High court sides with ex-athletes in NCAA compensation case

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled the NCAA can’t enforce certain rules limiting the education-related benefits colleges offer athletes. The ruling could help push changes in college athletics.

A Supreme Court ruling Monday will help determine whether Division 1 schools offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in benefits, including tutoring, study abroad and internships. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

In a ruling that could help push changes in college athletics, the Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled the NCAA can’t enforce certain rules limiting the education-related benefits — things like computers and graduate scholarships — colleges offer athletes.

The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether schools decide to offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in those benefits for things including tutoring, study abroad and internships.

The high court agreed with a group of former college athletes that NCAA limits on the education-related benefits colleges can offer athletes who play Division I basketball and football can’t be enforced.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws,” which the court declined to grant.

Under current NCAA rules, students cannot be paid, and the scholarship money colleges can offer is capped at the cost of attending the school. The NCAA had defended its rules as necessary to preserve the amateur nature of college sports.

Schools not barred from sweetening offers to athletes

But the former athletes who brought the case, including former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, argued the NCAA’s rules on education-related compensation were unfair and violate federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing those rules.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football players with additional education-related benefits. But individual athletic conferences can still set limits if they choose. A lawyer for the former athletes had said before the ruling that he believed that if his clients won, “very many schools” would ultimately offer additional benefits.

The NCAA had argued a ruling for the athletes could lead to a blurring of the line between college and professional sports, with colleges trying to lure talented athletes by offering over-the-top education benefits worth thousands of dollars. Even without the court’s ruling, however, changes seem on the way for how college athletes are compensated.

The NCAA is trying to amend its rules to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. That would allow athletes to earn money for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsement and personal appearances. For some athletes, those amounts could dwarf any education-related benefits.

The players associations of the NFL, the NBA and the WNBA had all urged the justices to side with the ex-athletes, as did the administration of President Joe Biden.


Canadian men beat Netherlands for 3rd straight sweep in Volleyball Nations League

Canada defeated the Netherlands 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-19) in men’s Volleyball Nations League action on Monday in Rimini, Italy, and sits 12th among 16 teams with a 5-8 record.

Canada’s men’s volleyball team celebrates a point during its three-set sweep of the Netherlands in Volleyball Nations League action on Monday in Rimini, Italy. (Volleyball World)

Canada defeated the Netherlands 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-19) in men’s Volleyball Nations League action on Monday in Rimini, Italy.

It represented a third consecutive three-set sweep for the Canadians after beating Japan and Germany on the heels of back-to-back losses to France and Poland.

Sharone Vernon-Evans, from Scarborough, Ont., had a team-leading 14 points on Monday, followed by team captain John Gordon Perrin of Creston, B.C. and Nicholas Hoag of Sherbrooke, Que., with 11 apiece.

Canada has a 5-8 record and sits 12th in the 16-team tournament, two positions ahead of the Netherlands (2-11) ahead of Tuesday’s matchup against Australia (CBCSports.ca, 4 a.m. ET).

#VNL #CANvsNED @NHoagies with four aces in the 2nd set, including three in a row 🔥 Canada now up 2-0.
📽️ @volleyballworld pic.twitter.com/fIihFVWJNs



Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash join ownership group of Las Vegas lacrosse team

Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash will join golf star Dustin Johnson and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai in the ownership group for the expansion team, the NLL has announced. The league’s 15th team will start play in the fall of 2022.

Wayne Gretzky, right, is joining golf star Dustin Johnson, left, in the ownership group for the National Lacrosse League’s expansion team. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg/File)

Two of Canada’s most prominent athletes are part of the ownership group of the National Lacrosse League’s new Las Vegas franchise.

The NLL says Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash will join golf star Dustin Johnson and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai in the ownership group for the expansion team.

The league’s 15th team will start play in the fall of 2022.

Johnson is engaged to Gretzky’s daughter, Paulina.

Tsai also owns the NLL’s San Diego Seals.

