From Regina to the back of a cereal box

Hello Flatlanders,

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, Saskatchewan and Manitoba excel in the sports you would expect—hockey and curling. The two sports many people on the Prairies play growing up. We also tend to produce a lot of speed skaters, which makes sense as well since our Prairie winters are much longer than in B.C. and out east, so Prairie kids probably get a bit more ice time.

The Prairies have produced some winter super stars over the years like speed skater Cindy Klassen from Winnipeg, who won six Olympic medals, as well as fellow Winnipeger, speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes, who won medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

There was Regina’s Sandra Schmirler who led Canada’s women’s curling team to gold, the year the sport made its Olympic debut back in 1998. Or Shaunavon, Saskatchewan’s Haley Wickenheiser who won five Olympic medals in hockey. I could go on.

The Olympics by numbers

Canada will be sending 215 athletes to this year’s Olympics, which begin next week.

It’s the third biggest team Canada has ever sent to the Olympics. In 2018, Canada sent 225 athletes and in 2014 we sent 222.

  • Out of those 215 athletes, 117 of them will be Olympic rookies.
  • Manitoba is only sending 10 athletes.
  • Saskatchewan is sending six.
  • Sixty athletes are from Ontario.
  • Fifty-seven are from Quebec.
  • Forty are from Alberta.
  • Thirty-two are from B.C.
  • Nova Scotia is sending four athletes.
  • There are three from Newfoundland.
  • And New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Yukon each have one athlete representing Team Canada.
  • The Northwest Territories aren’t sending any athletes this year. They have only ever had six athletes compete in the entire history of the Olympics, while Nunavut has never sent any.

From the Flatlands to a cereal box: Despite the humble numbers from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, one of our athletes made it onto a Cheerios box this year—Mark McMorris from Regina, who is a little bit of an anomaly being a snowboarder from the Prairies.

A first: He is looking to become the only male athlete to earn a medal in the first three Olympic games that featured the snowboard slopestyle competition. (Basically, athletes snowboard down a course full of obstacles, like rails and jumps).

Beating the odds: What fascinates people about Mark is he isn’t just a good snowboarder, but the fact that he was able to develop his skills growing up in the flatlands of Regina.

The New York Times wrote an article about him that declared Regina the flattest city in North America and said that the largest inclines are the ramps on the city’s Ring Road. (Obviously, the writer didn’t visit Wascana Hill, near Douglas Park, which overlooks the city). The article goes on to describe the Saskatchewan landscape as two dimensional. The article also comments on Mark’s tattoo of sheaths of wheat.

The closest ski hill to Regina is Mission Ridge in Fort Qu’Appelle, which is where Mark spent his weekends growing up.

Backyard snowboarding: When not at Mission Ridge, he and his older brother, Craig, would build up the snow in their backyard to create hills and did snowboarding tricks off half-buried lawn furniture.

A politician: Mark’s dad Don McMorris has been a Saskatchewan Party MLA for Indian Head-Milestone since 1999 and is currently the Minister of Government Relations.

Weekend cramming: Eventually, as Mark’s skills grew and he needed more of a challenge, he would train in Banff or Lake Louise on weekends and come home to Regina late Sunday nights before school on Mondays.

A teenage star: He missed his Grade 11 and 12 years at LeBoldus High School because he began competing professionally.

Continued success: Mark, now 28, recently won his tenth Winter X Games gold in Aspen, Colorado on Jan. 24.

When to watch: Qualifying runs for men’s snowboard slopestyle are scheduled for Feb. 6, with final runs on Feb. 7. Big air, which Mark is also competing in, has qualifiers on Feb. 14 and final runs on Feb. 15. (For big air, think ski jump but with snowboarders doing tricks off the jump).

Regina’s Mark McMorris of Canada during the Men’s slopestyle semi-finals of the 2018 Burton U.S. Open on March 7, 2018 in Vail, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Milchev/Getty Images)

Other athletes from Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Bobsled

Ben Coakwell, Moose Jaw, SK

  • Age: 34
  • Four men bobsledding.
  • Third Olympics.
  • He will be one of the three brakemen for pilot Justin Kripps.
  • He went to Sochi in 2014, where his team placed 29th, and to PyeongChang in 2018, placing 12th.
  • His team is considered Canada’s best medal chance in the four-man competition.
  • He went to the University of Saskatchewan on an athletic bursary where he was a running back for the Huskies and was a sprinter in track and field. (Apparently, former football players make really good bob sledders).

When to watch: Training heats for four-man bobsleigh begin on Feb. 16, with the gold-medal event scheduled for Feb. 20. 

