This year there’s a reoccurring theme that cannot be ignored. It’s a hot topic in our offices that many of our Canadian female Olympians have a stronger shot at gold than quite a few of their male counterparts competing in the same disciplines. For us, and we’re sure for many, this represents an exciting evolution in not only the Canadian sport system, but hopefully internationally as well. Our female athletes are breaking records and glass ceilings; they’re storming headlines, the field and the court. And everyone is about to witness it on the world stage.
In the off-chance you haven’t been paying attention to the headlines, here are a few Canadian teams and athletes on our radar who have already captured the spotlight with their pre-Olympic results and are ready to conquer the podium in Rio.
Rugby Canada’s Women’s Sevens team. The women have won multiple tour stop titles on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and ended the last two Series ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively overall. Not to mention the team won Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games on home soil, solidifying pride in the hearts of Canadians across our nation. The individuals on this team also happen to be a bunch of superstars. Ghislaine Landry finished this past season first overall in World Rugby Sevens Series scoring with 297 points. There is also Captain Jen Kish, one of the best sevens players currently on the circuit, who received World Rugby’s Player of the Year award in 2013, and led the team to Gold at Toronto 2015.
A sport historically played by men until the 1970s in our country, Rugby Canada’s Women’s Sevens team is en route to a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games! #ICYMI the Rugby Sevens semi-finals and finals are happening today… So whatever happens, this team has the agility, speed, power and true grit needed to win a medal on the world stage. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s quite an accomplishment for Canadian women’s sport.
Athletics Canada as a team has a prolific lineup of athletes poised for medals. Many of them women, but a few standouts “on track” for gold are Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Melissa Bishop. Make sure to watch heptathlete and pentathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, very closely with her first two events high jump and hurdles starting on August 12th. She is currently the Canadian record holder in heptathlon with a mark of 6808 points, won 2016 World Indoor Series Gold and 2015 World Championship Silver. Then there’s Team Canada 800M runner Melissa Bishop, who won last month’s Olympic trials in Edmonton. She also walked away with 2015 Pan American Gold, won 2015 World Championship Silver, and broke the 14 year record in distance. I could go on and on…
So why profile our women’s teams at Rio?
Growing up as a girl, playing sports with boys is definitely an eye opening experience, I’m sure many of these athletes can relate. At first, you may be naïve to the stereotypes of not being as good as our male counterparts to compete. But that can quickly change and negatively impact our love for the games that can change and benefit our entire lives. On the field we learn some of the most important values and life skills, integral to who we are as people.
These athletes in Rio are rectifying stereotypes and inspiring the next generation to become the gold medal winning athletes little girls dream of being. Proving it to be not only possible, but a reality.
Because of our female Olympians’ successful #RoadToRio, I believe Canada is becoming a powerhouse for women’s sport. Our team at TORQUE Strategies is not alone in this thinking as brands are beginning to also take note. Ahem, praise Dove. A refreshingly powerful campaign, silencing media outlets who focus on a female athlete’s appearance rather than their athletic performance. My other shout out has to go to Dairy Farmers of Canada. A brand who rallied around women’s sport not just in the wake of the Olympic window, but began building their message over a year ago. Thank you for fueling our female champions.
I’ll step off my soap box now :).
The Ones Who Paved the Way
We can’t talk about female Canadian Olympians in 2016 without mentioning the success of Canada Soccer women’s team. They are the only Canadian team to have won an Olympic team sport medal in 80 years (hopefully this changes in the next few weeks!). No player has made as much of an impact on Canadian soccer as Christine Sinclair. Her name is synonymous with soccer and she has become a national hero for boys and girls across the country.
Like hockey, our women’s soccer team has both suffered and benefited from their historical rivalry with our competitors from the south. Our soccer team has been gaining momentum since the 2002 FIFA U19 Women’s World Championship, when Canada lost to the US in the final – but Christine Sinclair was chosen as tournament MVP. Ten years later, when Canada lost to USA in the London 2012 semi-finals due to that dubious call, the entire nation rallied behind these women. And it was with courage and determination that the women came back and pulled off an unexpected bronze medal win against France. Ever since that moment, the Canadian public have proudly embraced the women’s soccer team as theirs. More than 1.4 million people attended the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 3.2 million Canadians watched the Canada vs. USA quarterfinal (FIFA, 2015). And once again, Canadians are rallying behind these women as they enter Rio.
The women are off to a record-breaking Olympic start. Coming off a fantastic victory against 5th ranked Australia (2-0 wahoo!), Canada broke records with Janine Beckie scoring the fastest goal in Olympic history at the 21 second mark (and Shelina Zadorsky getting the fastest red card at the 19 minute mark). Though ranked 10th coming into the tournament, the team is young, determined, and guided by the leadership of John Herdman, and long-time national players like Melissa Tancredi and Diana Matheson. Check out these amazing women as they take on Germany this Tuesday 3pm EST/12pm PST. Let’s go #CANADARED
The Ones on the Rise
Coming off a record 2015 season, including two Golds at the Pan American Games and FIBA Americas, Canada Basketball’s Olympic team is heading to Rio with their minds set on the podium. This incredible team of women is a mix of seasoned veterans, like Tamara Tatham and Natalie Achonwa, and young stars, like Kia Nurse (2 x NCAA champion and FIBA Americas MVP) and newly drafted WNBA guard, Nirra Fields. The team is guided by long-time head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who won the 2015 Jack Donohue Coach of the Year award.
Many of Team Canada’s players have developed through the national team program, resulting in an immense amount of pride when wearing the Canadian flag. Some of the players have even cut short their professional season so that they can play in Rio. These dedicated women also have an incredible impact off the court. Since moving their training to Edmonton, Basketball Alberta has reported a double digit increase in girls’ basketball participation across the province (CBC, 2016).
From the moment the women clinched their Olympic berth last summer with the FIBA Americas championship, the team has been training to peak in Rio with a podium finish. Coming into Rio ranked 9th, Canada has beaten top teams like France (ranked 4th) and China (ranked 8th) in pre-Olympic exhibitions games. They are building momentum and setting the stage for their first game on August 6th with another game against China.
If London 2012 was defined by our soccer team’s bronze medal comeback, my bet is on our basketball team rising to claim a medal at Rio and the hearts of Canadians. These women are the ones to watch and I know I’ll be cheering them on every step of the way, will you?
This team is ready. Game on. #SoSorry
ON POINT BREAKING NEWS: 12-WOMAN @canadabasketballofficial TEAM NAMED FOR THE 2016 RIO OLYMPICS! @rio2016 STORY ON THE TEAM SELECTION COMING SOON BY TEAM ON POINT’S @bmeler Excerpt from Canadian Olympic Committee’s press release: 12 athletes chosen to represent Canada TORONTO — On Friday, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canada Basketball named the twelve athletes nominated to represent Team Canada in women’s basketball at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. The team includes seven athletes who competed at the London 2012 Games: Natalie Achonwa, Miranda Ayim, Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy, Michelle Plouffe, Shona Thorburn and Tamara Tatham. First-time Olympic team members Nirra Fields, Miah-Marie Langlois, Kia Nurse, Katherine Plouffe and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe round out the 12-woman roster. #Onpointbasketball #toronto #canada #Canadabasketball #RIO2016 #Brazil #hoops #ballers #ladyballers onpointbasketball.com
A photo posted by Canada Basketball (@canadabasketballofficial) on