10 Canadian athletes who could shock the world at Tokyo Olympics

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Penny Oleksiak will be an underdog heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a breakout performance in Rio. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Penny Oleksiak will be an underdog heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a breakout performance in Rio. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Team Canada has a number of medal favourites heading to Tokyo 2020. From Andre De Grasse to Kylie Masse, there are plenty of Canucks who are expected to head home with some hardware.

But when Penny Oleksiak stole the hearts of Canadians at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, part of the reason it was such a special story was because it came out of nowhere. Just 16 at the time, Oleksiak’s shocking four-medal performance — one gold, one silver, two bronze — put the world on notice and cemented herself as an Olympic legend.

So yes, expected medals are fun, but can you blame us if we aren’t already dreaming about the next surprise performance that will leave us talking for years to come? And with a team of 371 athletes, who’s to say there is not more than one?

Here are 10 Canadians who may not show up in a lot of Olympic prediction articles heading into the Games, but are more than capable of leaving Japan with a medal:

Women’s soccer team

Currently ranked eighth heading into Tokyo, the Canadian women’s soccer team should never be counted out at an Olympic Games, especially when goal-scoring legend Christine Sinclair is still leading the way.

Winners of back-to-back Olympic bronze medals at both London and Rio, the Canadians find themselves in Group E with Japan, Britain and Chile, while all roads probably lead to the powerful American squad should Canada advance.

Canadian soccer fans will, however, have to hope the women can find their goal-scoring touch, as the team has scored just six goals in seven preparatory games this year.

Women’s basketball team

While it might seem strange to see the No. 4-ranked team in the world on this list, Canada currently finds itself on the outside looking in of many tournament previews.

The first official FIBA Olympic power rankings had the Canadians ranked ninth, mainly due to their fourth-place finish at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021.

But this team has more than enough skill to find themselves standing on the podium. Led by WNBA star Kia Nurse, team Canada has the perfect blend of experience and youth to prove the predictions wrong.

Penny Oleksiak (Swimming) 

Yes, you are still reading the sleepers list. It might seem strange to see Oleksiak on this list, but ever since Rio, she has failed to find that same winning form.

The Canadian swimming superstar has not won an individual medal in a major international competition since those Games, but she looks like she could be returning to form at the perfect time.

After taking some time off from swimming in 2018, and learning new ways to deal with the added pressures of being a celebrity, the 21-year-old looked rejuvenated at last month’s Canadian trials.

And one thing we do know, the Olympic spotlight will certainly not be too bright for her.

Ellie Black (Gymnastics)

No Canadian woman has ever won an Olympic medal in a traditional gymnastics event, but this year that could very well change.

Black, 25, finished fifth in the individual all-around at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the best-ever finish by a Canadian.

The Halifax, N.S., native won Canada’s first ever world championship medal in the all-around event, taking home a silver at the 2017 world championships. She will be looking to make even more Canadian gymnastic history in Tokyo.

Canada women’s eights rowing

The Canadian rowing contingent will be strong in Tokyo, as 10 boats will find themselves at the starting line, the most since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

One of the best medal hopes is the women’s eights team, who finished fourth at the 2019 World Rowing Championships and will be looking to improve on a fifth-place finish in Rio.

Team roster: Susanne Grainger, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Kristen Kit, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Andrea Proske, Lisa Roman, Christine Roper and Avalon Wasteneys

Tyler Mislawchuk (Triathlon)

After a 15th place finish at the Rio Olympics, the 26-year-old triathlete really began to find his form in 2019.

That season, Mislawchuk won the first two World Cup events of his career, then topped the podium at the Olympic test event in Tokyo.

He heads into the Games ranked seventh in the world, but after a World Cup win in June, he is primed and ready to make some Canadian headlines.

Men’s 4x100-metre relay team (Athletics)

In Rio, the men’s 4x100-metre relay team had an incredible performance and returned to the Olympic podium for the first time in 20 years. In Tokyo, they will look to do it again.

The Canadians will once again be led by De Grasse and Aaron Brown, who were both a part of the bronze medal-winning squad in 2016.

Canada will be in tough to beat either Jamaica or the Americans, but De Grasse knows how to show up for the big events, so who is to say a repeat Olympic podium is not in the team’s future.

Marco Arop (800-metre)

Just 22-years-old, Arop has a long career ahead of him still, but he has already done enough to warrant serious consideration as a medal threat.

Especially when you take into account his recent form.

Just this month, Arop found himself on the podium at two Diamond League meets, and dropped his personal best in the 800-metre event to 1:43.26, just 0.06 seconds off the Canadian record.

Pierce LePage (Decathlon) 

Most of the Canadian chatter heading into the men’s decathlon will be on Damien Warner, as he is one of Canada’s top medal favourites.

But there is a decent possibility there could be two Canadians on the podium at the end of the men’s decathlon, as the 25-year-old LePage is beginning to make his own headlines.

Just this May, Lepage won a silver medal, finishing just behind Warner. He also set a personal best in terms of points, scoring 8534, and will look to carry that momentum into Tokyo.

Sarah Douglas (Sailing)

Canada has won nine Olympic sailing medals, but hasn’t had someone step on the podium since the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Douglas, 27, will look to change that as she makes her Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Falling down the world rankings as of late, Douglas was ranked third in the world as recently as June of 2019, proving that she has the stuff to compete with the best in the world.

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