool. Despite setting a national record in their final last night, Penny Oleksiak and the women’s 4×200-metre freestyle relay team placed a distant fourth on Day 6 in Tokyo. But Canada still ran its podium streak to five days as rowers Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens took bronze in the women’s pair event. That makes 10 medals for the Canadian team in Tokyo — two gold, three silver and five bronze. Women have won every single one of them.

Tonight, Oleksiak will take another crack at winning her Canadian-record seventh Olympic medal when she competes in the final of her signature event. Let’s start our daily viewing guide there, then look at two other strong medal chances coming up for Canada tonight, plus a big match for the women’s soccer team and some much-needed good news for U.S. gymnastics.

Penny Oleksiak is on the brink of making Canadian history — again

With her four medals from the 2016 Rio Games and now two more in Tokyo, Oleksiak has already reached the podium more times in the Summer Olympics than any other Canadian. One more and the 21-year-old will break a tie with speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes for the most medals ever by a Canadian Olympian.

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It could happen tonight in the women’s 100-metre freestyle final at 9:59 p.m. ET. This is the event Oleksiak won gold in as a 16-year-old in Rio, pulling off one of the most stunning results in Canadian sports history by tying American Simone Manuel for first place and the Olympic record.

But five years is a long time in swimming, and Manuel is a prime example of that. Despite adding the 100m freestyle world title in both 2017 and ’19, the 24-year-old failed to make it out of the U.S. Olympic trials in her best event. Oleksiak also knows how tough it is to stay on top. She finished sixth at the 2017 world championships and didn’t even compete in the 100 free at the 2019 worlds. Before taking bronze in the Olympic 200 freestyle earlier this week, Oleksiak hadn’t won a medal in an individual race at a major international meet since Rio.

But if Penny has taught us anything, it’s that she peaks on the Olympic stage. She swam a personal season-best 52.86 seconds in last night’s semifinals — only 0.16 of a second off her Rio gold-medal time. That was good for just fifth place overall, but consider that she had to swim for a medal in the 4×200 relay about 90 minutes later. Surely, she held a little back.

Penny will have to empty the tank tonight to beat Australia’s Emma McKeon, who’s the clear gold-medal favourite after torching Oleksiak’s and Manuel’s Olympic record with a 52.13 in the heats and going under the old standard again to place first overall in the semis. Siobhan Haughey, who became the first swimmer to win an Olympic medal for Hong Kong when she took silver in the 200 freestyle earlier this week, also bettered the Oleksiak/Manuel time in the semis. Some betting shops have Penny listed as the No. 5 favourite to win the final — behind Australia’s Cate Campbell and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who took silver and bronze behind Manuel at the most recent world championships, in 2019. But if we’ve learned anything else from Penny over the past week, it’s to not bet against someone with her immense talent and fighting spirit.

If Oleksiak falls short of the podium tonight, she’ll have one more chance to break the record in Tokyo in the women’s 4x100m medley relay. The heats are Friday at 7:57 a.m. ET, and the final on Saturday night.

Another swimming event to watch tonight: Canadians Kylie Masse and Taylor Ruck compete in the women’s 200m backstroke semifinals starting at 10:35 p.m. ET. Masse, who took silver in the 100 backstroke on Monday night, was the bronze medallist in the 200 at the 2019 worlds.

One more thing to know, from this morning’s heats: 14-year-old Summer McIntosh (the youngest athlete on the Canadian Olympic team) did not advance from the women’s 800m heats despite setting a personal best. McIntosh made the final in only one of three individual events in Tokyo — but, again, she’s 14! And she placed fourth in that final, the 400m freestyle, which featured stars Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky. Keep an eye on Summer over the next three years leading up to the Paris Olympics. Read more about what happened in the various heats here.

Richard and Alison Oleksiak join Suhana Meharchand to discuss the excitement and nerves as their daughter goes for the Canadian Olympic medals record at the summer games. 8:51

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Other Canadian medal chances on Thursday night/Friday morning

Along with Penny in the women’s 100m freestyle, there are two more strong possibilities. In chronological order:

Rowing

Four finals are on tap for the last day of competition, and there’s a Canadian boat in one of them: the women’s eight at 9:05 p.m. ET. Canada missed the podium in this event at the 2016 Olympics and the most recent world championships, in 2019. But the betting markets suggest this crew has a good chance to win a medal. The Canadians are listed pretty much even with Romania for the No. 3 favourite, with New Zealand and the U.S. the only two teams clearly ahead of them.

Trampoline

Rosie MacLennan goes for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the women’s trampoline event, which starts with qualifying at midnight ET, followed by the final round at 1:50 a.m. ET. In Rio, she became the first Canadian ever to repeat as Olympic champion in an individual event at the Summer Games. So a three-peat would really be something. MacLennan went on to win the 2018 world title and took bronze at the ’19 worlds in Tokyo despite suffering a broken ankle seven months before the competition. Read more about her here.

Some other interesting stuff you should know about

The Canadian women’s soccer team plays its quarter-final vs. Brazil at 4 a.m. ET. From here on out, every match is single-elimination. This one is a rematch of the third-place game at the Rio Olympics, where Canada upset the host team 2-1 to win its second consecutive bronze medal. To make it three podiums in a row, the eighth-ranked Canadians will have to pull off multiple upsets. Seventh-ranked Brazil is favoured to beat them, and Canada would be an even bigger underdog in the semis against the winner between the top-ranked United States and the No. 4 Netherlands. Two all-time greats will battle in the Canada-Brazil matchup: Christine Sinclair, who scored her record 187th international goal in Canada’s group-stage opener vs. Japan, and Marta, who ranks eighth in history with 112 international goals.

Track and field starts tonight. Only one medal event is on tap for the first day, and there’s a Canadian in it. Moh Ahmed will run in the men’s 10,000 metres at 7:30 a.m. ET. His best event is the 5,000, which he took bronze in at the last world championships. The best-known Canadian woman competing on day one is Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, who finished fourth in the women’s 800m at the 2016 Olympics. She runs in heat 3 at 9:41 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, two-time men’s pole vault world champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. and reigning South American champ German Chiaraviglio of Argentina are both out of the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19. Because Kendricks had been training alongside an Australian athlete, all 63 members of the Aussie track and field team had to go into isolation before they were eventually cleared with negative tests. Read more about Canada’s best hopes for track and field medals and some international athletes to watch here.

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Also…

Sunisa Lee brought some much-needed joy to the American gymnastics team. Things have been pretty heavy since superstar Simone Biles pulled out of the women’s team final and indicated we might not see her compete again in Tokyo because of a mental health issue that has rendered her unable to perform anywhere near her usual (exceptionally high) level. But those troubles were forgotten for a minute today when the 18-year-old Lee won the all-around event — with Biles on the sidelines cheering her on. Read more about Lee’s victory and watch highlights here.

And finally…

Little countries are doing big things. San Marino became the smallest nation ever to win an Olympic medal today when Alessandra Perilli took bronze in the women’s trap shooting event. The tiny state, located within northern Italy, has a population of about 34,000 (around the same as Moose Jaw) and covers just 61 square kilometres. Earlier this week, Bermuda (population: ~62,000) became the smallest country to win a Summer Olympic gold when Flora Duffy took the women’s triathlon. Liechtenstein (pop.: ~38,000) has won two golds in alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics.

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 Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website. Check out the full streaming schedule here.

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