2023 is an important year on the road to the Paris Olympics

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As 2022 draws to a close and the 2024 Summer Games approach, 2023 will be a big year for Canadians chasing the podium in Paris. Here are some of the important tournaments and matches that will take place next year:

World Aquatics Championship (July 14-30, Japan)

Worlds for swimmers, artistic swimmers, divers and water polo teams are normally held every two years. But timing deviations related to the pandemic mean we got them for the second year in a row. This means one more chance to witness Canada’s rise as a floating power.

At the 2022 world championships in Hungary, Canadian swimmers took 11 medals (three gold, four silver and four bronze), placing third behind the United States and Australia, breaking the national record of eight medals set at the 2019 world championships. A star was born as teen phenomenon Summer McIntosh becomes Canada’s youngest ever swimming world champion. He also captured Canada’s record of four medals in a single world, with two gold medals and one silver plus a bronze flag in individual events. McIntosh will still only be 16 years old in the world of 2023.

Another rising star to watch this summer is Josh Liendo, who won a pair of individual bronze and a silver medal in Budapest and became the first Black Canadian swimmer to podium at world championships. He is only 20 years old.

“Old” favorites in Japan will likely include Penny Oleksiak, who turned 23 a month before the worlds. She has received four more relay medals this year to become the most award-winning Canadian swimmer ever at the world championships with nine she. Oleksiak is currently recovering from a knee surgery at the end of the summer, but the hope is that he is ready for the worlds. Kylie Masse, who turned 27 in January, currently holds eight world championship medals after winning her third individual gold medal in Hungary. Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil will attempt to recapture the world title she won in 2019 at that event.

Women’s World Cup (20 July-20 August in Australia and New Zealand)

The Canadian women’s soccer team is doing well in the Olympics, winning bronze medals in 2012 and 16 before a thrilling gold medal victory in Tokyo. However, this success was not reflected in the World Cup. In 2019, Canada was eliminated in the round of 16 in France. Canada did not make it past the quarterfinals when they hosted it in 2015. Canada’s only semi-final journey came in 2003, when they lost the bronze match to the hosts USA.

But the Canadian team now looks stronger than ever and the World Cup draw is on track. Canada, ranked sixth in the world, was placed in a group with hosts Australia (12th), Ireland (23rd) and Nigeria (45th). Still, there is pressure on the Canadians to win the group. If they advance to second, they’ll likely face fourth-placed England.

There’s another big date on the calendar for Canadian women in 2023. Despite being Olympic champions, they have yet to qualify for the 2024 tournament in Paris. The final entry from their region will be determined as Canada faces Jamaica in a two-legged playoff in September.

World Championships in Athletics (19-27 August, Hungary)

Like their aquatic counterparts, track and field athletes rarely win back-to-back world titles as a result of the pandemic.

Last summer, the worlds in Oregon were in shambles for Canada. All five individual track and field medal winners from the Tokyo Olympics failed to reach the podium. Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner looked poised to claim his first world title, but was eliminated halfway through the competition with a hamstring injury. Out-of-form Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse skipped the autograph event entirely after failing to make it to the semi-finals in the 100m. Distance runner Moh Ahmed and race walker Evan Dunfee also fell short.

And yet, Canada still finished with a solid four medals. De Grasse is off the canvas to tie the men’s 4x100m relay team in a shocking gold medal defeat, Pierce LePage wins a surprise silver in the decathlon, rising star Marco Arop wins bronze in the men’s 800m, and Camryn Rogers wins a medal at a world-class field event hammer throw to become the first Canadian woman.

At next year’s worlds in Budapest, 33-year-old Warner will get another shot at winning the decathlon world title on his to-do list. De Grasse, 28, will try to prove that the tough 2022 season was a coincidence and still has the strength to fight for individual gold.

Basketball World Cup (August 25-September 10 in Asia)

If the Canadian men’s basketball team is to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since Steve Nash led them to the quarterfinals in 2000, the fastest and best way to do so is through the Basketball World Cup. The 2023 edition of the event, formerly known as the world championship, will primarily be hosted by the Philippines, with some early-round matches in Japan and Indonesia.

Two places in the Paris Olympic tournament will be next for teams from the Americas region. One of them will almost certainly go to the United States, but the other is very much up for grabs. Argentina joined the United States in the last Olympics despite having zero notable NBA players.

There is a group of people in Canada who are committed to Olympic qualifiers, including a real star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 24-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder guard currently ranks fourth in NBA scoring with 31.2 points per game. That puts him slightly behind two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and ahead of stars like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.

Other highlights who have signed to the national team include Jamal Murray, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks and Lu Dort. It’s not Andrew Wiggins, but there is hope that the key member of Golden State’s 2022 championship team will be able to jump in later.

With a bunch of other solid NBA entrants and the Raptors’ Nick Nurse coaching, the Canadian men’s chances of grabbing Olympic dock at the World Cup look pretty good. If not, you’re back in one of the disastrous last-minute qualifying tournaments for Canada in 2021 in Victoria. The goal for next year is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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