Gretzky also played lacrosse while growing up in Brantford, Ont.

Ownership experience

The hockey legend recently took a job as a television studio analyst for NHL coverage for American-based Turner Sports. Gretzky also accepted a role as brand ambassador for BetMGM, a sports betting and digital gaming company.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have one of the most iconic Canadians ever, Wayne Gretzky, joining an ownership group in our league,” said Jamie Dawick, owner of the Toronto Rock. “The NLL’s newest franchise in Las Vegas has put together a great ownership group and I’m sure they will hit it out of the park.”

Nash, now the coach of the Nets, grew up in Victoria, a lacrosse hotbed.

Nash and Gretzky both have experience as sports team owners.

Nash is a co-owner of Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, while Gretzky was a co-owner of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts in the early 1990s.

The Toronto Rock, Halifax Thunderbirds, Calgary Roughnecks, Saskatchewan Rush and Vancouver Warriors are the five Canadian teams in the NLL.


Tokyo Olympics to allow limit of 10,000 local fans in venues

The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. Organizers set a limit of 50 per cent of capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 fans for all Olympic venues.

Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, left, and IOC president Thomas Bach, pictured on a screen, speak during a party-five meeting on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Getty Images )

A limited number of local fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, organizers announced Monday as they tried to save some of the spirit of the Games where even cheering has been banned.

Organizers set a limit of 50 per cent capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, all of whom must be Japanese residents — for each Olympic venue, regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors. Officials said that if coronavirus cases rise again the rules could be changed and fans could still be barred all together. Spectators from abroad were banned several months ago, and now some local fans who have tickets will be forced to give them up.

The decision comes as opposition among Japanese to holding the Games in July remains high, though may be softening, and as new infections in Tokyo have begun to subside.

Still, health officials fear that in a country where the vast majority of people have yet to be vaccinated, crowds at the Olympics could drive cases up. The country’s top medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, recommended last week the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans. Allowing fans presents a risk not just at the venues but will also lead to more circulation on commuter trains, in restaurants and other public spaces.

It’s already become clear these Olympics Games will be unlike any others, but organizers have said they are determined to hold them and billions of dollars in broadcast rights and ticket sales are at stake. Still, much of the fanfare that surrounds them — people from around the world rubbing elbows, a celebratory atmosphere in the host city and the showcasing of the host country’s culture — will be off the table or far more muted this year.

WATCH | Fans allowed at Olympics, but don’t expect cheering:

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will allow a maximum of 10,000 fans for all venues, but they will not be allowed to cheer and they will have to wear masks. 3:55

‘Last piece for the Olympics’

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, called the decision “the last piece for the Olympics” to proceed on July 23.

But as with everything about these Olympics — the first postponed in the history of the Modern Games dating from 1896, though previous ones were canceled during both World Wars — the decision raised many questions.

For one, it is not quite what it seems. Although a maximum of 10,000 fans will be allowed in any given venue, so-called stakeholders — including sponsors and sporting federation officials — will not be counted toward that total, according to organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto. Japanese media, for instance, reported that up to 20,000 people might attend the opening ceremony, over and above athletes, though Muto said he thought it would be less than that.

The decision on local fans was announced after so-called Five Party talks online with local organizers, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Japanese government and the government of metropolitan Tokyo. A decision on the Paralympics comes on July 16.

Hashimoto, meanwhile, left the door open for a no-fans Olympics if the conditions worsen around the pandemic.

“We need to be very flexible. If there is any abrupt change in the situation, we will hold five-party meetings again to make other decisions,” Hashimoto said. “If there is an announcement of a state of emergency during the Games, all the options like no-spectator games will be examined.”

Ticket revenue around $400M US

Officials say local fans will be under strict rules. They will not be allowed to cheer, must wear masks, and are being told to go straight home afterward.

“We would like people to go directly home from the venue without stopping by anywhere,” Muto said.

