Olympic viewing guide: Andre De Grasse goes for gold, Penny's last shot

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His shades and his jewelry might not be the only gold things Andre De Grasse is wearing come Sunday. (Petr David Josek/The Associated Press - image credit)
His shades and his jewelry might not be the only gold things Andre De Grasse is wearing come Sunday. (Petr David Josek/The Associated Press - image credit)

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.

Canada won its fifth swimming medal on Day 8, with Kylie Masse taking silver in the women's 200-metre backstroke to add to her silver in the 100 back earlier this week. That makes 12 medals overall for the Canadian team in Tokyo — three gold, four silver, five bronze. All by women. See the full medal standings and a detailed breakdown of Canada's hardware here.

A mouth-watering Day 9 is coming up as the last night of swimming competition leads into track and field's marquee event — the men's 100 metres. Canada's two biggest Summer Olympic stars, Penny Oleksiak and Andre De Grasse, can add to their already-impressive medal collections.

Our daily Olympic viewing guide will focus on them. Plus, strong Canadian medal chances in diving and gymnastics, a key women's basketball game, and crunch time in beach volleyball and men's golf. Here's what to watch on this super Saturday night/Sunday morning:

Andre De Grasse has a real shot to become the World's Fastest Man

The title is truly up for grabs at the Olympics for the first time since Usain Bolt blew away the field (and blew our minds) with his then world-record 9.69 in 2008 in Beijing. The GOAT added two more 100m gold medals before retiring in 2017. Christian Coleman then emerged as the clear favourite to take the first Olympic gold of the post-Bolt era when he won the world title in 2019, but the young American got himself suspended for Tokyo by missing several doping tests.

Since then, track fans have debated who might fill the vacuum in Tokyo. 2016 Olympic silver medallist Justin Gatlin seemed like a natural choice: he beat Bolt in his farewell race at the 2017 worlds, then took silver behind Coleman in 2019. But the 39-year-old finally ran out of gas at the U.S. Olympic trials, blowing a tire in the final and failing to qualify.

As Tokyo approached, opinion coalesced around 26-year-old American Trayvon Bromell as the consensus favourite. He posted the two fastest times of the year in June — a 9.77, and a 9.80 that won him the U.S. trials final. Bromell also won the final Diamond League 100m race before the Olympics — on July 13 in England. De Grasse finished fourth there, but was clearly saving something for a 4x100 relay race an hour later.

The Canadian was also fourth in an Olympic-calibre 100m field at the Diamond League meet in Monaco four days earlier. The top five betting favourites for Tokyo (at the time) all lined up, and American Ronnie Baker won it in 9.91. South Africa's Akani Simbine placed second in 9.98, and Italy's Marcell Jacobs rounded out the podium in 9.99. De Grasse ran a 10 flat while Bromell stumbled early and finished one spot behind him in 10.01. De Grasse arrived in Tokyo this week having run under 10 seconds with a legal wind just once this year — and that was back in April.

But here's something we need to remember about De Grasse: he saves his best for the biggest stages. In his career, the 26-year-old has started five individual events at the Olympics or world championships. He's reached the podium in every single one — bronze in the 100m at the 2016 Olympics and the 2015 and 2019 world championships, silver in the 200 at the '16 Olympics and '19 worlds. Big Race 'Dre, indeed.

Now it looks like De Grasse is peaking at the right time once again. He placed first overall in the opening-round heats this morning with a personal season-best time of 9.91. Bromell, meanwhile, did not look like an Olympic favourite. The top three in each heat automatically advance, and he finished fourth in his — scraping into the semifinals as one of the three wild cards. Suddenly, this event looks even more wide-open than we thought.

The semifinals begin Sunday at 6:15 a.m. ET, and De Grasse is running in the first of the three heats. The top two in each advance, plus the next two fastest runners. Assuming all goes well, De Grasse will try to become the first Canadian since Donovan Bailey in 1996 to win Olympic 100m gold when the final goes Sunday at 8:50 a.m. ET. Watch it live on the CBC TV network or stream it live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports' Tokyo 2020 website. Read Bailey's takes on De Grasse, Bromell and the rest of the men's 100m contenders here. Watch a CBC Sports Explains video on the history (and possible future) of the race here.

One other Canadian is competing in a track and field final on Day 9: Django Lovett in the men's high jump, which starts at 6:10 a.m. ET. He's not expected to win a medal.

