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Andy Prest: Get your spyglass ready – the Beijing Olympics begin this week

The Two Michaels, Mark McMorris, mixed curling, and monobob: these under-the-radar Games are about to get real
Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris won a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympic Games despite suffering devastating injuries in a crash less than a year before. He's looking strong coming into the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. photo The Canadian Press

Let’s get one thing straight as we begin this preview article of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing: Canada is still mad at you, Chinese government.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking – why are you talking about the Olympics right now? There can’t be an Olympics right now. Didn’t we just have an Olympics, like six weeks ago? Canada won gold in women’s soccer. Damian Warner set an Olympic record in decathlon. Skateboarding made its Olympic debut, and the first ever winner is by far the most popular kid in kindergarten.

Yes, that all happened – well, the skateboarders may have actually graduated from kindergarten – but it was six months ago, not six weeks ago. It still, however, feels weird to be having another Games already. And these Games feel oddly under-the -radar, like China’s spy network. But can you believe the Olympics start on Friday? This Friday!

They are indeed happening, even if we’ve heard very little about them. Before we begin to enjoy these Olympics, though, we need to reiterate that you can’t take Canadians hostage and think that we’ll be cool with it. Yes, you, Chinese state. You imprisoned the Two Michaels on bogus charges in obvious retaliation for Canada detaining Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018, shortly after Meng Wanzhou was arrested. And the Two Michaels were released nearly three years later, shortly after she was released. That’s kidnapping, bro. Not cool.


So I’ll watch these Olympic Games and cheer on our Canadian athletes, but I’ll save my biggest cheers for any moment in which a Canadian sticks it to the Chinese sports system. That’s for Michael! And the other Michael!

Alright, sorry. It had to be said.

Anyway, let’s move on to look at some fun things to watch for in Beijing, aside from opportunities for spite.

But first – who’s ready for more pandemic panic!? These are the second straight Olympics held under the cloud of a global health crisis. The bad news for international fans, friends, and family members is that the only spectators allowed at events are domestic Chinese citizens, so you can’t be there in person to catch the action. The good news is that you can’t be there in person to catch a jail sentence.

Aside from that, the competitors are in absolute fear that their Olympics will be derailed by a positive COVID-19 test. Imagine losing an Olympic medal because of a positive test! What a world.

But seriously, there will be some fun in there, if you know where to look. Here are some suggestions.

Mixed curling: Trust me on this one. The sport debuted in 2018 and was a blast, boiling traditional curling down to a fast and fun two-person game. Canada crushed it with hunky fireman John Morris teaming with spitfire Kaitlin Lawes to win gold. Flamethrowing Johnny Mo is back with a new partner, old pal Rachel Homan, and they are already winning hearts with their adorable social media posts.

The mixed curling actually starts today (Feb. 2)! Go check it out! You're going to love Homan and Morris. Everyone is going to love them, except perhaps for the curlers who have to play against them. 

Monobob: MONOBOB. MONOBOB! I don’t even know if this new Olympic event – solo bobsleigh? – will be much different than the regular bobsleigh we know and love (or at least sort of like), but any sport that gets you singing the classic “Monorail” song from The Simpsons (“Is there a chance the track could bend?”) is worth a mention. Monobob!

Mark McMorris: The casual sports fan who dabbles in winter events every four years may not know how awesome Mark McMorris is. Four years ago he won Olympic bronze in snowboarding, which isn’t exactly the stuff of legend, but consider that he was competing less than a year after he slammed into a tree on a slope near Whistler, breaking 17 bones – including his jaw, arm, pelvis and ribs – while also getting knocked unconscious and suffering a ruptured spleen and collapsed lung. This year he’s healthy, and less than two weeks ago he put down a legendary slopestyle run to win his 10th gold medal, a record 21st overall medal, at the X-Games. Check out his run:

Yes, he's very much the man in form. And what a great call from commentator Craig McMorris, who happens to be Mark's brother. "He's already pulled over! He can't pull over any further!" Fantastic. The McMorris boys should be a lot of fun in Beijing. 

And couldn’t we all use a little more fun these days? For Michael! And Michael!

Andy Prest is the sports and features editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly. [email protected]

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