Tokyo organizers had expected about $800 million US in revenue from ticket sales, but Muto said the actual figure would be no more than half that. Any shortfall will have to be picked by some Japanese government entity.

The University of Oxford has said these are the most expensive Olympics on record. The official cost is $15.4 billion, but several government audits suggest it might be twice that much. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would would bar fans if conditions change. (Yuichi Yamazaki/The Associated Press)

Cancellation would cost IOC billions

The IOC relies on selling broadcast rights for almost 75 per cent of its income. Another 18 per cent is from sponsors. A cancellation would cost the IOC an estimated $3 billion-$4 billion in lost broadcast income — an enormous blow especially at a time when its income flow has already been slowed by the pandemic.

The decision comes just as Tokyo has emerged from a state of emergency as the curve of new cases has flattened. The seven-day average for new infections in the city is about 400 daily.

The capital and other areas are now under “quasi-emergency” status until July 11. The new rules will allow restaurants to serve alcohol during limited hours, the main outcome from the reduced restrictions.

Overall, more than 14,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Japan, which has managed the pandemic better than many countries but not as well as some others in Asia. Its vaccination campaign remains behind many Western ones, with about 6.5 per cent of Japanese fully vaccinated and 16.5 per cent with at least one shot.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has favored allowing fans, said before the official announcement that he would bar fans if conditions change. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike echoed that.

“If a state of emergency is necessary, I will be flexible and open to no fans in order to achieve that the Games give top priority to safety and security for the people,” Suga said.

He said he took “seriously” Omi’s recommendations but did not follow them.

In recent polls, support seems to be increasing for holding the Olympics, though a majority still appear to favour postponing or canceling the Games, depending how the question is worded.


Simone Manuel wins 50-metre freestyle to snatch Olympic spot after missing out in 100 free

When Simone Manuel whipped around to see the “1” beside her name, months of emotions came pouring out.

Simone Manuel of the United States reacts after competing in the women’s 50m freestyle final during Day 8 of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials on Sunday. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

When Simone Manuel whipped around to see the “1” beside her name, months of emotions came pouring out.

She closed her eyes, brought her hands together in prayer and struggled to hold back the tears.

Abbey Weitzeil, the woman she had just beaten, leaped over the lane rope with a huge smile — so happy for her friend that she didn’t mind settling for the runner-up spot Sunday.

Everyone in the stands leaped to their feet, saluting Manuel’s perseverance with an ovation that rocked the Omaha arena.

Days after revealing she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome, Manuel provided the most stirring moment of the entire U.S. Olympic swimming trials on its final night by winning the chaotic 50-metre freestyle.

It was all or nothing for Manuel, whose Olympic hopes came down to one hectic dash from one end of the pool to the other.

Get must-watch video, live events and breaking news on CBC.ca

More from Tokyo 2020

She got there first, locking up a trip to Tokyo and the chance to make more history — five years becoming the first Black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event.

“More than anything, I’m relieved,” she said. “Today may have been the longest day of my life and the longest 50 of my life.”

Dressel ties own American record

While Manuel is heading back to the Olympics, Nathan Adrian’s bid for a fourth appearance at the Summer Games came up just short when he finished third in the men’s 50 free.

Caeleb Dressel tied his American record with another dominating performance, touching about a half-body length ahead of Michael Andrew in 21.04 seconds.

Get ready, Tokyo. Dressel will have three individual races at the Olympics, not to mention at least three relays.

Plenty of chances to live up the hype as America’s next great men’s swimming star after the retirement of Michael Phelps.

“This is brutal, the pressure. I like it,” Dressel said. “I’m happy we executed well and in a month we get to go have some more fun.”

‘A lot of hard work in the bank’

But this night was all about Manuel.

Her dreams were seemingly dashed when she failed to even qualify for the final of the 100 free, the event she won at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

After that disappointing performance, she opened up about the struggles she’s been going through. With her body aching, Manuel was diagnosed in March with the condition commonly known as burnout, forcing her to suspend training for three weeks.

