Happy Canada Day. If you are in Quebec, stay hydrated during this beautiful moving day. And, to those of you in Newfoundland thanks again for the sacrifice of July 1, 1916.
We live in a wonderfully odd country that sadly doesn’t celebrate itself enough. Even in sports, something that lends itself to feelings of patriotism, we tend to be shy about expressing our love of this land. That’s unfortunate because there have been reasons to stand up and shout throughout the years.
Most of us will be familiar with the bigger moments—especially the ones that involve hockey pucks. And, although I enjoyed Jarome’s two goals in 2002 as much as the next guy and 21 years later I can still close my eyes and perfectly see Gretzky to Lemieux with Murphy providing the decoy, those aren’t the moments that have most inspired me throughout the years.
My three favourite Canadian sports moments:
3. Victor Davis loses gold (but gets silver)
Although he would win gold a couple days later at the Los Angeles Olympics, it was Davis’ silver medal in the 100m breaststroke that I remember more vividly. Davis was never the favourite in the 100m. Most considered it a warm-up to his better event, where he was the world record holder. Most, but not Davis. Likely one of the most intense athletes to ever represent Canada (he once threw a poolside chair with the Queen in attendance), Davis did not take kindly to losing. So, when he touched the wall in the 100m and looked up to see that he had swam a time faster than the existing world record, but had lost to gold medal he did something very un-Canadian. As the CBC commentators celebrated, Davis slammed his fists to the wall in disgust. He hadn’t won a silver; he had lost a gold. I was young when I watched it, but I knew that I liked something about Davis’ attitude. While the rest of Canada seemed content with just getting along, this guy wanted to be the best. I liked that. I really liked that and 24 years later I still really, really like that. I’ve never shaken the thought that had Davis not been taken from us by a drunk driver in 1989 that Canadian swimming would have never fallen as far as it did—Davis wouldn’t have accepted it.
2. Clara Hughes gets her gold
As an adult you don’t really have sporting heroes the same way you do when you’re a kid. But, I make an exception with Hughes, possibly the greatest Canadian amateur athlete in history. Yet, one that most everyday Canadians are unaware of. Heading into the second last day of the Turin Games, Hughes had already won a medal in her third Olympic Games. Four years earlier she had become the fourth female athlete in the world to win medals in both the summer and the winter Games. But, she had never stood on the top step. That changed 5000m later. As an adult you sometimes forget the pure joy of watching a sporting hero do something special. As I saw the No. 1 flash beside her name and her trademark grin appear, I leapt from the couch and pumping my fist in the air, scaring the cats—I remembered.
1. The sound of 200 screaming kids bring Canada home
I watched most of the 1996 Olympics at Camp Kirk, a wonderful little place that helps kids with learning disabilities. As the games and archery instructor, I would sneak into the main dining hall to watch as much of the action as possible and I would make sure that the kids at camp knew about every Canadian victory at the Games. Donovan Bailey had already made Atlanta a pretty nice little Games for Canada with his 100m gold, but the real joy of the Games came on the second to last day when the Canadian 4X100m relay team stuck it to the Americans. You may remember all the talk on U.S. television leading up to the final was about whether Carl Lewis would get a record breaking gold medal as part of the team. There was no mention of the possibility that the world champion Canadian team might have something to say about it. All of that talk made the 30-some seconds it took to knock them down all the more special. But, what I will always remember about that race was where I watched it. In the dining room of Camp Kirk with all 200ish campers gathered around the TV. When Bailey took the baton for the final leg and it was clear that Canada would win the kids let loose a scream that I swear could have been heard in Atlanta. It was beautiful. It was proud. And, it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it today.
Enjoy the day. And, if you wish, share your favourite Canadian sporting moments.