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An 11-year-old qualified for the Olympics
Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza earned a spot by winning the women’s singles event at the regional qualifying tournament for West Asia. She beat a 42-year-old in the final. Assuming her country approves her participation, Zaza will likely be the youngest athlete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Her date of birth is listed as Jan. 1, 2009. That makes her younger than British skateboarder Sky Brown, who will turn 12 just before the start of the Olympics and still needs to qualify.
Zaza won’t be the youngest Olympian ever, though. In fact, athletes younger than her have won medals. The youngest known Olympic medallist is a Greek gymnast named Dimitrios Loundras, who was 10 when he won a bronze in the team parallel bars event at the 1896 Games. An 11-year-old Italian named Luigina Giavotti won silver in the women’s team gymnastics event at the 1928 Games. That Italian team also had two 12-year-olds.
Then there’s the legend of the unknown rowing boy. Before the pairs final at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the Dutch team decided to ditch its regular coxswain (the person who steers the boat) for a much lighter local kid. They won the gold medal, and the cox is considered part of the team. The problem, for record-keeping purposes, is that no one knows who the boy is or how old he was. Estimates have ranged from as young as seven to as old as 12, based on this grainy photograph:
Canada’s youngest-ever Olympian is swimmer Barbara Hounsell. She was 13 years, 102 days old at the start of the 1964 Tokyo Games. The youngest Canadian medallist is swimmer Robin Corsiglia. She was 13 years, 341 days when she helped the women’s 4x100m medley relay team win bronze at the 1976 Games in Montreal. Read more about Canada’s youngest and oldest Olympians in this story from the Canadian Olympic Committee.
If you’re wondering, there’s no universal age minimum for the Olympics. It’s up to each sport’s world governing body to decide. In gymnastics and snowboarding, for example, athletes now have to turn at least 16 in the calendar year in which the Olympics are held. Table tennis doesn’t have a minimum age.
The Canadian men’s soccer team’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics got a lot worse
Young stars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David won’t play in Canada’s Olympic qualifying tournament, which runs March 20-April 1 in Mexico, because their club teams need them. The 19-year-old Davies turned heads with a great performance in Bayern Munich’s 3-0 Champions League win over Chelsea on Tuesday. He set up the third goal with this dazzling display of speed and skill (skip to the 4:07 mark):
David, 20, scored a hat trick for his Belgian league team last weekend and has 23 goals this season for them.
That’s all great news for Canadian soccer. But, unfortunately, the Olympic qualifying tournament doesn’t fall neatly into FIFA’s international window (March 23-31), so clubs don’t have to release their players for the whole thing. Also, the Canadian team has friendlies scheduled for March 27 and 31 vs. Trinidad and Tobago that it wants Davies and David to play in. Those are important because they count in the world rankings and Canada is trying to catch El Salvador for sixth place in their region. That’s key because the top six after the June qualifying window get to play in the so-called “Hex,” which is the final round of World Cup qualifying for the region. The Hex isn’t the only way to get into the 2022 World Cup, but it’s the easiest and the best. So Canada will do everything it can to get in.
Also, Canada was a long shot to qualify for the Olympics anyway. It’s only the third-highest ranked team in its group, and the other group includes the much higher ranked Mexico and the United States. So even if Canada advances to the semis, it would likely have to beat one of those teams to reach the Olympics for the first time since 1984. Read more about Davies, David and the Canadian national team’s outlook here.
There’s a big diving event in Montreal
The FINA Diving World Series is the premier set of events in the sport. Only the best divers in the world are invited, plus a few wild cards from the country that’s hosting each meet. Usually there are four or five stops in the World Series, but this year it’s been cut to three because the Beijing meet was cancelled due to the coronavirus emergency. Also, the powerful Chinese team won’t compete at this week’s opening event in Montreal.
That means an easier path to the podium for Canadians like 10-metre platform divers Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay, and 3m specialists Jennifer Abel and Mélissa Citrini-Beaulieu. The latter two are the only Canadians who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics so far (as partners in the 3m synchro event). No one else can clinch a spot in Montreal, but they can earn rankings points that will help them do so. Read more about the Canadians to watch here.
CBC Sports is streaming every competition in Montreal live, starting Friday at noon ET and continuing through Sunday. You can watch here and get the exact times in the full streaming and broadcast schedule. The CBC TV network will also be showing some of the meet Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
Another Canadian teenager is making noise on the women’s tennis tour. While we wait (and wait) for Bianca Andreescu to come back from her knee injury, Leylah Annie Fernandez has been doing some pretty impressive stuff for a 17-year-old in her first full pro season. While playing for Canada in the Fed Cup earlier this month, she upset the world’s No. 5-ranked player at the time, Belinda Bencic, despite being barely in the top 200 herself. Now Fernandez has reached her first quarter-finals on the WTA tour after crushing 71st-ranked Nao Hibino last night at the Mexican Open. Her next match is tonight (probably sometime after 11 p.m. ET) vs. 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova, who’s ranked 97th in the world.
The Canucks have lost their top goalie for a bit. Jacob Markstrom underwent a “minor lower body procedure” and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, GM Jim Benning said last night. Markstrom got hurt in Vancouver’s win over Boston on Saturday. Thatcher Demko will probably be the go-to guy now. He beat Montreal 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday. The Canucks also have Louis Domingue, who they picked up at the trade deadline on Monday. The Canucks have fallen four points behind Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division, but they’ve played three fewer games than the Golden Knights. Vancouver and Edmonton are both two points ahead of Calgary for the other two playoff spots in the Pacific.
Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball team is in great shape at its Paralympic qualifier in Halifax. The squad is 2-0 after dominating Slovenia in straight sets and beating Germany 3-1 yesterday. Canada plays today at 5 p.m. ET vs. Ukraine, then finishes the round robin tomorrow at noon ET vs. Finland. This is a five-team tournament, and only the winner gets to go to Tokyo this summer. The top four teams after the round robin advance to the semifinals on Friday evening, and the winners of the semis play for the Paralympic spot Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. CBC Sports is streaming every match in the tournament live here.
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