As the Olympic torch lights up London this week with the opening of the Summer Games, the glow will extend all the way to Abbotsford.
Local sports fans have a multitude of reasons to cheer as Canada’s Olympic athletes take to the pitch/hardwood/track/pool, and we’ve prepared a viewer’s guide.
(A word of warning: with the eight-hour time difference between Abbotsford and London, watching live will often require setting the alarm clock for the wee hours of the morning. If that doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always the DVR.)
At 24 years of age, the Abbotsford Soccer Association’s most decorated alum has already accomplished plenty in her international career. The London Games mark her second Olympics, and she’s got two FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments and 74 caps on her resumé.
The midfielder is in fine form – she was named player of the match in a pre-Olympic tune-up against New Zealand on July 14, assisting on goals by Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson in Canada’s 2-0 win.
When to watch: The Olympic women’s soccer tourney gets underway before Friday’s opening ceremony. Canada opens against Japan on Wednesday (9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, TSN, Sportsnet), and other group games are Saturday vs. South Africa (6:45 a.m. PST, CTV) and next Tuesday vs. Sweden (6:30 a.m. PST, Sportsnet).
The mere presence of the Canadian women’s hoopsters at the Olympics is a feel-good story. Canada hadn’t qualified for the Games since 2000, but they won back-to-back elimination games at a last-chance qualifying tourney to claim the final berth. It seemed appropriate that the clinching victory – 71-63 over Japan – came on Canada Day.
Gabriele (nee Kleindienst), the team’s captain and point guard, is the lone holdover from the last Olympic squad, and she’s likely to retire from international basketball at the conclusion of the Games. She’s joined on the roster by fellow Mission native Smith – both players are products of the powerhouse basketball program at Heritage Park Secondary.
The Canadian women’s hoopsters have a special connection to Abbotsford – they held training camps at the University of the Fraser Valley each of the past four years.
When to watch: In the preliminary round, Canada plays Russia (Saturday, July 28, 3 a.m. PST, CTV), Great Britain (Monday, July 30, 12 p.m. PST, Sportsnet), France (Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1 a.m. PST, CTV), Brazil (Friday, Aug. 3, 6:30 a.m. PST, Sportsnet), and Australia (Sunday, Aug. 5, 6:30 a.m. PST, Sportsnet).
Mike Mason and Jessica Smith, track and field
Abbotsford’s Valley Royals track and field club has been one of Canada’s elite for decades, and they’re sending two athletes to the Olympics this year.
High jumper Mason has been a longtime club member – as a high schooler, the Nanoose Bay native would ride the ferry across from Vancouver Island to train with Royals power/speed coach Ziggy Szelagowicz. He battled a nagging ankle injury after the 2008 Beijing Games, and moved to Abbotsford last fall to reunite with Szelagowicz. The move paid off, as Mason achieved the Olympic ‘A’ standard at a meet in Guadeloupe in May, clearing 2.31 metres.
Smith, a North Vancouver native, joined the Royals one year ago after wrapping up her CIS career at Simon Fraser University. She’s an 800-metre runner who overcame illness to finish third at the national championships and punch her ticket to London.
When to watch: Mason’s high jump qualifying is Sunday, Aug. 5 (11:05 a.m. PST, CTV), and the finals are Tuesday, Aug. 7 (11 a.m. PST, CTV). Smith’s 800m heats run Wednesday, Aug. 8 (3:35 a.m. PST, TSN), followed by the semifinals (Thursday, Aug. 9, 11:30 a.m. PST, CTV) and finals (Saturday, Aug. 11, 12 p.m. PST, CTV).
Brent Hayden, swimming
Hayden, a proud product of the Mission Marlins summer swim club, is one of Canada’s true medal threats. He’ll compete in the 100m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay in London.
Hayden has climbed the podium before at the world championships, winning gold in the 100m free in 2007 and silver in the same event in 2011, but he’s seeking his first Olympic medal in his third trip to the Games.
When to watch: The 4×100 free relay goes on Sunday, July 29 (heats 3 a.m. PST, CTV; final 11:30 a.m. PST, CTV). The individual 100m free begins Tuesday, July 31 (heats 2 a.m. PST, CTV; semifinals 10:45 a.m. PST, CTV) and wraps up Wednesday, Aug. 1 with the finals (11:30 a.m. PST, CTV).