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Christine Sinclair, OC, soccer player (born 12 June 1983 in Burnaby, BC). Soccer player Christine Sinclair has been named Canadian Player of the Year 14 times. She has scored more international goals (187) and more Olympic goals (12) than any other player in the world. After twice being named the top women’s college soccer player in the United Sates and winning two NCAA championships, Sinclair led the Canadian women’s team to three World Cups (2011, 2015, 2019) and four Olympic Summer Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020). The team won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 before winning gold in Tokyo. Sinclair received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s female athlete of the year in 2012 and 2020 and was named Canada Soccer Player of the Decade in 2019. The first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, she has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Canada at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympic Summer Games were the first Olympic Games to be postponed. They were held in Tokyo, Japan, from 23 July to 8 August 2021. Canada sent 371 athletes (225 women, 146 men) and finished 11th in the overall medal standings with 24 (seven gold, six silver, 11 bronze). It is the most Canada has ever won at a non-boycotted Olympic Summer Games. Of the 24 medals, 18 were won by Canadian women. The seven gold medals tied Canada’s record at a non-boycotted Olympic Summer Games. Highlights for Canada at the Tokyo Games included Penny Oleksiak becoming Canada’s most decorated Olympian; Andre De Grasse winning three medals, including gold in the men’s 200 m dash; the Canadian women’s soccer team winning gold for the first time in dramatic fashion; and gold medallist Damian Warner becoming only the fourth athlete in Olympic history to score more than 9,000 points in the decathlon.
George Ritchie Hodgson, swimmer, pilot, investment broker (born 12 October 1893 in Montreal, Quebec; died 1 May 1983 in Montreal). George Hodgson was Canada's first Olympic swimming champion, winning gold in the 400m and 1500m freestyle at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. Hodgson also served with the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the First World War. He eventually established an investment brokerage firm in Montreal.
Balarama Holness, professional football player, jurist, political activist, social entrepreneur (born 20 July 1983 in Montreal, QC). Balarama Holness put a wayward youth behind him to become a Grey Cup-winning professional football player with his hometown Montreal Alouettes. He then pursued a career as a jurist and political organizer and ran for mayor of the borough of Montréal-Nord in 2017. His community organizing efforts led to two separate reports (in 2019 and 2020) that acknowledged the existence and extent of systemic racism in the province, while also recommending solutions. In 2021, Holness ran to become mayor of Montreal but was defeated.
Penelope “Penny” Oleksiak, swimmer (born 13 June 2000 in Scarborough, ON). Swimmer Penny Oleksiak is Canada’s most decorated Olympian, with seven medals overall. She also holds the record as the youngest Canadian to win Olympic gold (16 years and 59 days). In 2016, she became the first Canadian athlete to win four medals at a single Olympic Summer Games: gold in the 100 m freestyle; silver in the 100 m butterfly; bronze in the women’s 4x100 m freestyle relay; and bronze in the women’s 4x200 m freestyle relay. Oleksiak won three medals at the Tokyo Games in 2021: silver in the women’s 4x100 m freestyle relay; bronze in the women’s 200 m freestyle; and bronze in the women’s 4x100 m medley relay. She received the Lou Marsh Trophy and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award in 2016.
Laurent “Dr. Kill” Duvernay-Tardif, CQ, football player, doctor (born 11 February 1991 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, QC). Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is an offensive lineman with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was the 10th player ever drafted into the NFL from Canadian college and university football, and is the first Quebec-born football player to win a Super Bowl championship. Duvernay-Tardif is also the first active NFL player to become a doctor. He opted out of the 2020 season to work at a Montreal long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was made a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 2019. In 2020, he was named a Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated, as well as co-winner (with soccer player Alphonso Davies) of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year. Duvernay-Tardif was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.
The Asahi was a Japanese Canadian baseball club in Vancouver (1914–42). One of the city’s most dominant amateur teams, the Asahi used skill and tactics to win multiple league titles in Vancouver and along the Northwest Coast. In 1942, the team was disbanded when its members were among the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were interned by the federal government (see Internment of Japanese Canadians). The Asahi were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Willie O’Ree, CM, ONB, hockey player (born 15 October 1935 in Fredericton, NB). On 18 January 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first Black hockey player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). He played professional hockey for more than 20 years, including 45 games with the Boston Bruins. Since 1998, O’Ree has been the NHL’s Director of Youth Development and ambassador for NHL Diversity. He is a Member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He has been inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. The Boston Bruins retired O’Ree’s No. 22 on 18 January 2022 ? the 64th anniversary of his first NHL game.
Stephen “Steve” Charles Fonyo, runner, cancer research activist (born 29 June 1965 in Montreal, QC; died 18 February 2022 in Burnaby, BC). Despite losing most of his left leg to bone cancer at age 12, Fonyo ran across Canada in a “Journey for Lives” to raise money for cancer research. His remarkable 7,924 km run started in St. John’s on 31 March 1984, when he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean. It ended on 29 May 1985 with a similar dip into the Pacific Ocean in Victoria.
