The Most Outstanding Canadian athletes in the History of the Summer Olympics
Canadian athletes have shone more at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Olympics. In winter events, Canada is a powerhouse and in the most recent edition, in 2018, it finished third in the medals table. Meanwhile, the country is among the top 30 in summer games.
Canada made its official debut at the Summer Olympics in Paris 1900. As usual, the country did not achieve the largest number of medals during the event it hosted in Montreal 1976, but in Los Angeles 1984, where Canadian athletes obtained 44 medals. In their 26 appearances at the Summer Olympics, they have been on the awards podium 302 times.
What are the expectations of Canadian athletes for Tokyo 2020?
The Canadian delegation that will compete in the Japanese capital will match that of 1984 as the largest in its history, with 371 athletes. In Rio 2016, Canadian athletes won 22 medals, including four gold. The goal in 2021 appears to be to beat that number and move closer to the top 20 countries in the standings.
Among the sensations of this delegation is swimmer Summer McIntosh who is only 14 years old. In addition, two of the members of Team Canada previously participated in the Winter Olympics: Georgia Simmerling, present at the 2010 games in alpine skiing, will now compete in cycling, while Vincent De Haître, who skated in Sochi and Pyeongchang, will be cycling in Tokyo as well.
Who have been the most outstanding Canadian Summer Olympians? At PanamericanWorld we selected the 10 most impressive performances, with a special highlight for the great Lesley Thompson.
Lesley Thompson-Willie (Rowing)
This extraordinary athlete participated in rowing at eight Olympic Games in a row, a record for this sport. Between 1984 and 2016, Thompson-Willie won five medals in total, making her, along with Phil Edwards, the Canadian athlete with the most medals at summer games.
Lesley won gold as coxswain of the eight-rowboat, in the 1992 Barcelona Games. In addition, in that same discipline she won silver in Atlanta 1996 and London 2012, and bronze in Sydney 2000. She won her first medal in Los Angeles 1984, in the women’s coxed four competition.
Philip Edwards (Athletics)
For decades, Philip Edwards was the Canadian athlete with the most Olympic medals. He was born in Guyana and in 1928 he was invited by Canada to participate in the summer games in Amsterdam. There he obtained his first bronze medal, as part of the 4 × 400-meter relay.
Four years later he was in the 1932 Los Angeles Games, where he won three more bronze medals: in the 800 meters, 1500 meters and the 4 × 400 relay. His Olympic farewell took place in Berlin 1936, where he was one of the few blacks athletes who competed in athletics, alongside Jesse Owens, in front of the Nazi elite. At the German capital, Edwards obtained his last Olympic bronze, in the 800 meters.
Related article: The 5 best Canadian athletes in the history of the Pan American Games
Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean (Rowing)
Heddle, along with her boatmate Marnie McBean, are Canada’s only three-time Olympic champions.
They obtained their first title as part of the women’s eight competition, led by Lesley Thompson, at the 1992 Barcelona Games. In that same event, they triumphed in the women’s pair competition without coxwain. Then, in Atlanta 1996, they both climbed to the top of the Olympic podium, in the double scull, and end up with the bronze medal, in the four scull.
Sadly, Heddle passed away in January of this year after a long battle with a brain tumor and breast cancer. She was only 55 years old. Her name is in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and she was awarded the highest honor by the International Rowing Federation.
Penny Oleksiak (Swimming)
At just 16 years old, Penny Oleksiak went down in history as one of the best Canadian athletes in the Summer Olympics, winning four medals in the same summer event. In Rio 2016, this young and very talented swimmer first obtained the silver medal, in the 100-meter butterfly style.
She then surprised everyone by winning the title in the 100 meters freestyle, with the same time as American Simone Manuel, for which the organizers presented two gold medals. In this way, Penny became the youngest Olympic champion in Canada.
Then, Penny’s effort was key for Canada’s 4 × 100-meter and 4 × 200-meter freestyle relays to finish in third place. Oleksiak will compete in Tokyo 2020 and try to grow her Olympic legend.
Victor Davis (Swimming)
One of Canada’s greatest Olympic legends met a tragic end. At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Victor Davis was the great star of Canadian swimming. There he won gold in the 200-meter breaststroke and silver in the 100-meter breaststroke. In addition, he participated in the 4 × 100-meter medley relay that came in second, behind the United States.
Four years later, in Seoul 1988, Victor participated again in this relay and achieved another silver medal. In July 1989 he decided to retire from swimming, at the age of 25. A few months later he passed away in a car accident. In 1990 he was inducted postmortem into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Adam van Koeverden (Kayak)
This athlete has been the best representative of kayaking in the history of Canada. He participated in three summer games and achieved four medals in total. His big moment came in Athens 2004, where he won the title in the K-1 at 500 meters and the bronze in the K-1 at 1000 meters. That year he received the Lou Marsh trophy, as the most complete athlete in the country.
Later, in Beijing 2008, he was the standard-bearer for the Canadian delegation at the opening ceremony. In the Chinese capital he finished second in the K-1 500 meters and in London 2012 he closed his Olympic journey with another silver medal, in the K-1 at 1000 meters.
Donovan Bailey (Athletics)
The image of Canadian runners was seriously tarnished after the Ben Johnson fiasco, the protagonist of one of the first doping scandals in the history of the Olympic Games. Eight years later, an extraordinary sprinter rescued the image of Canadian athletes. Donovan Bailey shone in Atlanta 1996, winning two gold medals.
In the finals of the 100-meter dash, Bailey blew everyone away, not because of the crown, because he was actually the big favorite, but because he set a world record of 9.84 seconds. Bailey then joined Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert and Bruny Surin in the 4 × 100-meter relay that entered the finish line first, with a national record of 37.69 seconds, ahead of the United States quartet.
Bailey also participated in the Sydney 2000 Games, but he arrived injured and was eliminated in the qualifying rounds of the 100 meters.
Émilie Heymans (Diving)
Heymans deserves a place among the most outstanding Canadian athletes in the Summer Olympics because this diver achieved four medals, two silver and two bronze medals, in four consecutive summer games.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, she competed alongside Anne Montminy, on the 10-meter synchronized platform. There they took the silver medal. Then, in Athens 2004, she jumped with Blythe Hartley, at the same event, and they took the bronze.
After this, in Beijing 2008, she participated in the individual platform, at 10 meters, and only a final effort from Chinese diver Ruolin Chen made her miss the silver medal. Her Olympic farewell came in London 2012, where she teamed up with Jennifer Abel and won the bronze on the 3-feet combined platform.
Christine Sinclair (Soccer)
Sinclair is a legend of world soccer. She is the woman who has scored the most goals for a national team, with 186, and also the one who has participated in the most games defending the colors of Canada, with 299.
The captain of the Canadian team has participated in three Olympic Games and has won two medals, both bronze. Her debut took place in Beijing 2008 and the first medal came in London 2012, in a tournament where Sinclair was the big star, scoring six goals, three of them in the semifinal match against the United States. Then, at Rio 2016, Sinclair scored the decisive goal in the bronze medal game against Brazil. In total, she has scored 11 goals in 15 Olympic games. At Tokyo 2020, Sinclair will seek the best possible send-off: a title.