Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Canada's Athlete Of The Year

The end of the year brings nominations for Athlete of the Year.

I don't always agree with the award winners, but I always enjoy the anticipation of the announcement.

Yahoo sports has a page where we can vote for Canadian Press Athlete of the Year. You can cast your vote here. Here are the nominations (you can also vote for another athlete if you don't like their choices):

Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year
  • Dylan Armstrong (Shot Put: #1 Ranked, World Silver Medallist and Pan Am Gold)
  • Alexandre Bilodeau (Moguls: World Silver Medallist; Dual Mogals: World Champion)
  • Lucien Bute (Boxing: IBF Super Middleweight Champion - since 2007)
  • Patrick Chan (Figure Skating: World Champion)
  • Dwayne de Rosario (Soccer: MLS MVP)
  • Erik Guay (Downhill World Champion)
  • Corey Perry (NHL MVP)
  • Milos Raonic (ATP Rookie of the Year)
  • George St Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion)
  • Joey Votto (MLB Gold Glove Award Winner)
Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year
  • Paula Findlay (won first 3 World Cup Triathlons before injury)
  • Alex Gough (luge World Bronze Medal - first female luge medal for Canada)
  • Jennifer Heil (World Gold Medallist in moguls and in dual moguls)
  • Christine Nesbitt (speed skating: 3 gold 1 silver at World Championships)
  • Catharine Pendrel (Cross-Country Cycling World Champion)
  • Marianne St-Gelais (Speed skating)
  • Kelsey Serwa (World Champion ski cross)
  • Christine Sinclair (MVP in League final her team won...competed with broken nose at World Cup, Pan Am Games flag bearer, Gold Medal Pan Am Games)
  • Mary Spencer (boxing Pan Am Gold and closing ceremonies flag bearer)
  • Tara Whitten (Cycling - World Champion)
Canadian Press Team of the Year
  • Brampton Excelsiors (won league and won Mann Cup)
  • B.C. Lions (Grey Cup Champions)
  • Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw (World Champions Team Spring Cross-Country)
  • Amber Holland curling rink (World Silver Medallist)
  • McMaster football team (won Vanier Cup)
  • Saint John Sea Dogs (Memorial Cup Winners)
  • Jeff Stoughton curling rink (World Champions)
  • Toronto Rock (National Lacrosse League Champions)
  • Vancouver Canucks (NHL finalists)
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (World Silver Medallist)
The easiest for me to choose is Team of the Year.

Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw are the first Canadians to win a World Championships gold medal in cross-country skiing EVER. Every year, a team wins the Grey Cup, Vanier Cup or Lacrosse League. Although Canadian teams haven't fared as well in the NHL lately, making the final isn't that huge of an accomplishment for the Canucks. It's been done and surpassed many times before. Curling and figure skating? We've won World Championships or medals before. So hands down for me, Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw should be the team of the year.

For Female of the Year, I loved Paula Findlay as a candidate until she got injured. This is a similar story to Milos Raonic. Can we award Athlete of the Year on a partial season? Canada often do amazingly well at at speed skating and freestyle skiing. I'd be okay with Jennifer Heil or Christine Nesbitt winning. We have also done well in cycling but this sport isn't as popular as other sports on the list. Luge's first medal is exciting but I don't think worthy of Athlete of the Year with it being a bronze, although worthy of the nomination.

This leaves Christine Sinclair. Her league team won the Championship and she was named MVP. Canada had a disappointing performance at the World Cup however, which is why I'm struggling with choosing Sinclair. Canada won the Pan Am Games where Sinclair was the flag-bearer. The most memorable moment for Christine Sinclair though is at the World Cup when she broke her nose. For female athletes, I think this was the story most talked about in 2011. She breaks her nose after taking an elbow from a German player. The doctor on the sideline tells her she can't play but she persists and returns to the field as fast as she can. She ends up scoring against Germany who hadn't conceded a goal in World Cup action since 2003. Canada still lost the game, but Christine Sinclair won the respect of Canadians and soccer lovers. For overcoming adversity and capturing the nation's attention, Christine Sinclair gets my vote.

Male Athlete of the Year is a little tougher.

Although all worthy, I find it difficult to choose between an MLB, NHL or MLS star so will not vote for them. George St-Pierre's 2011 wasn't as amazing as his past few years (according to media reports). I haven't heard of Lucien Bute, although this nomination has introduced me to him.

Even though Dylan Armstrong didn't win the World Championships (where Patrick Chan, Erik Guay and Adam van Koeverden did), his accomplishment is more unusual. Dominating a Track and Field event is very difficult.

I used to love figure skating, until the judging scandal in 2002. I still follow the Canadian Championships and World Championships but I don't follow the sport like I used to. Since Patrick Chan has not gotten me passionate again about figure skating (like Virtue and Moir did last year), I'll say that he's not worthy of my vote for Athlete of the Year.

Erik Guay's Downhill World Championship was very exciting but John Kucera won it in 2009. Although, I do think that winning a Downhill World Championship is THE win of the year, so I am still amazed that Canada has managed to do it twice in a row. I hope John Kucera was up for Athlete of the Year in 2009.

Alexandre Bilodeau in my mind should have won Athlete of the Year last year...until I remember that Sydney Crosby was Athlete of the Year. The first gold medal on home soil or the hockey one? I guess even I would have to choose the Golden Goal.

Adam van Koeverden blew the competition away at the World Championships. He is a born leader, very supportive of his competitors and fellow Canadian athletes. He is also an avid Right To Play ambassador and supports other charities. He is a great role model for other athletes and non-athletes. He is the whole package, but yeah, I know. I am biased.

If I had finished this post on the 7th, I wouldn't have known about the controversy that Patrick Chan created with his comments about feeling under-appreciated. I wouldn't have read the amazing blog post by Adam van Koeverden about feeling appreciated (after The Toronto Star tried to compare Patrick Chan who competes in a popular sport compared to kayaking).

I was leaning towards voting for Adam van Koeverden for the way he competes and represents Canada, but then read a bit more about Patrick Chan.

After winning the World Championships last April, he has won every competition he has entered so far this season, including the Grand Prix Finals (on December 11th). This means that Patrick Chan is a World Champion and is dominating his sport in 2011. Hard to argue with numbers.

Newcomer of the year for me includes three candidates:
  • Paula Findlay is a 22 year old triathloner who won the last two International Triathlon Union triathlons of the 2010 season and the first three triathlons in 2011 before getting a hip injury.
  • Milos Raonic is a 20 year old tennis player who won his first ATP Tour tournament in 2011. His world ranking went up to #27, the highest for a Canadian while representing Canada. He got injured at Wimbledon which saw his ascent come to a halt. Nevertheless, he was named ATP's Rookie of the Year.
  • Laurence Vincent-Lapointe is a 19 year old canoe sprint racer. She won the gold medal in the Canoe C-1 200m and in the Canoe C-2 500m at the World Championships. The only down-side is that Women's Canoe is not an Olympic sport.
Have I missed anyone?

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