Cowboys and Cowgirls in Canada
Cowboys and cowgirls are people employed to tend cattle or horses. The first cowboys to work on the Canadian prairies arrived in the 1870s. The traditional cowboy lifestyle has since given way to a more contained, corporate model of ranching. But the romanticized image of the cowboy on the “open range” lives on as a symbol of the prairies. Today, the terms cowboy and cowgirl can refer to ranch workers or rodeo competitors.
Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.
Guy Damien Lafleur, OC, CQ, hockey player (born 20 September 1951 in Thurso, QC; died 22 April 2022). Guy Lafleur was one of the most offensively skilled Montreal Canadiens players of all time. He is the franchise’s regular season career leader in assists (728) and points (1,246). In 1976–77, Lafleur set the Canadiens’ franchise record for most points in a single regular season (136). In 1977–78, he tied the Canadiens’ single-season record for most goals (60). He is a member of the Order of Canada and the National Order of Québec and has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Michael "Mike" Bossy, hockey player (born 22 January 1957 in Montreal, QC; died 15 April 2022 in Montreal). After starring for the Laval Nationals in junior, Bossy joined the New York Islanders in 1977-78. He scored 53 goals that year, becoming the first rookie in National Hockey League history to record a 50 goal season, a feat that earned him the Calder Trophy. He proved this was not a fluke by registering 50 or more goals for each of the next eight seasons, including a remarkable 50 goals in the first 50 games of the 1980-81 season, equalling the 26-year-old record established by Maurice Richard.
Gaylord Powless, Mohawk lacrosse player (born 1 December 1946 in Six Nations of the Grand River, ON; died 28 July 2001 in Ohsweken, ON). Gaylord Powless was a box lacrosse player who transcended the game to become one of Canada’s most famous athletes. Powless lived most of his life in Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario. He became the signature player on the Oshawa Green Gaels’ junior lacrosse dynasty of the 1960s and shattered the Ontario junior league scoring record in his sophomore year with the team. The Gaels won the Minto Cup, Canada’s national junior lacrosse championship, in all four years that he played at the junior level. Powless also won the 1971 Mann Cup, which is emblematic of the Canadian senior lacrosse champions, and was a marquee player in three different professional leagues. Powless and his father, Ross, are both members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. In 2017, Powless was elected to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Alwyn Morris, canoeist (b at Montréal 22 Nov 1957). He won the K-1 1000 m and K-1 500 m junior national championships in 1977 and was the 1977 recipient of the Tom Longboat Award for top North American Indian athlete. With Hugh Fisher he won a gold medal in the K-2 1000 m (time 3:24).
Waneek Horn-Miller, athlete, activist, broadcaster (born 30 November 1975 in Montreal, QC). Horn-Miller, a Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, was co-captain of Canada’s first Olympic women’s water polo team and a gold medallist in water polo at the 1999 Pan American Games. She is a well-known activist for Indigenous rights and a prominent role model, mentor and advocate for youth involvement in sports. The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity named her one of the country’s most influential women in sport in 2015.
Shirley and Sharon Firth
Shirley Firth, cross-country skier (born 31 December 1953 in Aklavik, NWT; died 30 April 2013 in Yellowknife, NWT) and Sharon Anne Firth, cross-country skier (born 31 December 1953 in Aklavik, NWT). Twin sisters Shirley and Sharon Firth, members of the Gwich’in First Nation, were among the first Aboriginal athletes to represent Canada at the Olympics, and were members of the first Canadian women’s cross-country ski team at the Olympics.
Thomas Charles Longboat (Gagwe:gih), distance runner, Olympian (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River; died 9 January 1949 in Ohsweken). Tom Longboat was an Onondaga distance runner from Six Nations of the Grand River. One of the most famous athletes of the early 20th century, Longboat pioneered training methods still used today. He is considered one of the first celebrity athletes in Canada, with his athletic successes known across North America and overseas. He was a leader in establishing marathon running as an international sport and won many marathons in record-breaking times, beating competitors from all over the world. Longboat was the first Indigenous person to win the Boston Marathon (1907). He competed for Canada at the 1908 Olympic Games. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.
Timothy (Tim) McIsaac, swimmer, public servant (born 10 January 1959 in Winnipeg, MB). McIsaac has won the most medals of any Canadian Paralympian, with 28 medals in swimming (including 14 gold) at the Paralympic Games between 1976 and 1988, as well as 17 medals at the World Games in 1979 and 1986. He was the first blind swimmer to use the tumble (or flip) turn, using a “tapping” technique that later became compulsory in competitions for swimmers with visual impairments. McIsaac was named Canadian junior male athlete of the year in 1976 and Manitoban athlete of the year in 1982. He is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame and Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence. He was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.
Georges St-Pierre (nicknamed GSP), mixed martial artist (born 19 May 1981 in Saint-Isidore, QC). Georges St-Pierre is considered one of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters of all time. He retired from the the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with a career record of 26–2. A UFC welterweight champion from 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2013, St-Pierre holds the record for the most title defenses in the UFC welterweight division with nine. In 2017, he defeated Michael Bisping to win the middleweight championship, making him the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple divisions. St-Pierre was named the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year, the 2008 Black Belt Magazine MMA Fighter of the Year, the 2009 Sports Illustrated Fighter of the Year and the 2009 World MMA Awards Fighter of the Year.