Winners and losers from the Olympics’ latest changes


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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The Olympics are trying to get smaller, younger and more equal

Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board met to finalize the events for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. The headline coming out of this was that breakdancing is joining the Olympics in four years.

But several other events were either added or dropped in service of three basic objectives the IOC is pursuing (with varying degrees of success): making the Games smaller, younger and more equal in terms of gender representation.

Here’s a breakdown of the winners and losers from the decisions:

Winner: Breaking

That’s the actual name for breakdancing. And, yes, it’s considered a sport. If you’ve ever seen a b-boy or b-girl perform, you know how much athleticism it takes.

The Olympics are taking it seriously too. The breaking competitions in Paris will be held in a prime downtown venue along with other “urban” events — 3-on-3 basketball and sport climbing — that the IOC hopes will bring in a younger audience. To learn more about breaking, read this As It Happens interview with b-boy Crazy Legs, who helped pioneer the hip-hop-infused art form in the Bronx in the 1970s.

Winners: Sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding

All three “youth-oriented” sports will make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo this summer, and it looks like they’re here to stay after being officially added to the Paris program.

Climbing is even getting a bit of a boost. In Tokyo, just two events are being held — a women’s and a men’s. Each competition will combine the three disciplines of speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering, with the best all-around climber winning gold. In Paris, speed climbing becomes its own event while lead and bouldering make up a joint competition. So that doubles the number of climbing medals.

The Paris surfing competitions will actually take place 15,000 kilometres away, in the former French colony of Tahiti. Organizers (very cleverly) convinced the IOC that the tropical island would be a better site than France’s Atlantic coast.

Winner/loser: Parkour

It depends which side of the sport’s civil war you’re on. Some in the parkour community urged the IOC not to add it to the Paris program because they believe the governing body of gymnastics is attempting a “hostile takeover” of the sport. So those people were pleased to see the IOC take a pass on something that seemed tailor-made for Paris 2024 and Olympics’ “youth” objective. Parkour is an edgy sort of running competition where athletes trick off different obstacles in an urban setting, and it was developed in Paris in the 1990s.

Losers: Boxing and weightlifting

In recent years, the number of places around the world that seem interested in hosting the Olympics has dwindled as the cost and headaches of doing so keep rising. In an effort to reverse this trend, the IOC has pledged to keep the size of the Games down. At the same time, it’s pursuing a goal of complete gender equality in terms of the number of male and female athletes competing in the Games.

For Paris 2024, the total number of athletes will be 10,500 — down almost 600 from what was expected in Tokyo before the pandemic hit. And exactly 50 per cent of those athletes will be women — up from 48.8 per cent in Tokyo. The Paris program contains 329 events — 10 less than Tokyo.

In order for the IOC to do these things while also adding some new events, some old-school sports are taking a hit.

Weightlifting suffered the biggest blow as the IOC chopped its athlete quota from 196 in Tokyo to 120 in Paris. At Rio 2016, it was 260. Four events were cut, leaving weightlifting with just five per gender in Paris. Boxing will have 34 fewer athletes in Paris than in Tokyo after the program was adjusted from eight men’s and five women’s events to seven and six — and an equal number of male and female athletes for the first time ever. In both cases, the IOC cited concerns with the sports’ governing bodies as a reason for the cuts.

Baseball and softball are dropping off the program completely after a short-lived return in Tokyo, but we already knew that after Paris organizers left them off their proposed shortlist a while ago.

Loser: Evan Dunfee

The Canadian race walker won bronze in the men’s 50K at the 2019 world championships and finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics. But that event will be dropped after Tokyo. The IOC is allowing track and field’s world governing body to replace it with a mixed-gender event, but it could choose a track option over a race walk. A decision will be made by the end of May.

Loser: New ideas

The IOC received 41 proposals for new events in various sports but rejected almost all of them. Canoe/kayak’s governing body was able to get an “extreme slalom” canoe event added, but the 200-metre singles kayak races were cut in exchange.

Proposals submitted for other events included: a cross-country mixed relay in track and field, coastal rowing, beach handball and an eliminator-style individual triathlon race. Read more about the changes coming for the 2024 Paris Olympics here.

Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee’s best event is getting cancelled. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Quickly…

A Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $1.29 million US in an auction. The 1979 O-Pee-Chee is the first hockey card to cost more than a million bucks, and a Topps version fetched $720,000. But this doesn’t mean you’ll strike it rich with that Gretzky rookie you keep in the shoebox in your closet. Both these cards were graded “Gem Mint 10,” which is the highest possible rating for a sports card and extremely rare for Gretzky rookies. Because of lax manufacturing practices by O-Pee-Chee (basically, the Canadian arm of Topps), many of its cards back then were cut a bit off-centre, and most left the factory with slightly jagged edges. So even if you’re one of the few people who managed to keep their Gretzky rookie in the same shape it was when you opened the pack, it’s extremely unlikely it would get a Gem Mint 10 grade. Only two of the 5,711 O-Pee-Chee ’79 Gretzky cards evaluated by the Professional Sports Authenticator grading service were awarded that status. Read more about the record-breaking sale here.

Don’t get too worked up about that tweet saying the NHL is trying to buy its own vaccines. A lot of people got mad online at hockey media guy John Shannon’s report on Twitter that “the NHL is planning the private purchase of a COVID vaccine for all constituents involved in the potential upcoming season.” For one, Shannon walked it back with a “clarification” that the NHL is merely “interested” in procuring a vaccine “when and if it’s available for private purchase” and is “adamant they would not jump the line to do so.” Even if you suspect someone in the league urged Shannon to tweak his messaging, it’s highly unlikely the NHL would be able to get its hands on all those shots before the general public. Whole countries are jockeying for shipments from the drug companies, and they have a lot more money and power than any pro sports league. But still, Shannon’s careless wording generated enough controversy that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to address it today, saying there’s nothing any private company can negotiate that will “slow down the delivery of vaccines to Canadians, for free, with vulnerable Canadians at the front of that line.”

A record number of Canadians are playing college basketball in the U.S. More than 150 men and over 100 women are on NCAA rosters right now — both all-time highs. On the women’s side, seven Canadians play for a team ranked in the pre-season top 10 — including Laeticia Amihere, a South Carolina forward who’s believed to be the first Canadian woman to dunk. On the men’s side, guard Andrew Nembhard is playing an important role for top-ranked Gonzaga while Minnesota guard Marcus Carr is the 12th-highest scorer in Division I. Read more about those players and five other Canadians to watch as the NCAA lurches uneasily toward March Madness in this piece by CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter.

And finally…

Remember when the shootout was still fresh?

The shine is mostly off the regular-season tiebreaker now, but it was quite the novelty when the NHL introduced it for the post-lockout 2005-06 season — even though goalies (obviously) hated it and most coaches didn’t take it seriously. “I think we [practised] it maybe once a week,” says Olaf Kolzig, Washington’s goalie that year. “Back then we didn’t realize how important those wins were worth.”

Fans, though, took to it right away, and the crowd at Madison Square Garden got an extra helping when Kolzig’s Capitals visited the Rangers on Nov. 26, 2005. The shootout that night went 15 rounds. And it ended in memorable fashion when New York defenceman Marek Malik, who scored two goals in 74 games that season, potted the winner with a superstar-calibre, between-the-legs trick shot. “Marek Malik? Marek Malik?… Are you f—ing kidding me?” was Kolzig’s (and a lot of fans’) instant reaction. Get Kolzig’s full side of the story on one of the more surprising goals in recent memory in the latest edition of Rob Pizzo’s I was in net for… video series:

In episode 7 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to former Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig about the memorable 15-round shootout with an unexpected ending.    5:57

This weekend on CBC Sports

While we wait for the NBA and NHL to get their regular seasons going, competition is in full swing in many winter Olympic sports.

From 3 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 3 a.m. ET to 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app are live streaming World Cup competitions from Europe in women’s alpine skiingmen’s alpine skiingcross-country skiingfreestyle skiingsnowboardinglugebobsleigh and skeleton. Tap those hyperlinks to go to the live streaming pages.

Saturday’s Road to the Olympic Games show features two alpine races (a men’s super-G and a women’s giant slalom), moguls, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 2-6 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app or the CBC TV network. Sunday’s show features dual moguls, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 11 a.m. ET to 1 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app, or catch it on CBC TV (check local listings for times).

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