2023 is a key year on the road to the Paris Olympics

By | December 22, 2022

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As 2022 winds down and the 2024 Summer Games get closer, 2023 will be a big year for Canadians pursuing the podium in Paris. Here are some of the major tournaments and meets coming up next year:

World Aquatics Championships (July 14-30 in Japan)

The worlds for swimmers, artistic swimmers, divers and water polo teams are normally held every other year. But pandemic-related scheduling kinks mean we get them for the second year in a row. That means another chance to witness Canada’s rise as a swimming power.

At the 2022 worlds in Hungary, Canadian swimmers captured 11 medals (three gold, four silver and four bronze) to finish third in the standings behind the United States and Australia and shatter the national record of eight medals set at the 2019 worlds. A star was born too, as teenage phenom Summer McIntosh became Canada’s youngest-ever swimming world champion. With two gold medals and a silver in individual events plus a relay bronze, she also matched the Canadian record of four medals at a single worlds. McIntosh will still be just 16 years old at the 2023 worlds.

Another rising star to watch this summer is Josh Liendo, who won a pair of individual bronze and a relay silver in Budapest to become the first Black Canadian swimmer to reach the podium at the world championships. He’s only 20.

“Old” favorites in Japan will likely include Penny Oleksiak, who turns 23 a month before the worlds. She picked up four more relay medals this year to become the most decorated Canadian swimmer ever at the world championships with nine. Oleksiak is currently recovering from a late-summer knee surgery, but the hope is she’s ready for worlds. Kylie Masse, who turns 27 in January, now owns eight world championship medals after winning her third individual gold in Hungary. Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil will try to recapture the world title she won in 2019 in that event.

Women’s World Cup (July 20-Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand)

The Canadian women’s soccer team is on a roll at the Olympics, winning bronze medals in 2012 and ’16 before its thrilling gold-medal victory in Tokyo. But that success hasn’t translated to the World Cup. In 2019, Canada got bounced in the round of 16 in France. When it hosted in 2015, Canada couldn’t get past the quarter-finals. Canada’s only trip to the semifinals came way back in 2003, when it lost the bronze match to the host US

But the Canadian team now looks stronger than ever, and the World Cup draw went its way. Canada, ranked sixth in the world, landed in a group with co-host Australia (12th), Ireland (23rd) and Nigeria (45th). The pressure is on the Canadians to win the group, though. If they advance as the runner-up, they’d likely face fourth-ranked England.

There’s another big date on the calendar for the Canadian women in 2023. Despite being the reigning Olympic champions, they haven’t yet qualified for the 2024 tournament in Paris. The final entry from their region will be decided when Canada faces Jamaica in a two-leg playoff in September.

World Athletics Championships (Aug. 19-27 in Hungary)

Like their aquatics counterparts, track and field athletes are getting rare back-to-back world championships as a result of the pandemic.

Last summer’s worlds in Oregon were a mixed bag for Canada. All five of its individual track and field medalists from the Tokyo Olympics failed to reach the podium. Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner seemed poised to capture his first world title, only to be knocked out by a hamstring injury halfway through the competition. Out-of-form Olympic 200m champ Andre De Grasse skipped his signature event altogether after failing to make it through the semifinals in the 100m. Distance runner Moh Ahmed and race walker Evan Dunfee also fell short.

And yet, Canada still finished with a solid four medals. De Grasse came off the canvas to anchor the men’s 4x100m relay team to a shocking gold-medal upset, Pierce LePage won a surprise silver in the decathlon, rising star Marco Arop broke through with a bronze in the men’s 800m and Camryn Rogers took silver in the hammer throw to become the first Canadian woman ever to medal in a field event at the worlds.

At next year’s worlds in Budapest, the 33-year-old Warner will get another chance to win that bucket-list decathlon world title. De Grasse, 28, will be looking to prove his challenging 2022 season was a fluke and he still has the juice to contend for individual gold.

Basketball World Cup (Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in Asia)

If the Canadian men’s basketball team is to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since Steve Nash carried them to the quarter-finals in 2000, the quickest and best way to do it is via the Basketball World Cup. The 2023 edition of the event formerly known as the world championship will be hosted primarily by the Philippines, with some early-round games in Japan and Indonesia.

Two spots in the Paris Olympic tournament will be on the line for teams from the Americas region. One of them will almost certainly go to the United States, but the other is very much up for grabs. Argentina joined the US at the last Olympics despite having zero notable NBA players.

Canada has a bunch of those already committed to Olympic qualifying, including a genuine star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 24-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder guard currently ranks fourth in NBA scoring with 31.2 points per game. That puts him just a shade behind two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and ahead of such luminaries as Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.

Other standouts who have signed on to the national team include Jamal Murray, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks and Lu Dort. Andrew Wiggins has not, but there’s hope that the key member of Golden State’s 2022 championship team might hop on later.

With a bunch of other solid NBA contributors on board and the Raptors’ Nick Nurse coaching, the Canadian men’s chances of grabbing an Olympic berth at the World Cup seem pretty good. If they don’t, it’s back to one of those last-minute qualifying tournaments, which ended in disaster for Canada in 2021 in Victoria. The goal for next year is to make sure that can’t happen again.

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