While Canada may not be considered a mega-power when it comes to athletic prowess on the global stage, there is no doubt that Canadian athletics as a whole is moving in the right direction.
The Canadian team claimed 24 medals at the Tokyo Olympics, which is their highest ever haul from a non-boycotted version of the Games – a sure sign of the progressive nature of sports in Canada. Seven of the squad claimed gold – equalling Canada’s previous best golden tally at Barcelona ’92, so it is with confidence we declare that the future of athletics in the country is in safe hands.
To celebrate these successes, here’s a look at ten Canadian athletes operating at the peak of their powers right now.
It took a world record time from Australia to prevent Canada’s 4 x 100m freestyle swimming relay team from winning gold in Tokyo. However, the silver medal was the first for Canada at those Games and kicked off a record haul in fine style.
That relay team included Penny Oleksiak, who at 21 is already the veteran of two editions of the Olympics. With seven medals in total, she is now the most decorated Canadian Olympian of all time. Two further bronzes in Japan, to go with a gold, two silvers and a bronze won in Rio in 2016, ensured Oleksiak would secure her legacy in the Canadian Olympic hall of fame. Barely out of her teens, there’s surely more to come too.
Canada can now proudly lay claim to having the best decathlete on earth in their midst – a sport regarded as one of the toughest around. Damian Warner’s achievements in Tokyo were extraordinary. Not only did he win gold in the decathlon, he also set a new world record points tally and broke the records in the long jump and the 110m hurdles.
It just goes to show how progressive the form of the 31-year-old has been, given that he claimed bronze in Rio back in 2016 and is yet to win gold in three attempts at the World Championships. Warner has excelled in 2021, and Canada should be proud too have such a remarkable athlete representing the country.
Maggie Mac Neil
Canada had a good time in the pool in Tokyo, and Maggie Mac Neil was very much at the top of her game. She contributed three medals towards Canada’s 27-medal collection, with a silver and bronze in the relay events backed by solo gold in the 100m butterfly.
That’s an event that Mac Neil could dominate for years to come. She also won gold in the 2019 World Championships, so Canada has a proven champion in the butterfly event.
One of the finest female weightlifters on the planet, Maude Charron fulfilled her destiny in Tokyo. Having won gold at the Pan American Games – breaking stacks of records along the way, the 28-year-old was expected to dominate the 64kg category. With her best lift of 131kg, she secured her first gold medal at the Olympic Games and Canada’s second of the rescheduled 2020 event.
Andre de Grasse
What a thrill it must be to be known as the fastest man on the planet! That’s the accolade that Andre de Grasse has earned as the Olympic 200m champion, and that sits nicely alongside his bronze medals in the 100m and 4 x 100m relay. All told, the 26-year-old is now a six-time Olympic medallist… how many more will he add in Paris?
Laurence Vincent Lapointe
There was a sense of redemption for Laurence Vincent Lapointe in Tokyo, after being forced to miss the World Championships in 2019 after failing a drug test. She protested her innocence throughout and was later cleared of all charges. Perhaps this gave her the motivation she needed. The 29-year-old clinched silver and bronze in her canoeing events in Tokyo.
There are many high-quality young Canadians breaking through into the upper echelons of their sports, which means that Canada can look forward to years of Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship success in the future. One of the latest names off the conveyor belt of success is Lauriane Genest, whose Olympic debut could not have gone any better. The 23-year-old took the bronze medal in the keirin cycling discipline, adding to Canada’s impressive haul on the track.
In a sport where competitors often don’t peak until their thirties, Genest can look forward to a long and prosperous career in the saddle – hopefully bringing home plenty of medals for Canada in the process.
A former world record holder in the 100m backstroke, Kylie Masse has long been destined for big things. However, it could have turned out differently given that she was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario – a city better known for its Canadian casinos than sporting prowess. Regardless, Masse showed plenty of promise. After heading to the University of Toronto, she was later selected for the Olympic team, winning bronze in Rio. Appearing at the Tokyo Games with more experience under her belt, Masse was expected to improve on that maiden showing, which she certainly did. She landed silver in both the 100m and 200m backstroke and was part of the medley relay team that brought the bronze home.
Canada had never won an Olympic medal in judo before, but Jessica Klimkait has shattered that unwanted record. The 24-year-old competed in the 57kg division in Tokyo and followed up her World Championship gold medal in that category with bronze at the Olympics. She will undoubtedly be back at the Paris Games in 2024, where she will be gunning for gold.
For any aspiring athlete, the story of Kelsey Mitchell truly is one to behold. Four years ago, she didn’t even own a bicycle. Today, she’s an Olympic cycling gold medallist!
Mitchell took up cycling in 2017 after participating in a training event at her local club, and within two years she was winning gold at the Pan American Games. At just 27 and with plenty of miles left in the tank, figuratively and literally speaking, Mitchell’s career is only just getting started… great news for fans of Canadian athletics.