The second biggest country in the world has produced its fair share of top-class sports stars. Here are five of Canada’s very finest.
Ask anyone from outside Canada to name one of that country’s biggest athletes and you can bet your last dollar Wayne Gretzky will be among the first listed.
But Canada has produced any number of superstar skaters, skiiers, pitchers, runners, boxers and hockey stars.
It’s difficult to nail down a definitive top five but here are five they are especially proud of.
Headed by the legendary Gretzky, of course.
1. Wayne Gretzky (Ice hockey)
You don’t get the nickname ‘The Great One’ without good reason and it was a moniker Wayne Gretzky never failed to live up to.
Gretzky was a world junior champion whose status was so assured, even as a teenager, that when he joined the Edmonton Oilers in 1978 he did so on a ten-year contract (with a ten-year extension option!).
It’d be easier to list what Gretzky didn’t achieve in hockey rather than what he did, suffice to say on his retirement 21 years later the 13-time All-Star and nine-time MVP held or shared 61 NHL records.
2. Donovan Bailey (Athletics)
For almost three years the fastest man on the planet and the man who rebuilt Canada’s sprinting reputation following the Ben Johnson doping saga.
Donovan Bailey won 100m gold at the 1995 and 1997 world championships and in between took the Olympic title in Atlanta in a time of 9.84 seconds, a world record that would stand for two years and ten months.
Was also crowned the unofficial world’s fastest man by beating 200m king Michael Johnson over a neutral 150m distance.
3. Jacques Villeneuve (Motor racing)
Six-time race winner and Ferrari legend Gilles Villeneuve was a big noise in F1 but son Jacques more than eclipsed what his dad managed in the sport.
Villeneuve junior won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 and two years later was crowning just his second season in Formula One by claiming the world drivers’ championship after a thrilling battle with the incomparable Michael Schumacher.
4. Cindy Klassen (Speed skating)
You don’t get your face on a Canadian coin unless you’re pretty special, and special is definitely how you’d describe Cindy Klassen.
According to speed skating’s all-time records, Klassen is the greatest female skater of the lot, hardly a surprise for someone who won five medals at one Olympics – 2006 in Turin – including one gold, and who also held the 3,000m world record for almost 13 years.
5. Virtue & Moir (Figure skating)
I know, I know, being pedantic that’ll make it six rather than five, but Virtue and Moir are the bacon and eggs of Canadian sport – you can’t have one without the other.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became the most decorated Olympic figure skaters of all time when they won two golds at the 2018 Games to add to the first they had won eight years earlier.
Also three-time world champs, this enduring pair won their first national title in 2002 and skated together for 22 years.