See you soon: Canada sends big names and new stars to the Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games may not have the prestige of the Olympics, or even a world championship.
But it remains an important marker in the calendar of every Canadian athlete – a lower level test during a multi-sport competition that also serves as a barometer when the stakes are a bit higher.
Diving Canada’s high performance director, Mitch Geller, said there was a lot to learn from the Commonwealth Games.
“It was such an unveiling of future stars,” he said.
Still, Geller said the Games are treated as a destination — not just part of the journey.
“We’re looking for as many medals as possible. We don’t see it as just a stepping stone, although it can serve that purpose. We treat it as if it’s not that different from the Olympics.”
Canada is sending 272 athletes to compete in 18 sports and five parasports from July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, England.
Daily live coverage will be available on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem, with an additional 10 hours of weekend coverage hosted by Scott Russell and Andi Petrillo.
From new faces to big names, here are some Canadian athletes to watch:
Mia Valley, diving
Vallée, of Beaconsfield, Que., burst onto the scene at the world aquatic championships, where she won two medals, including silver in the three-metre springboard and bronze in the 1-metre springboard.
Geller said Vallee, 21, can move on to gold in Birmingham.
“Keep it as pure as possible and just focus on the activity itself rather than its competitive side, which means going in and really trying to display each individual component to the best of your ability,” he said. -he declares.
This will be Valley’s first Commonwealth Games. She has never been to the Olympics.
Josh Liendo, swimming
Speaking of aquatic stars, Liendo broke through in Budapest when he won three medals, including bronze in the individual 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly and as the lead runner in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay.
In doing so, the 19-year-old swimmer from Toronto became the first black Canadian swimmer to reach the podium in an individual event at the world championships.
Liendo also competed at Tokyo 2020, where his best result came as part of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team that set a national record.
Perhaps more than any other Canadian athlete, the Commonwealth Games can be that “springboard” for Liendo.
Summer McIntosh, swimming
For McIntosh, it will be more about keeping his perch than climbing the ladder.
The Torontonian is coming off a world championship that saw her win four medals, including gold in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley.
It was announced Wednesday that due to the busy summer schedule, McIntosh will not be competing in the 200 butterfly at the Commonwealth.
His challenge at Birmingham is therefore to maintain the direction that has led to so much success and to prove that it is repeatable.
If she does, any doubts about who Canada’s next Olympic superstar might be will be dispelled.
Kylie Masse, swimming
And then there’s relative veteran 26-year-old back specialist Kylie Masse.
The La Salle, Ont., native’s decorated career already includes four Olympic medals, eight world championship medals and four more Commonwealth Games podiums.
Birmingham is just one more chance for Masse to compete against some of the best swimmers in the world.
Penny Oleksiak, Canada’s most decorated Olympian, will not compete in England while Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist Maggie Mac Neil will only run relays.
Aurélie Rivard, Para-swimming
Count them up: Rivard has 10 Paralympic medals, stood on the podium 14 more times at the world championships and added seven at the 2018 Pan Pacific Games.
Curiously, however, Rivard has only one Commonwealth Games medal – a single silver in 2018.
The native of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., who was born with an underdeveloped left hand, is a solid bet to increase that total in England.
Camryn Rogers, athletics
The hammer thrower arrives in Birmingham after capturing a silver medal at the world championships, where she became the first Canadian to step onto the podium in a field event.
Rogers, 23 and a native of Richmond, British Columbia, also holds the Canadian and American collegiate records in the hammer throw and is a three-time NCAA champion.
She placed fifth in Tokyo, signaling that she was close to contention. Another podium appearance in England would confirm that status.
Another notable Canadian thrower, Sarah Mitton, who holds the national single-year shot put record, is also on the Commonwealth Games team.
Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, beach volleyball
The 2019 world champions didn’t quite maintain their fastball in subsequent years, missing out on the podium at Tokyo 2020 and the 2022 world championships.
But the flashes of brilliance remain for the duo, which combines the strength of Pavan with the finesse of Humana-Paredes.
The duo ended a title drought dating back to 2019 when they won the Latvia Elite 16 event in June, topping the standings against five Brazilian opponents. Brazil, however, is not a competitor to the Commonwealth, which could potentially wipe out the Canadians list even further.
The new Canadian pair of reigning world silver medalists Brandie Wilkerson and Sophie Bukovec will not compete in England.
Tammara Thibeault, boxing
Thibeault narrowly missed becoming the first Canadian to step onto the Olympic boxing podium in Tokyo when she lost her quarter-final fight.
That seems to have provided some energy: the 25-year-old Regina native rebounded by winning middleweight gold at the world championships in May.
In Birmingham, Thibeault will look to improve on his bronze medal from the 2018 Commonwealth Games while showing the world that his recent gold medal was no fluke.
Kelsey Mitchell, track cycling
Known to her teammates as the “Quadzilla” for her muscular legs, Mitchell won Canada’s last gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics when she won the sprint event.
The converted soccer player then went on to win gold in the keirin and silver in the sprint at the Nations Cup in May in Milton, Ont.
Mitchell, 28, from Sherwood Park, Alta., only started cycling in 2017 when she was discovered by RBC Training Ground, a program launched for young athletes to help build Canada’s Olympic teams.
Birmingham will mark its first Commonwealth Games.
Bianca Farella, Rugby 7s
Farella, of Montreal, is the only remaining member of the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team from Rio 2016, when the team won bronze.
It was a different story in Tokyo, however, with the women placing ninth and the men eighth.
There has been a lot of turnover and turmoil since just last summer, with accusations of abuse followed by a review that found a dysfunctional organization “in a constant state of crisis”.
Coupled with a string of retirements, including captain Ghislaine Landry, Canada’s once mighty women’s rugby sevens team now finds itself essentially starting over.
Part of it will be up to Farella to help lead the next generation.
Maude Charron, weightlifting
Charron was perhaps Canada’s most unexpected gold medalist in Tokyo, taking first place in the 64 kilogram division lifting a combined total of 236 kg.
The flag she will carry in the opening ceremonies, as she leads Team Canada alongside wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy, won’t be that heavy.
The Rimouski, Que., native is looking to defend gold after setting a Commonwealth clean and jerk record (122kg) in 2018.
Charron said after her triumph in Tokyo that she hopes to show Canadian women across the country that weightlifting isn’t just a men’s sport.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.