Top five Canadian female athletes of the decade

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Christine Sinclair top female athlete of the decade. Wikipedia Commons

Girls just want to play sports and kick ass

In the course of the last ten years, many talented and accomplished Canadian female athletes have significantly benefited the sporting world. However, to me, there are five women who stand out and deserve recognition: Christine Sinclair, Hayley Wickenheiser, Tessa Virtue, Kallie Humphries and Rosie MacLennan. Throughout the previous decade, these five women have excellently represented Canada with their actions and accomplishments, demonstrating skill, positive attitude and unwavering perseverance.

As U of R athletic director, Lisa Robertson, stated, “these spectacular woman . . . have [not only] brought prominence and respect to their sport, . . . but have also brought Canada to the forefront of the Olympic movement.” They are significant role models since they show young . . .  girls and boys that Canadian athletes can be the best in the world.”

According to Robertson, strong role models like these women, are crucial for two main reasons. Firstly, they motivate youth participation in sports. This motivation does not mean pushing individuals into “professional sport, . . .  but more realistically moving them into sport” for the duration of their life. As Robertson suggests these type of role models are much more effective in doing this than the media, since “coverage of female elite sport is much less than [the coverage given] to male [elite sport].” Secondly, they help encourage girls to [compete athletically] and aspire to become the best in the world.”

Christine Sinclair is undeniably one of the best and most skilled and experienced soccer players our country has ever had. In the past ten years, as team captain, Sinclair has led the Canadian women’s soccer team in numerous competitions, including three worlds cups (2011, 2015, 2019) and two Olympic games (London 2012, Rio 2016) the last of which resulted in two back-to-back bronze medal finishes. Sinclair is also one of the team’s leading scorers. In the London 2012 Olympics, she scored six out of the team’s twelve goals, including an incredible hat trick during overtime, in the controversial semi-final match against the U.S team – earning the privilege of carrying the Canadian flag in the games’ closing ceremony.

As experience has shown, Sinclair is an athlete who not only perseveres through all challenges and setbacks, including playing in the 2011 FIFA World Cup despite a broken nose, but always remains positive and optimistic. Whenever the team experiences disappointment, or loss, she never criticizes anyone, but rather compliments teammates on their success and turns her attention towards future improvement. Due to all of her success, Sinclair has been recognized with various sports awards and honours, including being featured on the 2016 FIFA video game and inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2013. In the past ten years, Sinclair has led her team to numerous victories and in the process has made the team a fierce and strong international opponent. Although there is some concern that Sinclair will retire, hopefully this will not happen for a while yet, especially since with 182 career goals, she currently remains one goal away from tying U.S. player Abby Wombach’s record of most international goals scored.

Recently retired Hayley Wickenheiser is an experienced, accomplished, and talented hockey player from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. Well-known for her slapshot, Wickenheiser played in 276 international games, earning an astonishing 168 goals, 211 assists, and five Olympic medals (four gold and one silver). Wickenheiser began the last decade on a strong note, competing in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and helping the Canadian national team defeat the Americans 2-0, in order to win the gold medal.

Four years later, Wickenheiser helped the squad defend their number one position in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games. Despite having a broken foot, Wickenheiser still competed in five games, ensuring that the team advanced to the final where they not only achieved a 3-2 victory over their longtime U.S. rivals after an intense period of overtime, but also earned their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. When Wickenheiser first began playing internationally  in 1993 at the age fifteen, hockey was a difficult sport for women to get into, since it was considered a male dominated, demonstrated by the criticism and derogatory comments and responses she experienced early on in her career. However, because of her success, especially two Olympic gold medal victories in the past decade, Wickenheiser has completely changed the game of women’s hockey for the better. Wickenheiser has also become a significant role model, since her success shows what is possible when gender stereotypes don’t dominate involvement in sport.

This past decade was an extremely successful one for the talented and skillful trampolinist Rosie MacLennan. Seven years after beginning to compete internationally, McLennan competed in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, where she performed what was arguably the most technically difficult routine. Despite this challenge, McLennan still earned her first Olympic gold medal. This victory brought her significant recognition, since not only was this the first time Canada ever received an Olympic gold medal in a trampoline event, but also the only gold for Team Canada in these Olympics. Over the course of the following five years, MacLennan competed in five FIG World Championships, earning one gold, two silver and one bronze, as well as a gold in the 2014 Pan Am Games. In the following Summer Olympics (Rio 2016), MacLennan again made history by becoming the first and only trampolinist to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.

McLennan is also an individual with significant perseverance and dedication to her sport. Although she incurred two major concussions, she never let her injuries get in the way of competition. In 2015 after experiencing an unfortunate second concussion, MacLenan didn’t give up, but instead did what was needed to heal, modified her training and lowered the technical difficulty of her routine in order to still compete in the World Cup Championship that year, where she finished fourth overall.

Tessa Virtue is an exceptionally talented figure skater, who has for the past 22 years consistently impressed people with her creativity, speed and fearlessness on the ice. Throughout the past decade, Virtue and her partner Scott Moir have achieved major athletic success, becoming “the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history [and] the first figure skaters to [have earned] five career Olympic medals” (according to Team Canada’s website).  Early on in the decade, Virtue and Moir competed in the 2010 Olympics, earning gold for their captivating ice dance performance to Mahler’s fifth symphony. The momentum and recognition from this victory carried on throughout the entire decade, demonstrated by two silver medals in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, an undefeated 2016/17 season and two more gold medals in PyeongChang (2018). Despite the sad announcement of retirement, it’s likely that this isn’t the last the world will hear, or see of Virtue, since she will be participating in a Rock the Rink Tour, as well as appearing as a guest judge on the upcoming season of Battle of the Blades.

Although it was recently announced that Kallie Humphries will no longer be competing for Canada, but rather the United States, due to a horrible and unfortunate situation with the sport’s governing body, her victories over the last ten years should be acknowledged, since her success brought much recognition and respect to women’s bobsledding, especially within Canada. For the past fifteen years, Humphries has been an incredibly fierce competitor in women’s bobsled, gaining experience and numerous victories, in order to become “one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians.” (according to an online The Globe and Mail article) Humphries competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and together with her brake woman, Heather Moyse, and won gold after their impressive times in four heats, which not only gave them a huge advantage, but also set new records for that track. In 2011, Humphries won a World Championship bronze and the following season won six out of nine World Cup races. She also won two World Bobsled Championships in 2012 and 2013, which she achieved with Saskatchewan brake woman, Chelsea Valois.

Four years after Humphries (and Moyes’) first Olympic gold, they reunited at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and successfully defeated defended their number one position beating out the second-place American team by 0.21 seconds, earning the honour of being Canada’s flag bearers at the games’ closing ceremonies. Humphries finished the decade with another Olympic win in PyeongChang where she won bronze with brake woman Phylicia George. Throughout the previous decade, Humphries has demonstrated incredible skill and athletic ability, always pushing the boundaries to achieve success and setting astonishing new records in the process and her transfer to the U.S team will definitely be a huge loss for Team Canada.

Sinclair, Wickenheiser, McLennan, Virtue and Humphries have significantly and positively impacted the sports world this past decade and it will be exciting to see what opportunities and success awaits them in this new decade.

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