The layoff came at the worst possible time, with the Olympic trials right around the corner, and Manuel was clearly not at her best in her first event of the week.

As it turned out, opening up about her condition — and receiving so much support and encouragement from teammates, fans and people she’s never met — seemed to be greatest salve.

“I definitely think sharing that information allowed me to swim more free,” Manuel said. “I have a lot of hard work in the bank.”

Chaotic finish

It paid off when Manuel furiously covered the length of the pool in 24.29 to edge Weitzeil by one-hundredth of a second.

Weitzeil had already had locked up her spot on the team with a victory in the 100 free, and the second-place showing ensured she’ll also swim the 50 in Tokyo.

No one in the arena was pulling harder for Manuel than the woman swimming in the lane right next to her.

“I told her before we walked out, `We’re coming out together,”‘ Weitzeil said. “During the race, I saw her right there. I was like, `Yes! Let’s go! C’mon!’ That’s what I was thinking the whole time”

Manuel can’t wait to get to another Olympics. She won’t get a chance to defend her groundbreaking title from Rio, but she’s got no complaints after the past few months.

“Even though I didn’t make it in the 100, my goal was to make to the team,” he said. “I’ll have to regroup and hopefully swim faster so I can win a medal for Team USA.

“I’m glad I can walk away with my head held high.”


Vegas gets much-needed win in Montreal on Roy’s OT winner

Nicolas Roy scored the overtime winner as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime on Sunday to tie the series.

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate their 2-1 overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Sunday. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Golden Knights are back on level terms in the Stanley Cup semifinals.

Nicolas Roy scored his fourth goal of the playoffs at 1:18 of overtime as Vegas defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Sunday to even the teams’ third-round series 2-2.

The Quebec-born centre fired home on a scramble after former Montreal captain Max Pacioretty took the initial shot on Carey Price.

Robin Lehner — starting in place of Marc-Andre Fleury after his disastrous miscue gifted the Canadiens a late equalizer in Friday’s 3-2 OT loss — stopped 27 shots for the Golden Knights. Brayden McNabb had the other goal.

The best-of-seven series returns to Vegas for Tuesday’s Game 5.

Game 6 goes Thursday back in Montreal, while Game 7, if necessary, will be played Saturday in Sin City.

Paul Byron replied for the Canadiens, who got 19 saves from Price.

The winner of Montreal-Vegas will meet either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the New York Islanders in the Cup final. That series sits tied 2-2.

WATCH | Vegas down Habs on Nicolas Roy’s OT winner:

Nicolas Roy scored the game-winning goal 1:18 into overtime as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 to even their best-of-seven series at two games apiece. 1:36

With the score tied 0-0 late in the second period and Montreal having just killed off the game’s first power play, Byron took a pass from Nick Suzuki and moved in alone on Lehner and roofed his third of the post-season with 65 seconds left on the clock to send the 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre into a frenzy.

There wasn’t much happening prior to that effort from Byron, who was on waivers three times during the regular season, as the crowd and both teams got increasingly frustrated with the officiating in a chippy affair.

Pacioretty forced a big save out of Price on that power play before Alex Pietrangelo, looking for his fourth goal in three games, rang a shot off the post.

Suzuki then exited the box and fed Byron for Montreal’s breakthrough.

Lehner kept his team in the fight midway through the third by stopping Montreal rookie sniper Cole Caufield on a breakaway with the Bell Centre again poised to explode.

Vegas got its sixth goal from a defenceman in the series — the Golden Knights have seven in total — to tie it at 10:37 when McNabb pinched down and took a pass from William Karlsson before firing a shot that somehow squeezed past Price to force OT for the second time in as many games.

Montreal dropped its first overtime game of the playoffs (4-1) while the Golden Knights won their first (1-3).

The Canadiens were once again without interim head coach Dominique Ducharme after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. Luke Richardson, who picked up his first NHL victory in Game 3, was again calling the shots behind Montreal’s bench with the support of fellow assistants Alexandre Burrows and Sean Burke.

