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Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 | 08:43 AM

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For Canada, these are halcyon days. Gone is the stereotypical notion that we are a country of hockey players and curlers. End of story.

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For Canada, these are halcyon days. Gone is the stereotypical notion that we are a country of hockey players and curlers. End of story.

Consider the exploits of Milos Raonic on the tennis courts, Joey Votto, one of major league baseball's most valuable performers and timeless Steve Nash of basketball fame.

Three recent happenings, however, constitute a revelation in terms of how Canada is regarded as a maturing sporting nation. 

The first is Erik Guay's downhill victory at last month's alpine skiing World championships in Germany. 

Guay's win was surprising given his performance this season. But his triumph was not unforeseen - or a fluke - based on his past record. He is, after all, a Crystal Globe winner as World Cup super-G champion and missed two gold medals by a whisker at the Vancouver Olympics. Also, the man Guay succeeded as world champion is another Canadian, John Kucera.

Next is the historic gold-medal victory by the cross-country sprint relay team of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey at the Nordic world championships in Norway. 

Again, it was not - repeat NOT - a surprise. 

Kershaw had won four medals at the earlier Tour de Ski and, along with Harvey, combined for a close fourth-place finish in this very event at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler.

But the breakthrough is real because, for the very first time, it puts Canadian men on top in one of the world's most contested winter sports. Nordic skiing pre-dates alpine skiing in Olympic history and the competitive field of play is ultra deep.

Finally, news that Canada will host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is groundbreaking.

It matters not that Canada is the only country to go the distance in the bid process. What does count is there are more than 375,000 registered female soccer players in this country - nearly an even split with males. That compares with about 85,000 women who play hockey.

Soccer has more formal participants than any other sport in Canada and it's not even close.

All of which means the chance for Canada to host the World and continue the effort to discover gender equality in high-performance sport is both exciting and commendable.

These are great days for Canada. 

In terms of sport, the country is becoming a leading citizen in a much wider world of human endeavour.

(Photo of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey courtesy Odd Andersen/Getty Images)

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