Canadian Olympic Team Set for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
With China set to welcome the world in Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Canadian Olympic Team readies for 16 days of sport at the highest level. The 332 competing Canadian athletes will be led by flag bearer Adam van Koeverden, Olympic and world champion kayaker.
Van Koeverden will lead the entire Canadian contingent into the brand new Beijing National Stadium – dubbed the “Bird’s Nest” due to its unique design – to kick off the Games in the Opening Ceremony on August 8. Canada will be the 63rd team to march into the stadium (just after Ghana at 62). The 332 athletes include members of five traditional “team” sports that Canada has qualified for Beijing: men’s baseball, men’s water polo, women’s softball, men’s field hockey and women’s soccer.
The Games of the XXIX Olympiad will run from August 8 to 24.
“BOCOG has done a remarkable job preparing Beijing for the Games,” said COC president Michael Chambers. “Everything is at the ready for the Games and the people of Beijing have extended a warm welcome to the athletes and their coaches of the 205 countries from all regions of the world who are gathering together for this Olympic competition. The Canadian Team is ready for and eagerly awaits the Games to begin.”
“We knew that Beijing would go above and beyond in its preparations for these Games and with what we’ve seen so far, they have even managed to exceed our high expectations,” said Sylvie Bernier, Canada’s Chef de Mission and 1984 gold medallist in diving. “The Olympic Village is spectacular and all of our teams are raving about their venues. In short, we are very impressed.”
Nine athletes who reached the podium in Athens 2004 are back in 2008: van Koeverden (gold and bronze, kayak), Kyle Shewfelt (gold, artistic gymnastics), Alexandre Despatie (silver, diving), Marie-Hélène Prémont (silver, cycling), Karen Cockburn (silver, trampoline), Tonya Verbeek (silver, wrestling), Jake Wetzel (silver, rowing), Émilie Heymans (bronze, diving) and Blythe Hartley (bronze, diving).
Canada is also sending several current world champions in their respective sports to Beijing. These champions include: Karine Sergerie, a 2007 taekwondo world champion; swimmer Brent Hayden, 2007 world champion in 100m freestyle; Tyler Christopher, gold medallist this year in 400m at the world indoor track and field championships; kayaker Adam van Koeverden, world champion in the K-1 500m; and the men’s eight rowing team that took gold at the 2007 World Championships.
Canada’s veteran leadership is most prominently displayed in a number of athletes who have been to four or more previous Olympic Games. They are led by equestrian standout Ian Millar who has tied a world record (Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl) with his ninth Games and rower Lesley Thompson-Willie who will compete in her sixth Olympic Games, with four medals to her credit. Others include trap shooter Susan Nattrass (sixth), race walker Dr. Tim Berrett (fifth), slalom kayaker David Ford (fifth), judoka Keith Morgan (fourth), tennis player Daniel Nestor (fourth) and fencer Jujie Luan (fourth).
There have been four roster changes to the Canadian Olympic Team since it was officially named on July 23. The team size grew to 332 total athletes after the International Tennis Federation extended a quota position to singles player Frank Dancevic (Niagara Falls, Ontario), who is ranked 114th world-wide. Also added to team were football’s Jodi-Ann Robinson from Richmond, B.C. (replacing Amber Allen), baseball’s Emmanuel Garcia from Montreal (replacing Pete Orr) and James Avery from Moosejaw, Sask. (replacing Scott Richmond).