The Golden Knights also have a COVID-19 issue of their own after it was revealed a few hours before Game 4 that general manager Kelly McCrimmon was placed in self-isolation following a positive test.

Fleury had started 15 of 16 games in these playoffs for Vegas coming into Sunday — Lehner got the call in a 7-1 drubbing by the Colorado Avalanche to open the second round — putting up a .921 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average.

But the 36-year-old Vezina Trophy finalist turned the puck over behind his net with less than two minutes left in Friday’s third period and his team cruising to a 2-1 series lead to Josh Anderson, who promptly scored into the unguarded cage to force OT.

Anderson then won it in the extra period on a 2-on-0 rush off a Byron feed with Vegas caught on a bad change.

Vegas, which finished second in the regular-season standings, 23 points ahead of 18th-ranked Montreal, dominated the opening 40 minutes of Game 3, outshooting the Canadiens 30-8, before the wheels fell off following Fleury’s gaffe.

Thoroughly dominated in Friday’s opening period, the Canadiens matched their excellent starts in the first two games of the series early Sunday, forcing Lehner into a couple terrific saves.

Montreal winger Corey Perry — sporting a stitched-up gash on his face after taking an uncalled overtime high stick 48 hours earlier — slid a pass across to Eric Staal as he was being hauled down, but Lehner stretched to make a left-pad stop before denying Joel Armia with his glove on the goal line.

The series is the first cross-border matchup in the NHL this season, made possible by a federal exemption allowing teams to bypass Canada’s 14-day quarantine requirements.

WATCH | Habs’ Ducharme in isolation following positive COVID-19 test:

In the heat of the playoffs, the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Dominique Ducharme, is out after testing positive for COVID-19 and it’s raising questions about the risks it poses to the entire team. 2:00


Up in oak: Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes unravels in U.S. Open final round

A rough day at the U.S. Open for Mackenzie Hughes saw the Canadian golfer lose his lead early and fall out of contention at Torrey Pines Sunday.

Mackenzie Hughes of Canada plays his shot from the 12th tee during the final round of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A rough day at the U.S. Open for Mackenzie Hughes saw the Canadian golfer lose his lead early and fall out of contention at Torrey Pines Sunday.

Hughes of Dundas, Ont., made three bogeys and a double bogey — a tee shot that ended up stuck in a tree — on the back nine to finish in a four-way tie for 15th.

Entering the fourth round tied for the lead and in the final group, Hughes shot a 6-over 77 for his worst showing at the 72-hole event. He finished 1-over 285 overall, seven strokes behind winner Jon Rahm (67) of Spain.

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (71) was second ahead of American Harris English (68) in third.

WATCH | Jon Rahm wins the U.S. Open:

Two weeks after a positive COVID-19 test forced him to withdraw from the Memorial while holding a six-stroke lead at the end of the third round, Jon Rahm birdied his final two holes to become the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Open. 3:07

“I think a lot of things have to go your way on a Sunday of a major in order to win, and I wasn’t making the putts when I need to,” Hughes said.

“Overall I’ll know what I felt like in this final group today and be able to apply that next time I’m there, hopefully soon.”

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., the only other Canadian to make the weekend cut, tied for 40th at 6 over.

Hughes was in a great position at the end of the third round, shooting a 3-under 68 buoyed by a 63-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th. The Canadian ended the day tied for first with Oosthuizen and Russell Henley at 5 under.

But things began to unravel for Hughes on the back nine Sunday.

Trailing leader Oosthuizen by two shots, Hughes pulled his tee shot left on the par-3 11th hole. It bounced off a cart path into a tree.

The ball got jammed between branches and never came down.

WATCH | Mackenzie Hughes’ drive gets stuck in a tree:

Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., watched as his drive at the U.S. Open bounced off of a cart path and into a tree. 2:31

Hughes dropped his club and kicked it in frustration.

