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Olympic viewing guide: Can Canada finally upset the U.S. in women's soccer?

·8 min read
Nine years after authoring an epic near-upset, Christine Sinclair will try to lead the Canadian women's soccer team to its first win over the U.S. in two decades. (Asano Ikko/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
Nine years after authoring an epic near-upset, Christine Sinclair will try to lead the Canadian women's soccer team to its first win over the U.S. in two decades. (Asano Ikko/AFP via Getty Images - 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.

Andre De Grasse is the world's third-fastest man. And Penny Oleksiak stands alone.

Day 9 began with Oleksiak anchoring the Canadian women's 4x100-metre medley relay team to bronze on the closing night of swimming competition. It was her third medal in Tokyo and seventh of her Olympic career, breaking the all-time Canadian record she'd shared with speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes (reminder: Penny is just 21 years old). Also winning their third medal of these Games were Oleksiak's teammates Kylie Masse and Maggie Mac Neil. The latter won Canada's lone swimming gold in the 100m butterfly. Just like in Rio five years ago, Canadian swimmers finished with six medals, all won by women. Eight national records were broken in the pool, and 10 personal bests set.

This morning on the track, De Grasse took bronze in the men's 100 metres for the second consecutive Olympics. A second-place finish in his semifinal heat a few hours earlier led to a tough lane assignment, but De Grasse ran a personal-best 9.89 seconds from way out in No. 9 to become the first Canadian ever to reach an Olympic 100m podium twice. In the first Olympic final of the post-Usain Bolt era, and with reigning world champion Christian Coleman suspended, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs emerged from a wide-open field to win gold in a personal-best 9.80. American Fred Kerley took silver in 9.84 — also a PB.

De Grasse, who also has a pair of world-championship bronze in the 100, kept his podium streak alive. The 26-year-old has won a medal in all six individual races he's started (100m and 200m) at the Olympics or world championships. He'll try to make it seven in the 200m, which begins Monday at 10:05 p.m. ET with the first-round heats. The semifinals are Tuesday morning, and the final Wednesday morning.

De Grasse is the first Canadian man to win a medal in Tokyo. The total is now 14 — three gold, four silver, seven bronze. See the full standings and a detailed breakdown of Canada's hardware here.

Day 10 might be a bit of a breather. For the first time in more than a week, no Canadians look like major contenders to pick up medals. But the women's soccer team can secure itself at least a silver by defeating the United States in their semifinal. So let's start our daily Olympic viewing guide there. Plus, a transgender weightlifter is on the verge of making history, and a heartwarming moment united two nations in high jump.

Here's what to watch on Sunday night/Monday morning:

Another Canada-U.S. soccer classic could be in store

Anytime these two countries meet in any sport, it's sure to be intense. And that's certainly the case in women's soccer. But calling this a rivalry might be a bit generous to Canada, which is 3-51-7 all-time vs. the U.S. women's national team and hasn't beaten them in 20 years.

Still, these sides have waged some hard-fought battles — none harder than their epic semifinal at the 2012 Olympics in London. In perhaps the most exciting match in Canadian soccer history, Christine Sinclair scored a hat trick to put her team on the brink of a monumental upset. But a controversial call on goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long resulted in a free kick that resulted in a hand-ball that resulted in U.S. star Abby Wambach converting a penalty kick to tie the match in the 80th minute. Then, in the final seconds of extra time, Alex Morgan buried a header to win it for the Americans, 4-3. They went on to take gold. The devastated Canadians channelled their anger at the referee into winning their country's first-ever Olympic soccer medal, beating France 1-0 in the bronze match on Diana Matheson's dramatic goal in injury time.

Nine years later, three of the four women who scored in that classic semifinal are still playing prominent roles on their respective teams. Sinclair, the Canadian captain, scored her all-time record 187th international goal in Canada's opening match in Tokyo. Morgan also scored once in the group stage. And she and Megan Rapinoe, who had two goals in the 2012 semi, both converted their attempts in the Americans' penalty-shootout win over the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. Wambach, who's right behind Sinclair on the all-time goals list, is retired.

The U.S. is still the world's top-ranked team, and winner of the past two World Cups. But after taking four of the first five Olympic women's gold medals, they got knocked out in the quarter-finals in Rio by Sweden. The Americans have looked vulnerable in Tokyo too, losing 3-0 to the Swedes in the group stage and drawing Australia 0-0, with a 6-1 rout of New Zealand sandwiched in between. Canada hasn't exactly knocked anyone's socks off either, earning 1-1 draws vs. evenly matched Japan and Great Britain and beating Chile 2-1 to finish second in its group. In the quarter-finals, Canada upset Brazil on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play.

Despite the Canadians' awful record against the U.S., the betting odds imply they have close to a 30 per cent chance of pulling off the upset when these teams square off at 4 a.m. ET (thanks for nothing, schedulers). If that happens, Canada will play for gold on Thursday night. If not, they'll still get to play for their third consecutive bronze medal on Thursday morning vs. the loser of the Sweden-Australia semi. Read more about the Canada-U.S. showdown here.

WATCH | Sinclair's legacy in women's soccer:

Canadian medal chances on Sunday night/Monday morning

As mentioned, there aren't any strong ones. But three Canadians will compete in track finals: Matt Hughes and John Gay in the men's 3,000m steeplechase at 8:15 a.m. ET and Andrea Seccafien in the women's 5,000m at 8:40 a.m. ET. Also, Canadian sisters Lucia Stafford and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford will both run in the women's 1,500m heats.

Some other interesting things you should know about

The Canadian women's basketball team's fate is in someone else's hands. Lots of people's hands, actually. After closing their group-stage slate last night with a loss to Spain that dropped them to 1-2, the Canadians need one of a bunch of results to go their way to land a wild-card spot in the quarter-finals. Of the potential scenarios that would get Canada in, the most likely is the powerhouse United States beating France by 15 or more. That game tips off at 12:40 a.m. ET.

Canada could have two teams in the women's beach volleyball quarter-finals. Last night, the 16th-ranked tandem of Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson reached the quarters by upsetting an American duo ranked third. Tonight, reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes will try to join them when they face a 19th-ranked Spanish team at 9 p.m. ET. Pavan and Humana-Paredes breezed through their three group-stage matches without losing a set.


New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is poised to become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. That will happen when the women's super-heavyweight (over 87kg) competition begins at 6:50 a.m. ET. Hubbard, 43, competed against men before transitioning in her mid-30s. She won a women's silver medal at the 2017 world championships. While many are celebrating Hubbard's participation in the Olympics as a milestone for transgender athletes, some question the fairness of allowing her to compete against non-transgender women. But the International Olympic Committee allows it, as long as the transgender athlete keeps her testosterone levels below a certain point. Read more about Hubbard and the debate surrounding her here.

And finally…

Two pals decided to split the men's high jump gold medal. This was the most heartwarming moment of the day. Longtime friends Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy found themselves the last two jumpers left, and neither had missed an attempt before they each exhausted their three strikes at 2.39 metres. An official proposed a jump-off to decide the winner, but Barshim had a better idea: "Can we have two golds?" The official agreed, and Tamberi leaped into his buddy's arms to celebrate their shared victory. "He is one of my best friends, not only on the track, but outside the track," Barshim said. "This is a dream come true." Read more about this heartwarming display of friendship and watch their tearful celebration here.

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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