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Wake up, Canada: it's championship season

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 | 09:30 AM

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The Winter Olympics come around only once every four years, but in between high-performance athletes are toiling on ice and snow in the name of Canada at huge events like World Cups and world championships every year. It's not as if they suddenly appear to win or lose a gold medal once a quadrennium at the Games.

It's championship season right now around the world in winter sport. So it's time to end our Olympic hibernation and feast on the bevy of high-performance sport that's out there. 
ricker-110321-584.jpgCanadian snowboardcross star Maelle Ricker won last season's World Cup crystal globe, emblematic of season-long excellence in her sport. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

A recent meeting with the graduate sports history class at one of Canada's largest community colleges revealed that much of our athletic folklore remains a mystery.

Members of the class are all bright and articulate. They aspire to be sports journalists in what has become a burgeoning field of work and play.

They can readily identify the seminal moments of Canada's national obsession. They know that Paul Henderson is the man who scored the goal to beat the Soviet Union in hockey's 1972 Summit Series. None were alive in that era, but it matters little. They are also familiar with the legendary exploits of Gretzky, Howe, Richard and Orr.  
 
This group knows hockey.

But when it comes to recent iconic figures such as Beckie Scott, the pioneering cross-country skier, or double Olympic gold medal speedskater Catriona Le May Doan, things get more than a little fuzzy.

As far as alpine skiing star Nancy Greene goes, they haven't a clue.

"The Olympics are only every four years," reasoned one member of the class. "Players like Sidney Crosby in hockey and Steve Nash in basketball compete every season."

That makes sense. Except that, in between Olympic seasons, those same high-performance athletes are toiling on ice and snow in the name of Canada. They compete at huge events like World Cups and world championships every year. It's not as if they suddenly appear to win or lose a gold medal once a quadrennium at the Games.

Right now, it's championship season around the world in winter sport.  

At this week's snowboarding meet in Spain, Canadian gold medallist Maelle Ricker is featured. Soon, speedskating phenomenon and Olympic gold medallist Christine Nesbitt, who swept the Canadian championships, will try to conquer the world in her sport. Figure skater Patrick Chan will attempt to win his fourth national title in Victoria next week on the way to a legitimate shot at the world championship crown in Tokyo. Nordic skiers, led by Olympians Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw, will race before hundreds of thousands of spectators at their worlds in Oslo, Norway.

The next legends are already on track and we're almost a year removed from the Vancouver-Whistler Games.  

It's time to end our Olympic hibernation and feast on the bevy of high-performance sport that's out there.


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