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What you need to know about Olympic Rock Climbing

July 21, 2021
Source: Luke Webster/North Shore News
Source: Luke Webster/North Shore News

⚙️How it works: Outside of the Olympics, there are three distinct climbing disciplines — lead climbing, bouldering and speed climbing — but Tokyo organizers made the controversial decision to combine all three into one event, meaning climbers who usually specialize in one discipline will have to excel in all three to capture the solo gold medal. Tricky.

  • In lead climbing, athletes have six minutes to climb as high as they can up a 15m (49-foot) wall. Bouldering gives climbers four minutes to scale smaller walls. And speed climbing pits two climbers against each other in a race to the top. 
  • Twenty women and 20 men will participate in all three events for the qualifying round, and then the top eight of each gender will move on to the final round, where they’ll run through all three disciplines again.

👀Who to watch: Despite the unusual combined set-up, Canada has an advantage: climber Alannah Yip, who usually specializes in bouldering, won gold for the combined event at the Pan American Games just last year. 

  • On the men’s side, we have bouldering specialist Sean McColl, who’s a four-time world champion in the combined event and a fan favorite, thanks to his style, strength, creativity and entertaining Instagram.

👀Who to watch: Four Americans will compete for gold: Kyra Condie and Brooke Raboutou in the women’s event and Nathaniel Coleman and 17-year-old Colin Duffy in the men’s. 

  • Condie and Duffy are no strangers to the combined discipline, with Condie having won the 2018 Pan American Championship and the 2019 USA Climbing Combined Invitational, while Duffy is the reigning Pan American champ.

⏰When to watch:

August 6th: Women’s final 

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What you need to know about Olympic Karate

July 21, 2021
What you need to know about Olympic Karate

⚙️How it works: Eight gold medals are up for grabs — four for the women, four for men — in the latest martial arts Olympic event. Karate has two disciplines: Kumite and Kata. Kumite has three weight categories, and focuses on fighting or sparring, while Kata (meaning “form” in Japanese) is judged solely on technique.

  • Kumite: During a three-minute fight, points are awarded for kicks and punches, and the first to gain an eight-point advantage, or the top scorer by the end of the three minutes, wins. Karatekas will participate in an elimination round, the semifinal and the final.
  • Kata: Athletes are judged on their technique correctness and overall athletic performance. After the preliminary scoring round, the top performers move on to a ranking round and from there move to the final or bronze medal event.

👀Who to watch: Just one Canadian karateka to cheer on: Daniel Gaysinsky, who will compete in the men’s +75kg (+165-pound) Kumite event. With a 2019 Pan American Games silver medal under his belt, he’s a top contender.

👀Who to cheer for: On the women’s side, sole American Sakura Kokumai will compete in the women’s Kata event, while three men — Tom Scott, Brian Irr and Ariel Torres — will compete in the men’s -75kg Kumite, +75kg Kumite and Kata, respectively. 

⏰When to watch:

August 7th: Women’s +61kg Kumite, Men’s +75kg Kumite 

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What you need to know about Olympic Surfing

July 21, 2021
Source: Ben Thouard/Red Bull
Source: Ben Thouard/Red Bull

⚙️How it works: This event will start with four-person heats (similar to track & field). Each heat competes for 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the waves), with surfers riding as many waves as they like during that span of time. Cowabunga! 

  • A panel of five judges scores each maneuver, and the top two performers from each heat move on to round 3 while the bottom two move to round 2 for a second chance to move to the knockouts.  
  • Scores are generated from a 10-point scale, and the International Olympic Committee's (IOC’s) judging criteria match that of the International Surfing Association (ISA). 
  • The decision to hold the event at Tsurigasaki Beach on Japan’s Pacific coast, without artificial waves, has not been well-received, considering world No. 1 and Olympic favorite Gabriel Medina has described the area’s current waves as “small and funky.”

👀Who to watch: Team USA is stacked. With world No. 1 Carissa Moore and No. 6 Caroline Marks on the women’s side, along with world No. 10 John John Florence (so nice they named him twice) and No. 38 Kolohe Andino (who’s making his return from injury) on the men’s, we’re bound to bring home at least one medal. 

  • And if anyone’s going to stop that from happening, it’ll be the aforementioned Medina of Brazil or Australian power squad of Stephanie Gilmore and Owen Wright.

👀Who to watch: Without any Canadians in the field, we’ll be cheering for current Queen of the Waves, Carissa Moore, and her American teammate John John Florence (so nice they named him twice), and Australian power squad Stephanie Gilmore and Owen Wright.

⏰When to watch: 

July 28th: Gold medal round 

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What you need to know about Olympic Skateboarding

July 21, 2021
Source: Peter Byrne/PA WIRE
Source: Peter Byrne/PA WIRE

 ⚙️How it works: There are two disciplines in Olympic skateboarding: street and park. And while each has its own set-up, both are scored by a five-judge panel. The street course mimics an urban setting with steps, railings, curbs and benches, while the park course looks like a skate park, with slopes and walls (think empty swimming pool vibes). 

  • Street boarding: In each round, 20 skaters will attempt five tricks and two runs before the top eight skaters advance to the final. The finalists will then take another two runs to prove their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent originality, ability and skill.
  • Park skating: Each of the 20 skaters has three, 45-second runs to show off as many tricks as they can, and will be judged on their maneuvers, flow and use of the course. And like street boarding, the top eight move on to the final round.

👀Who to watch: Thirteen-year-old skateboarding phenom Sky Brown will set a record as the youngest British Olympian ever when she competes in the women's park event. Just a year removed from a nearly-fatal accident while training, Brown is ranked third in the world before her Olympic debut.

  • As for our Canadians, three B.C. natives will compete for the red and white: world No. 30 Andy Anderson in the men’s park event, and world No. 10 Matt Berger and world No. 21 Micky Papa in men’s street.
  • As for Team USA, 12 Americans will compete, including world No. 6 women’s street skater Mariah Duran, and one of the highest paid skaters in the world and men’s street 6-time world champion Nyjah Huston.

⏰When to watch:

August 5th: Men’s park 

🏒NHL Expansion Drafts explained

July 19, 2021
Source: Elaine Thompson/AP
Source: Elaine Thompson/AP

How it works: North American sports leagues use expansion drafts to build new teams’ rosters. As the NHL’s newest team, the Kraken will select 30 players from other teams. Only the Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s most recent expansion team, is exempt.

  • By 10 a.m. ET yesterday, each team released a protected players list: a list of either seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight total players (forwards and defensemen) plus a goalie — who are undraftable. 
  • Players who have been in the league for less than two years are safe, too. The rest are available or “exposed.” The Kraken will select one player from each team, choosing at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.

Who’s up for grabs: Because you can’t save ’em all, some big name players are vulnerable. The Colorado Avalanche chose not to protect their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, and with Seattle drafting from Colorado first, he’ll likely be their first overall pick.

  • Montreal Canadiens star goalie Carey Price is exposed too, but since the Kraken will need to honor drafted players’ existing contracts, and Price has a big one, there’s a good chance he’ll get to stay with Montreal.
  • Other big names include Montreal’s Shea Weber, Columbus Blue Jacket Max Domi, St. Louis Blue Vladimir Tarasenko and LA Kings’ two-time Stanley Cup–winning goalie Jonathan Quick. The fun starts Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Sportsnet.