Women’s Curling Team

  • The team is from Winnipeg and includes veterans lead Dawn McEwen, 41, skip Jennifer Jones, 47 and third Kaitlyn Lawes, 33.
  • New to the team is second Jocelyn Peterman, 28, replacing Jill Officer who left the competitive curling in 2018.
  • For Dawn and Jennifer, this will be their second Olympics, whereas it will be Kaitlyn’s third.
  • All three competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics where they won gold afterposting a perfect 11-0 record, the first time a women’s curling team went undefeated in an Olympic competition.
  • It was also the first time the women have won gold since 1998 when the Regina Sandra Schmirler team won gold in Nagano. (Unfortunately, Sandra would die of cancer in 2000 at the age of 36, a year after the birth of her second daughter).
  • Jennifer was the top skip at the 2014 Olympics tournament, curling at 86 per cent.
  • Team Canada missed out onqualifying for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
  • Kaitlyn still went onto compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics and won gold with John Morris in the first ever Olympic mixed doubles curling tournament. (Technically, Morris was born in Winnipeg, but he claims Ottawa as his hometown).
  • Team Canada was redeemed after missing the 2018 Olympics after going on to win that year’s World Championships.
  • At 47 years old, Jennifer will be Canada’s oldest female Winter Olympian ever.

When to watch: The women will play their first game on Feb. 10.

The Hockey Players

Ashton Bell, Deloraine, MB

  • Age: 22
  • First Olympics.
  • She’s been playing hockey since the age of four.
  • She played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Emily Clark, Saskatoon, SK

  • Age: 26
  • Second Olympics.
  • She scored one goal during the 2018 Olympics where Canada won a silver medal after a shootout loss to the United States in the final.
  • She spent her collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin.

Kristen CampbellBrandon, MB

  • Age: 24.
  • First Olympics.
  • She began playing collegiately at the University of North Dakota before UND folded their women’s hockey program at the end of the 2017 season.
  • Kirsten went on to be the starting goaltender at the University of Wisconsin.

Adam Cracknell, Prince Albert, SK

  • Age: 29.
  • Second Olympics.
  • Long Track Speed Skating.
  • At the 2018 Olympics, she competed in the 500 m and 1,000 m.
  • She won a silver medal at the World Single Distances Championships in 2019 during the team sprint.
  • She won a bronze in the 500 m in the 2021 World Cup.

When to watch: She will skate the 500 m on Feb. 13 and the 1,000 m on Feb. 17.

The speed skaters

Graeme Fish, Moose Jaw, SK

  • Age: 24
  • First Olympics
  • Long track speed skating
  • Broke a world record in the 10,000 m at the 2020 World Single Distances Championships in Salt Lake City.

When to watch: He will skate the 10,000 m on Feb. 11.

Marsha Hudey, White City, SK

  • Age: 31
  • Third Olympics
  • Long track speed skating
  • In 2018, she finished 10th in the 500 metres at the Olympics.

When to watch: She will skate the 500 m on Feb. 13.

Heather McLean, Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Age: 29
  • Second Olympics
  • Long Track Speed Skating
  • At the 2018 Olympics, she competed in the 500m and 1,000m.
  • She won a silver medal at the World Single Distances Championships in 2019 during the team sprint.
  • She won a bronze in the 500m in the 2021 World Cup.

When to watch: She will skate the 500 m on Feb. 13 and the 1,000 m on Feb. 17.

Alexa ScottClandeboye, MB

  • Age: 20.
  • First Olympics.
  • Long Track Speed Skating.
  • She will compete in the 1,000 m and team pursuit event.

When to watch: The women’s 1000 m will be on Feb. 17 and the women’s team pursuit begins on Feb. 12.

Tyson Langelaar, Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Age: 22.
  • Long Track Speed Skating.
  • First Olympics.
  • At the World Cup Final in 2020, he finished fourth in the 1500 m.
  • He won his first World Cup medal, a bronze, in December 2019 as a member of the team pursuit.

When to watch: He will skate the 1500 m on Feb. 8.
 
How to watch the Olympics.

Team Canada warms up during a Women’s Ice Hockey practice session ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games at the National Indoor Stadium on February 02, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. A Winnipeg high schooler captures the frustration of pandemic life in an impassioned poem.
  2. Manitoba leads the way to prevent polar bear extinction.
  3. Why an international student in Winnipeg made a PowerPoint about winter boots.
  4. A Thompson radio show has been waiting to return to air for two years because there is no host.
  5. Stefanson apologizes for failing to disclose $31M in real estate sales.

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. Sask. Roughrider Jay Dearborn prepares for his Olympic debut in bobsleigh, although he is not on Ben Coakwell’s team. Canada has three four-man bobsled teams and Jay is from Ontario, not Saskatchewan, which is why he isn’t mentioned above.
  2. Plastic checkout bag ban takes effect in Regina.
  3. Megan Heyhurst makes history as the first female SJHL play-by-play announcer.
  4. The Saskatchewan Party annoys the media by telling them how to do their jobs.
  5. Bison again roaming the plains on The Key First Nation, just south of Norquay, SK, near the Manitoba boarder.

Photo of the week

Winnipeg’s Tyson Langelaar of Team Canada looks onduring a training session at the National Speed Skating Oval before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games on January 30, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

And last call for survey responses. Your answers will help shape the future of The Flatlander. The survey closes the morning of Feb. 7.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

Important work at a critical time.

Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond,  local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.

 

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