The Gold Standard: Canadian men’s volleyball making waves



It may not be possible to catch all the best moments in a single day of the Olympic Games—but we’re going to try. Every day, we’ll award titles for standout achievements at (and around) Rio 2016, achievements that may or may not be recognized on the podium (and may or may not even be of an athletic nature). Here are our picks for Day 10.

The gold medal for more than meets the eye goes to…

On the surface, this is merely a very large man dancing ridiculously, which, fine, is worthy of a click. But let’s discuss some other things that are happening here.

That very large man is David Katoatau, a 32-year-old weightlifter from Nonouti, Kiribati. Are you not familiar with the Republic of Kiribati? Well, it’s a collection of 33 small islands smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, making up a total land area of 800 square kilometres and containing a little more than 100,000 people. For comparison’s sake: New York City covers 790 square kilometres and contains 8.5 million people.

Katoatau dances ridiculously after all of his competitions so that people will ask him why he dances so ridiculously. When they ask him, he tells them it’s to raise awareness of the very imminent threat climate change poses to Kiribati.

Due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion, Kiribati is essentially sinking. In 1999, two of the nation’s small islands vanished underwater. Fortunately, those landmasses were uninhabited. But 21 of Kiribati’s 33 islands currently are. According to recent global warming projections, rising sea levels could completely submerge Kiribati by the year 2100. Katoatau himself lost his home to a cyclone in 2015.

By all accounts, Kiribati is currently a beautiful place to live. Katoatau wants to keep it that way. So, he dances. And then he tells anyone who will listen that his home nation is in dire trouble.

Katoatau finished 14th in the men’s 105kg+ weightlifting competition at Rio, hoisting 349 kg (769 lb.) above his head, which is about the weight of a small adult horse. Why don’t you go and lift a horse over your head and then raise awareness for climate change? What are you even doing with your life?

The gold medal for one last ride goes to…

Oakville’s Adam van Koeverden is a hell of an Olympian. He’s won four kayaking medals over his career—a gold and a bronze in 2004, a silver in 2008 and another silver in 2012. But time will someday come for us all, and it came for van Koeverden on Monday when the 34-year-old couldn’t overcome a rough start in the men’s 1,000m semifinal, finishing sixth with a time of 3:36.23. That wasn’t good enough for van Koeverden to reach the final and, judging by his post-race comments, it may be the last time we see him compete on this stage.

“I’m not disappointed with my preparation, I’m not disappointed with my morning. I’m just disappointed with my result. Because that’s where I am right now,” van Koeverden said. “I couldn’t catch up. I tried three or four times. I floored the gas. But my boat doesn’t move as fast.

“Maybe there’s a bit of a changing of the guard in our sport. Which is fine with me because it’s in good hands. These guys are incredible,” van Koeverden continued. “I really feel like I have accomplished all of my goals in this sport and that it’s in a good place. I feel a lot of peace with that.”

Meanwhile, Burlington’s Mark Oldershaw, another veteran Canadian Olympian and defending bronze medalist in the 1,000m canoe sprint, came up short in his semifinal as well. Oldershaw was in second place with 250 metres to go, but was passed by two other competitors in the race’s final moments and missed a spot in the finals by a little more than a second. He’ll compete in the 200m sprint on Wednesday, but the 1,000m is generally considered his superior event and best shot at a medal. At 33, there is some question as to whether Oldershaw has competed in his final Olympics as well.

The gold medal for today’s narrowly dodged disaster goes to…

A huge camera suspended more than 60 feet above Olympic Park came crashing to earth Monday, injuring seven people who were unfortunate enough to be standing below it.

The camera provides those great aerial views of spectators you often see coming in and out of Olympics coverage. According to the Olympic Broadcasting Service, two of the guide cables that were supporting the camera snapped, causing it to plummet at a high rate of speed toward a busy concourse that leads to the basketball venue.

This, the latest in a string of snafus in Rio, begs the question—how long until somebody dies? Earlier on in these Games the daily mishaps were lighthearted and charming, like discolored pool water and lost bus drivers. But now 12-time Olympic medallist swimmers are being robbed at gunpoint and massive machinery is literally falling from the sky like anvils in a cartoon. What happens tomorrow? Flash floods? Jaguar attack? Stay tuned.

The gold medal for get on the bandwagon while there’s still room goes to…

You should really be watching more volleyball. Not only is it an insane sport to spectate—featuring abnormally tall humans jumping all over the place and rocketing a projectile toward one another at well more than 100 km/h—but the Canadian men are making waves.

The Canadians, ranked No. 12 in the world, took down the No. 4 ranked Italians Monday, three sets to one. This comes after Canada upset No. 5 ranked USA in straight sets earlier in the preliminaries, and books the underdogs a spot in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

As you surely know, this is the first time a Canadian men’s indoor volleyball team has qualified for the Olympics since 1992. Naturally, they’re ringing in the occasion by shocking the world (of volleyball).

The gold medal for she’s mortal after all goes to…

Going into Monday’s women’s beam finals, there was a very real chance that tiny superhuman Simone Biles could become the first female gymnast ever to win five gold medals at a single Olympic Games. She already had three from the team event, the individual all around and the vault, and she was the overwhelming favourite to take the beam as well, coming into the day as the two-time reigning world champion.

But the 19-year-old stumbled ever so slightly while landing a front somersault, drawing loud gasps from the crowd as she bent forward and put her hands on the beam to regain her balance. The rest of her routine was performed flawlessly in awkward silence as the crowd came to terms with what they’d just witnessed from the relentlessly perfect gymnastics dynamo.

Alas, Biles was appropriately penalized for her misstep and ended up taking home the bronze medal, a significant achievement for most mere mortals but a definite disappointment for her. Sanne Wevers of Netherlands ended up with the gold, the first ever medal for a Dutch female gymnast. Manitoba’s Isabela Onyshko finished eighth.

The gold medal for you’re not allowed to do that goes to…

There was drama in the seas Monday, as the women’s 10km open swim marathon ended in controversy. Sharon van Rouwendaal of Netherlands won gold by a huge margin but it was the race behind her that everyone was watching, as Aurelie Muller of France and Rachele Bruni of Italy scrambled for silver.

Both women reached the finish at practically the same time, with Bruni a smidge ahead. But that’s when Muller appeared to swim directly on top of Bruni, whacking her on the side of the head before reaching over Bruni and touching the wall first.

After the race, Bruni confirmed what spectators suspected, saying “[Muller] pushed down my arm.” Upon review, Muller was disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior, vaulting Bruni into second and Brazilian Poliana Okimoto, who finished fourth, onto the podium with a bronze.

Article written by Arden Zwelling of Sports Net. Follow him on Twitter @ardenzwelling.