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Island a hub of activity as Paris Olympics draw nearer

It’s time to cue the tune for athletes around Vancouver Island and across Canada with 39 days to go to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Veteran Tyler Mislawchuk and rookies Emy Legault and Charles Paquet will represent Canada in triathlon in the Olympic Games in Paris. Mislawchuk, center left, runs through the second transition during the men’s individual triathlon at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Monday, July 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Goldman

The Final Countdown by 1980s band Europe has become the classic sporting anthem as end-games near. It’s time to cue the tune for athletes around the Island and across Canada with 39 days to go to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Paris-bound Canadian women’s basketball team opens its training camp today at CARSA Gym at the University of Victoria ahead of its pre-Olympic tune-up game June 26 against Portugal at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

The roster for the touted and NBA-heavy Canadian men’s basketball team for Paris, ending an Olympic drought stretching to when Steve Nash of Victoria captained Canada in 2000 at Sydney, will be announced Wednesday in Toronto.

The world top-five Paris-bound Canadian women’s rugby sevens team continues its Olympic preparations at Starlight Stadium while the Canada rugby men, also based in Langford, open their last-chance Paris Olympic qualifying tournament Friday in Monaco.

Paris-bound and Paris-hopeful runners and throwers gathered at Centennial Stadium last week for the Victoria Track Classic to prepare for the Canadian trials June 26-30 in Montreal.

North Cowichan-based Rowing Canada will hold its Olympic-farewell celebration at Keating Farm in Duncan on Thursday for its Paris-bound athletes, including the defending Tokyo Olympic-champion women’s eight, while Canadian Sport Institute-Pacific holds its Paris 2024 send-off celebration Wednesday in Victoria for athletes in a variety of sports.

Triathlon Canada, also based in Victoria, meanwhile became the latest Island-based national sports organization to name its team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on Monday. In his Olympic hat-trick appearance will be 29-year-old veteran Tyler Mislawchuk.

“Third time’s a charm. I’m probably just as excited as I was for my first Olympics but three is special.

“It is an elite club and I’m honoured to ­represent the maple leaf for what will be an epic trip to Paris,” Mislawchuk said, in a statement.

“My first Games in Rio, I was just so excited to make the team as an underdog. Tokyo, I came in with a lot stronger odds on me [paced by Canadian ­ Olympic teammate Matt Sharpe of ­Victoria] and I ended up injuring myself, and now I find myself in Paris in the prime of my career ready to rip. I’ve learned a lot from my last two Olympics, and you can’t buy that information.”

The Manitoba native has blossomed since arriving at the National Triathlon Centre in Victoria in 2015.

“I’ve been to 27 countries now and Victoria is my favourite place to train in the world,” Mislawchuk told the Times Colonist.

“There is such great setup and support here with PISE and doctors, physios and chiros. I don’t mind running or biking in the Victoria rain in winter. I will run and bike through anything, except snow. I’m a proud born and bred Manitoban, but this feels like home [too].”

An Olympic year is like no other, Mislawchuk noted: “Although you realize there’s a lot more at stake, you treat it as much a normal year as possible. A big part of it is staying healthy.”

Joining Mislawchuk on the Canadian team in Paris will be Charles Paquet, the 26-year-old who has been knocking on the door since winning the mixed-relay silver medal with Desirae Ridenour of Cowichan Bay, Hannah Henry of Victoria and Alexis Lepage at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games.

“It’s a long-time dream coming true and I still have a hard time believing it,” said Paquet.

Also named is Emily Legault of L’Île Perrot, Que.

In a transition and rebuild phase, Triathlon Canada was unable to qualify a second female athlete and so will not be able to compete in the Olympic mixed-relay race in Paris.

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