The top event in this morning's finals was the women's 100 metres. Elaine Thompson-Herah repeated as champion and led a Jamaican sweep of the podium with an Olympic-record 10.61. 2008 and 2012 gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took silver at age 34, while Shericka Jackson got the bronze. Read more about the race and watch it here.

Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images
Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

It's Penny Oleksiak's last chance to break the Canadian Olympic medal record (for now)

The 21-year-old star heads into the final night of swimming competition with two medals in Tokyo and six in her career. That's tied with speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes for the most ever by a Canadian Olympian.

Oleksiak has an excellent chance to get the record all to herself in the women's 4x100-metre medley final tonight at 10:15 p.m. ET. In this race, each swimmer performs a different stroke. And Canada happens to have an Olympic medallist in almost all of them. There's 100m butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil, 100m and 200m backstroke silver medallist Kylie Masse, and of course Penny. She won gold in the 100 freestyle in 2016, took bronze in the 200 free a few days ago, and also swam a blistering anchor leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay to win silver for Canada last weekend. The other member of the team is no slouch, either. Sydney Pickrem took bronze in the 200 breaststroke at the 2019 world championships. This lineup won bronze in the 4x100 medley at that meet.

Canada also qualified for the men's 4x100 medley final at 10:36 p.m. ET — the very last swimming race of the Games. But the team would need a miracle to medal.

Watch the final five swimming medal races starting at 9:30 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, or stream them live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports' Tokyo 2020 website.

Other Canadian medal chances on Saturday night/Sunday morning

There are two strong ones. In chronological order:

Diving

Jennifer Abel is a podium threat in the women's 3m springboard final at 2 a.m. ET. The 29-year-old placed fourth in this event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was also fourth at the most recent world championships, in 2019, and took bronze at the worlds in 2017 and 2011.

Abel has never won an individual medal at the Olympics, but she took silver in the 3m synchronized with Mélissa Citrini-Beaulieu last week, and bronze in that event in 2012 with former partner Émilie Heymans.

Gymnastics

Simone Biles announced yesterday she won't defend her Olympic title in the vault or compete in the uneven bars final on Sunday. The American superstar is still dealing with a mental block known in gymnastics as "the twisties" — a loss of orientation while performing moves in the air. It's this sport's version of "the yips," which you might recognize from golf or the new season of Ted Lasso — except way more dangerous. The yips may cause you to miss a putt or a penalty kick, but the twisties can result in a catastrophic injury. They forced Biles to walk away from the team final and decline to defend her individual all-around title earlier this week. She's still hoping to compete in the floor exercise and balance beam finals on Monday and Tuesday.

Biles' absence from the vault final, which goes at 4:52 a.m. ET, gives Canada's Shallon Olsen a better chance at the podium. She took silver in this event at the 2018 world championships and finished fourth in 2019.

Some other interesting stuff you should know about

The Canadian women's basketball team can make its path easier. After losing their opener to Serbia and rebounding with a win over South Korea, the fourth-ranked Canadians play their final group-stage game at 9 p.m. ET vs. Spain (2-0). Barring a blowout loss and an unfavourable result in one of the other groups, Canada will likely advance to the quarter-finals. But winning their group would be big because it means avoiding the unbeatable U.S. team until at least the semis. Read more about the scenarios and a full preview of tonight's game vs. Spain here.

It's crunch time in beach volleyball. The group stage is over. It's all single-elimination from here on out. Both the women's and men's rounds of 16 open tonight, and Canada has two women's teams alive. Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, who are ranked 16th in the world, play at 8 p.m. ET vs. No. 3-ranked Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil. Canada's top duo, reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, play tomorrow night. They breezed through their three group-stage games without losing a set.

A dramatic final round is shaping up in men's golf. With 18 holes to go, world No. 5 Xander Schauffele of the United States holds a one-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama. They were the final pairing at this year's Masters, where Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win a men's golf major and Schauffele let a chance to grab his first major title slip as he tied for third. They'll once again play together in the last grouping, along with Great Britain's Paul Casey, who's two shots behind Schauffele. Matsuyama is already a national hero for winning the green jacket, and a gold-medal victory on home turf would elevate him to another level in Japanese sports lore. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who's representing Ireland here, is also in the hunt — tied for fifth and only three shots off the lead. Canadians Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes are tied for 17th — seven shots off the lead and five behind the current bronze-medal position. The final round starts at 6:30 p.m. ET. Hughes tees off at 8:47 p.m. ET, Conners at 9:03 p.m. ET, and the final group at 10:09 p.m. ET.

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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