Last year, the world witnessed the first-ever postponement of an Olympic Games. While it may not have been much more than a blip on the radar for most people, it was extremely consequential for the athletes who train their entire lives for the opportunity to represent their home nations at an Olympics, marking the beginning of a new one-of-a-kind journey to stay in shape and qualify for a delayed Games.
Now, despite a long list of concerns, the Games are back, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics officially opening on Friday, July 23 and continuing through Sunday, August 8.
For Team Canada, the 371 Olympic athletes competing in Tokyo represents the largest contingent of Canadians at an Olympic Games since Los Angeles 1984, with Canada’s medal hopes resting largely on the shoulders of women, who outnumber men 225-146. Of the 371 Canadian athletes—who range in age from 14-year-old Summer McIntosh to 56-year-old Mario Deslauriers—there are 226 Olympic rookies and 40 Olympic medalists.
Despite all of the pandemic-related challenges, Canadian athletes persevered, showing an abundance of focus and resiliency on their journey to qualify for Tokyo. From star sprinter Andre De Grasse and the most versatile Athletics team in Canadian history, to Penny Oleksiak and her cohort of female swimmers, to team sports new and established, Complex has you covered on every Canadian you need to know at the 2020 Summer Games.
Canada is bringing arguably its most talented women’s basketball team ever to the Olympics, with three WNBA players and a core group that includes six players returning from the team’s 2016 Olympic squad, which placed 7th. Ranked an all-time high No. 4 in the world, the Canadians have a great mix of experience and youth, giving them a real shot at medaling at the 2020 Games.
Led by WNBA stars Kia Nurse, Bridget Carleton, and Natalie Achonwa, the Canadians are a team with tons of speed, athleticism, and versatility—one that will likely switch a lot defensively and play fast in transition. The other reason to be excited for Team Canada is the youth, with three collegiate players in Shaina Pellington, Aaliyah Edwards, and Laeticia Amihere making the roster after all having impressive tournaments at the 2021 AmeriCup. Amihere, in particular, had a coming out party of sorts at the tournament, leading the team in scoring (13.0), rebounding (7.7) and field-goal percentage (50.0). At just 20 years old, she could be the future of the Canadian program.
While the Canadian team is legit, they will be considered underdogs until someone knocks the historically dominant Team USA off the pedestal, who enter the Games ranked No. 1 in the world after winning gold at the past six Olympic Games and eight of the previous nine.
The Canadian women’s soccer team fell six spots down the FIFA world rankings after a 10-game winless drought against top-10 nations—a stretch where they went 0-8-2 and were outscored 20-3— nding up at No. 8 ahead of the Games. But don’t be fooled: this Canadian squad has the experience and talent necessary to medal in Tokyo, playing much better as of late with friendly wins against Wales and England.
Captained by 38-year-old striker Christine Sinclair—who enters her fourth and possibly final Olympics as the all-time leader for international goals scored for men or women with 186—the Canadians will try to reach the podium for the third consecutive Games. And while Sinclair is the mainstay, the Canadian program has undergone a lot of turnover as of late, with fresh faces on both the pitch and the sidelines.
Coach Bev Priestman came in to replace longtime head coach John Herdman last October after serving as an assistant on Herdman’s staff. The change has given the players a fresh start, as Priestman made it clear that every position is up for grabs and is not afraid to play less experienced players or experiment with her lineups. Plus, the newfound commitment of playing out of the back and putting pressure on opponents with their speed up front has given the Canadians a new and exciting look.
In goal, Kailen Sheridan is the person to watch. After being named the top goalkeeper in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup last summer and being nominated for the 2021 ESPY award for the best NWSL player, an ill-timed injury while in goal for Team Canada against the top-ranked Americans in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year put her Olympic dreams into question. Fortunately, Sheridan battled back from surgery to her leg, earning a spot on Team Canada with a chance to not only start in goal but, according to Gotham FC head coach Freya Coombe: “I think she’s going to be the best in the world [and] I think she’s going to have that legacy in Canada for a long time.”