Many athletes dream about making the Olympics, few make it. Every four years, the world comes together to watch athletes compete in either summer or winter sports competitions. Despite the fact that we are a fairly small country (populationwise) there are many Canadian Olympic athletes who have done awesome things on the world’s stage. Canada has a proud record of participation in the Olympic Games.
Being that we are a country of harsh winters the pattern has been to be better at the winter Olympics. Most of our best Olympic athletes have come from the winter Olympics.
It has been almost exactly three years since we hosted the last winter Olympics in Vancouver where Canada won 26 medals and some new heroes emerged like Alexandre Bilodeau, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Joannie Rochette, and Charles Hamelin. These athletes will go on to inspire youngsters all across the country. Whereas their Olympic careers are still ongoing there are several athletes who are finished but not forgotten.
Triumph, courage and determination these elements define the 10 outstanding athletes listed here. These exceptional men and women have thrilled fans with great performances. Here is a list of the ten best Olympic athletes that Canada has produced over the years:
10) Victor Davis: Sport – Swimming. Born – 1964. Victor was a well known breaststroker and also enjoyed success in the individual medley and the butterfly. He held several world records during his career. At the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles he won a silver medal in the 100-metre breaststroke then a gold medal in the 200-metre breaststroke. Victor was made a member of the Order of Canada. He also won one more silver in 1984 in the 4×100 medley. Then in 1988 Victor won a silver in the 4×100 medley. He was voted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Sadly he died tragically in 1989 after being hit by a car.
9) Silken Laumann: Sport – Rowing. Born – 1964. After winning a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, she was the odds-on favourite to win gold at the 1992 games in Barcelona. Tragedy struck when during training Silken collided with a German boat and suffered a serious injury to her leg. Five operations and 3 weeks in the hospital ensued. After taking a full year off to fully recover she persevered and came back. The comeback was topped off when she won a bronze medal in Barcelona and a silver medal in Atlanta (1996). She was chosen to carry the Canadian flag at the Closing Ceremonies in Barcelona. Silken is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
8) Donovan Bailey: Sport – Sprinting. Born – 1967. Born in Jamaica and immigrated to Canada at age 13, Donovan was the first Canadian to legally break the 10 second barrier in the 100 metres. Amazingly he did not take up the sport until 1991 and it wasn’t until 1994 that he became serious about it. His top speed (27.07 mph) in his 1996 Olympic run is the fastest ever recorded. Not only did Donovan win gold in 1996 but he set a world record in the event. During 1996 he became only the second runner ever to hold the World Championship, Olympic gold and world record at the same time. At the 1996 Olympics (Atlanta) he also won a second gold medal in the 4×100 metres relay. The former 100 metre world record holder has been inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
7) Catriona Le May Doan: Sport – Speed Skating. Born – 1970. Her impact was demonstrated when she was selected one of the four torchbearers selected to light the interior cauldron at the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Catriona was a double Olympic champion in the 500 metres. She won gold in Nagano in 1998 and defended her gold in Salt Lake City in 2002. At that time she had the title of the fastest woman on ice. In Nagano she also won a bronze in the 1,000 metres. She broke the 38 second barrier for the 500 metres. In 2005, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
6) Hayley Wickenheiser: Sport – Hockey and Softball. Born – 1978. The multiple medal winner dominated women’s hockey for many years. Women’s hockey was introduced into the Olympics in 1998. She won gold medals in 2002, 2006 and 2010 plus a silver medal in 1998. In 2002 Hayley was named the tournament MVP and led the event in scoring. Has competed in four straight Olympics in hockey but the two sport athlete also played on the Canadian women’s softball team at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games. Hayley was selected to deliver the athletes’ oath at the Vancouver Opening Ceremony. She has become the face of women’s hockey and might represent the country again in 2014.
5) Clara Hughes: Sport – Speed Skating and Cycling. Born – 1972. Began cycling competitively in 1990 and turned to speed skating later. Successful in both sports she won 2 bronze medals in cycling in Atlanta 1996. Impressively she is the only athlete in the world to have multiple medals in both Summer and Winter Olympic sports. Clara won her first gold medal in speed skating in Turin in 2006. In her final individual Olympic race on the ice, she tied teammate Cindy Klassen’s all-time record for a Canadian with a sixth career Olympic medal. Incredibly she got her last medal at age 37 and won four speed skating medals over three different Winter games. Clara was the Canadian flag bearer at the Vancouver Opening Ceremony. Throughout her career she showed class, character and the true spirit of competition. Clara does a lot of charitable work on top of her considerable sport achievements.
4) Nancy Greene: Sport – Alpine Skier. Born – 1943. Nancy was on the Canadian skil team from 1968-1973. In the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France she won a gold medal in the Giant Slalom and a silver medal in the Slalom. For the second time that year she was named Canada’s Athlete of the Year. Went on to become Canada’s most decorated skier. Nancy was named to the Order of Canada, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, Canada’s Walk of Fame and was named the Olympic Ambassador for the 2010 Olympic Games. She was one of four who lit the Vancouver Olympic Cauldron. Bottom line was that she was voted as Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century.
3) Gaetan Boucher: Sport – Speed Skating. Born – 1958. He was named number 10 on the list of Canada’s Athletes of 20th Century. Won three medals at the 1984 games (a record until it was broken by Cindy Klassen in 2006) in Sarajevo including two gold (1,000 and 1,5000 metres) and one bronze (500 metres). Was named the Canadian Male Athlete of the Year in 1984. Previously in 1980 in Lake Placid he won a silver. Over the course of his career he broke two world records. Gaetan was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1983 and promoted to Officer in 1984.
2) Marc Gagnon: Sport – Short Track Speed Skating. Born – 1975. Marc Gagnon and Phil Edwards are tied as the only Canadian men to total five medals in the Olympics. He topped Gaetan Boucher as the most decorated male athlete by collecting 5 medals over 3 Olympics. Marc began his Olympic career in 1994 in Lilihammer and won bronze in the 1,000 metres. At the next Olympics in Nagana he won a gold medal in the 5,000 metres relay. Finally, in 2002 at Salt Lake City he won two golds (500 metres and 5,000 metres relay) and a bronze in the 1,500 metres.
1) Cindy Klassen: Sport – Speedskating. Born – 1979. Cindy, a Winnipeg native, won 5 medals at the games in Turin (2006). This was the most ever won by one Canadian in one games and by one speedskater. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge called her the “woman of the games” at Turin. She carried the Canadian flag during the Closing Ceremonies. Over her Olympic career she has won 6 Olympic medals (1 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze). Cindy won the Canadian Athlete of the Year in 2006. In 2009, she was recognized by Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the best Olympians of the decade.