After consulting with a rules official, the Canadian took a drop and hit the ball onto the green. He two putted for double bogey, dropping him to 4 under.

“It’s like one-in-a-million break,” Hughes said. “I’ve played golf my entire life, I’ve never had a ball stuck in a tree. For it to happen on the back nine of a U.S. Open felt unfortunate because if that ball is over there in the grass, I’ve got a chance to get up-and-down for par, and that’s a different outlook than trying to get up-and-down for bogey, and I ultimately made a double there.

“Just a really bad break, and an unfortunate time to have it happen.”

That shot put a serious dent in his U.S. Open chances and he never recovered.

Hughes followed that tree shot with bogeys on the 12th, 14th and 15th holes.

“The last five holes I thought I may need to do something, and trying extra hard doesn’t really end up going the right way a lot of times,” Hughes said. “You have to let golf come to you, and I was trying to do a little more than was probably needed to do.”

The last Canadian to win a men’s golf major was Mike Weir, who claimed the Masters in 2003.


Weightlifter Hubbard to be 1st transgender athlete to compete at Olympics

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics. Hubbard was among five weightlifters confirmed Monday for New Zealand’s team for the Tokyo Games.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics. Hubbard was among five weightlifters confirmed Monday for New Zealand’s team for the Tokyo Games. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

Hubbard was among five weightlifters confirmed Monday for New Zealand’s team for the Tokyo Games.

She will also be the oldest weightlifter at the Games and will be ranked fourth in the women’s heavyweight division. Hubbard won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and gold in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. She competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but sustained a serious injury that set back her career.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your [love] carried me through the darkness.

“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose.”

The additional burden Hubbard has had to carry is that her efforts have made her a flashpoint in the debate around the fairness of transgender athletes competing in women’s events. She has faced anger, scorn and ridicule, and has been directly criticized by her opponents.

Competing as Gavin Hubbard, her birth name, Hubbard set national records in junior competition and had a best, combined snatch and clean and jerk total of 300 kilograms.

Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35. She has since met all of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee’s regulations for transgender athletes and fair competition.

The competition in the women’s 87-kilogram-plus category will be held on Aug. 2.


Teenage swimmer Summer McIntosh edges Penny Oleksiak at Canadian Olympic trials, books Tokyo spot

Penny Oleksiak describes Summer McIntosh as “all gas, no brakes.” The 14-year-old McIntosh will be among Canada’s youngest Olympians in Tokyo, if not the youngest.

Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh edged Penny Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle final at Sunday’s Olympic trials at the Pan Am Sport Centre. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Penny Oleksiak describes Summer McIntosh as “all gas, no brakes.”

The 14-year-old McIntosh will be among Canada’s youngest Olympians in Tokyo, if not the youngest.

McIntosh edged Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle final at Sunday’s trials at the Pan Am Sport Centre.

The two Toronto swimmers went under the requisite qualifying time to be nominated to the Canadian team, although Oleksiak was already pre-selected to race the 200 in Tokyo.

Oleksiak was once the under-the-radar teen who at 16 exploded onto the swim scene with four medals, including gold in the 100 freestyle, at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

McIntosh brings the same fearlessness of youth, which 21-year-old Oleksiak said challenges her daily to swim fast in their training group at the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto.

Get must-watch video, live events and breaking news on CBC.ca

More from Tokyo 2020

“I love Summer. I hate training with Summer,” Oleksiak said. “She does not die. She’s 14 so she doesn’t get a lot of lactic acid so every time I train with her, I know she has the gas on and it’s all gas, no brakes with her.

“It’s super fun. I was saying this morning it’s funny how my biggest competition is the smallest person in the pool right now.

“It’s frustrating because I know going into races, she’s going to go, go, go. But always motivating and inspiring. I love her work ethic. She’s really strong in and out of the pool mentally. I just love her. Honestly, she’s so cute.”

