Wednesday, February 1, 2017

150 days to Canada 150: Olympic Memories #1-8

With 150 days until Canada Day when our country will celebrate its 150th anniversary, I thought it was a good time to look back on Canadian Olympic memories.

Although Canada is very successful in some sports, I'll focus this post on athletes who have won the only gold medal for their sport.

Click on the athletes' names to be directed to their websites.

1. Sylvie Bernier - Diving 1984

Canada has had many incredible divers and two World Champions in the 3m and 10m Olympic events: Alexandre Despatie (2003 - 10m; 2005 - 3m) and Émilie Heymans (2003).

At the Olympics though, only Sylvie Bernier has had the honour of standing at the top of the podium.

Bernier served as Assistant Chef de Mission for the Canadian Olympic Team at the 2006 Winter Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics and Chef de Mission for the 2012 London Olympics.

To see the full competition, click here.

2. Lori Fung -  Rhythmic gymnastics 1984

Rhythmic gymnastics was added as an Olympic sport at the 1984 Olympic Games with Lori Fung winning the only gold medal awarded for the individual all-around. This is also the only medal Canada has won in the sport. Fung was a seven time Canadian champion and continued her career in gymnastics as a coach and director.

 3. Simon Whitfield - Triathlon 2000

Triathlon made its Olympic debut in Sydney at the 2000 Games. Simon Whitfield was the winner of the first men's race that you can re-watch by clicking here.

The following are highlights from the run. Whitfield would follow up this gold medal eight years later by winning silver in Beijing. These two medals are Canada's only medals in the triathlon.

Whitfield was the Canadian Opening Ceremony flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympics. He is now an ambassador and mentor for CIBC Team Next.

4. Sébastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor - Tennis Men's Doubles 2000

Canada won its only tennis medal in Sydney at the 2000 Summer Olympics when they beat the Australian home favourites Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge in the final.

Lareau was the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam title by winning the US Open in 1999, but it is Daniel Nestor who has had the longevity and record-breaking success for Canada.

Nestor has achieved the Golden Slam by winning the Olympics as well as all four of the Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open). In total he has won eight doubles Grand Slam titles and 91 career titles. This past month, at age 44 Nestor and his 38 year old doubles partner, Radek Štěpánek became the oldest team to reach a Grand Slam men's doubles final at the Australian Open.

5. Kyle Shewfelt - Artistic Gymnastics 2004

The only medal won in artistic gymnastics was the gold medal won by Kyle Shewfelt on the floor exercise at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

At the 2008 Olympics, he completed a new vault which was named the Shewfelt vault. He is a guest commentator for CBC Television's Olympic coverage and a mentor for CIBC Team Next.

6. Lori-Ann Muenzer - Track Cycling 2004

Lori-Ann Muenzer was 38 years old and the oldest cyclist in the sprint at the Olympic Games. In the final, she faced a 21 year old while racing with wheels that were borrowed from the French and Australian teams. Being a self-funded athlete, she only had one set that were wrecked in training mishaps.

Click here to watch a video on Lori-Ann's website that includes her gold medal winning race and medal ceremony.

Muenzer is still very involved in the cycling community introducing children to competitive cycling and teaching spin classes.

Click here to read a Toronto Star article about her induction into Canada Sports Hall of Fame.

7. George Lyon - Golf 1904

There were 77 athletes who competed in the 1904 Olympics. Three were from Canada and 74 were from the U.S. Lyon was the reigning Olympic champion for over 100 years with golf not being contested at the Games until 2016.

An interesting story about Lyon, golf and the Olympics was published in Golf Digest. You can read it here. There were plans for golf to be in the 2008 Olympics in Great Britain. George Lyon arrived to defend his Olympic title only to find out that the competition was cancelled.

8. *Unofficial* Christine Girard - Weightlifting 2012

It's not official but with sample re-testing resulting in positive drug tests for the gold and silver medallists, it looks like Christine Girard's bronze medal at the 2012 Games will be upgraded to gold.

In 2012, I included Girard as one of the athlete reactions that stuck in my mind. I a blog post I wrote:

"Christine Girard coming off the stage after missing her last lift thinking she was not on the podium to reading her lips say "J'ai une médaille?" and her reaction afterwards. (translated as "I have a medal?" I am going by memory of what she said since I can't find a video of that moment)"
To read the Globe and Mail article celebrating her historic bronze medal, click here.

Girard continued her weightlifting career by co-founding the Kilophile Weightlifting Club in Surrey, BC with her husband.