WATCH | McIntosh beats Oleksiak in 200m final:

14-year-old Summer McIntosh broke her own Canadian age group record for 13-14 year-olds with a time of 1:56.19 in the women’s 200-metre freestyle event at the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials. 11:30

McIntosh is the daughter of Jill Horstead, who swam for Canada in the 1984 Olympic Games.

McIntosh posted a time of one minute 56.19 seconds ahead of Oleksiak’s 1:57.24 on Sunday.

“She’s just been so awesome and motivating and it’s such an incredible opportunity that I get to swim with her every day,” McIntosh said.

“It was a really fun race. I knew if I was within striking distance in the first 100 (metres), I could be good on the last 50 and that was my plan going in and it seemed to work out.”

The 2020 swim trials were cancelled with the postponement of Tokyo’s Olympic Games to 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s trials originally scheduled for April in Toronto were postponed to May and again to June while Ontario grappled with high COVID-19 case numbers.

The five-day trials that conclude Wednesday feature 185 swimmers from 64 clubs across the country.

The competition is held under pandemic protocols and restrictions, and is the primary means of selecting Canada’s Olympic swim team.

The Olympic Games open July 23 and close Aug. 8 in Tokyo.

Canada can send a maximum of two swimmers per event per gender, but in addition to finishing top two at trials, racing under the ‘A’ qualifying time set by the world governing body FINA is needed.

The only other swimmer to meet that threshold Sunday in Toronto was Winnipeg’s Kelsey Wog in the 100 breaststroke.

“I’ve been really going for it since last Olympic trials when I just missed it, so it’s definitely been on my mind this whole time,” Wog said.

“My race was a little bit less than what I could have done. It felt a little bit tight, a little bit rushed, probably just from nerves and excitement, but I’m still happy with it.”

WATCH | Penny Oleksiak: The pressure of swimming as a champion:

Penny Oleksiak dominated the Rio Olympics in 2016 as a teenager, but dealing with the pressure that followed took its toll. She talks to Adrienne Arsenault about handling the stress and preparing for an Olympic comeback. 8:06

Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby, B.C., joined Canada’s swim team Sunday in Setubal, Portugal, where the 23-year-old placed 17th in a men’s 10-kilometre open-water race.

He joins Toronto’s Kate Sanderson, who placed third in the women’s marathon race Saturday.

Swimming Canada needs to fill in the 4×200 women’s freestyle relay, so others from Sunday’s 200 final are candidates.

Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., placed third. Katerine Savard of Pont Rouge, Que., who qualified Saturday in the 100-metre butterfly, was fourth.

If there are vacancies on the Canadian team after trials, athletes may be considered for inclusion if they swam a qualifying time at a sanctioned meet since March 2019.

That scenario would be reviewed by Swimming Canada to determine if the athlete will be competitive in Tokyo.

Pandemic challenges prompted Swimming Canada to invoke an unforeseen circumstances clause in January and nominate early six athletes in events in which they excel: Oleksiak, Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla.

Oleksiak was pre-selected for Tokyo in the 200 freestyle, but not the 100, which she’ll race Tuesday.

She was faster in Sunday morning’s 200 preliminaries than in the final.

Because the pandemic wiped out international and domestic racing for months, it had been a while since Oleksiak navigated heats and a final on the same day.

“This morning was a lot better than tonight,” Oleksiak said. “We haven’t got to do much prelims and then finals racing so it was weird for me with my preparation tonight, trying to figure out the schedule, get a nap in. I was hungry before my race. It was kind of all over the place.

“I wasn’t as prepared for the final as I wanted to be, but I think it’s a learning lesson for Tuesday.”

Trials continue Monday with the men’s and women’s 50-metre freestyle and 200-metre individual medleys, the women’s 800-metre freestyle and men’s 1,500-metre freestyle.

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With Olympic dream on the line, Canada’s best swimmers must hold for applause

While many sporting events around the world have returned to pre-pandemic normalcy with packed stadiums and raucous crowds, COVID-19 still looms large over the 2021 Canadian swim trials.

Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., races to a national record at the Canadian Olympic swim trials in the women’s 100m backstroke in Toronto on Saturday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press )

While many sporting events around the world have returned to pre-pandemic normalcy – with packed stadiums and raucous crowds – COVID-19 still looms large over the 2021 Canadian swim trials.

Toronto’s cavernous Pan Am Sports Centre, an esthetic marvel, would usually be packed for this event. Instead, it will remain largely empty as Canadian swimmers take their shot at fulfilling their Olympic dreams.

The vacant seats would have been unimaginable six years ago at the 2015 Pan Am Games. An event that has largely been heralded as a turning point for the Canadian swim program.

“The crowd was unbelievable, and the support was fantastic,” recalls Swim Canada’s high performance director John Atkinson. “That was one of those key moments where the swim team developed. Of course, coming back now it is not going to be like that.”

Canadian athletes hoping to realize their ultimate goal after years of training and sacrifice will not be able to celebrate with family and friends – or soak up the adulation of a roaring crowd.

“It’s different, obviously, but it’s something we had to accept a long time ago,” says LaSalle, Ont., native Kylie Masse, who is swimming at these trials but has already been guaranteed a ticket to Tokyo. “We have been in the pool by ourselves with limited groups and limited swimmers for so long.

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“Obviously it’s difficult when you put so much on the line and you are trying to get to Tokyo without your support system around you.”

Adding pizzazz

With the Olympics a little over a month away, athlete safety is paramount. Anybody accessing the building must complete multiple forms and pass a COVID-19 test before entering. The only place masks aren’t required is in the pool.

It’s something swimmers need to get used to as the safety protocols in Tokyo are likely to be even more restrictive.

“I really feel that our athletes that are going to go to Tokyo who are able to stand up and do it in a very sterile environment will get a bounce off it and take it into the Games,” Atkinson says.

While many other sporting events around the world have almost returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, COVID-19 still looms large over these 2021 Canadian swim trials. (Jamie Strashin/CBC Sports)

That being said, Swim Canada has endeavoured to create some atmosphere and energy in the building.

Before the pandemic, Alan Raphael, Swimming Canada’s marketing director, planned to “put on the greatest and innovative trials we’ve ever done.” With those plans shelved, Raphael has done his best to add some pizzazz to these trials, while adhering to the numerous health and safety protocols that are in place.

“The challenge, from a marketing standpoint, is how do we promote the event to our swimming community across the country?” Raphael said. “And, because there’s no crowd, how do we support our athletes and give them the best opportunity to perform?”

Pumping up the noise

The pool deck is covered in signage that reminds athletes that a trip to the Olympic games is within their reach. The Olympic rings are everywhere. For the finals, swimmers are given elaborate introductions, including pumping music and highlights that play on a large video screen setup up at one end of the pool.

Raphael also knew that many other sporting events had successfully replicated crowd noise that athletes could feed off, even though the stands were empty.

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“We wanted to also make sure that we’re not just running generic crowd noise, but we want to tailor it to the moment,” he explains.

“We have a specific individual who will read the crowd, not so much the crowd in the house, but read the event itself. So, when someone overtakes an athlete, we pump up the noise and it could be a different cheer for that final push to the finish.”

A special feeling 

Fans and family have also been included. While on the deck, swimmers can hear pre-recorded messages of encouragement from fans. They can also see friends and family via zoom on the video board before and after the race. And then have an opportunity to connect with them after stepping out of the pool and share the moment of potentially qualifying for an Olympic Games.

“We can bring that family in so the athlete can have a quick interaction and they can all celebrate together as part of the post-race interview, again, trying to replicate what we would normally do in the facility on a virtual basis.”

That’s what sporting events conducted during a pandemic are all about: doing your best under the circumstances.

That’s why there is a feeling among athletes and organizers that it’s special these trials are even taking place at all.

“This year has obviously been a challenge,” says Masse. “These trials are a great showcase of triumph and joy and hope. After the last year and half of COVID-19, it’s really exciting for people to race.

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