Any way you slice it, the essential ingredient to sport is the patron, the supporter, the spectator.
It is, after all, the fan who matters most. The fan values the essence of performance, gets inspired, thrilled and excited and becomes, well, fanatical.
The ardent fan is the apple of every athlete's eye, but is too often taken for granted. Without great fans, there is nothing very appealing about sport.
The fans give sport credibility.
With that in mind, we are once again inviting the fans to select Canada's athlete of the year for 2012.
Let's call it The People's Pick.
With all due respect to all of the Canadian greatness out there, we offer six suggestions to vote for and we present these choices in no particular order.
Hesjedal is the cyclist who won the Giro d'Italia. That victory in one of the Grand Tour races is a Canadian first. The 31-year-old from Victoria, the lead cyclist for the Garmin-Barracuda team, captured the imagination of the entire country for weeks on end.
His victory prompted this reaction from Prime Minister Stephen Harper: "We congratulate Mr. Hesjedal for providing a defining moment in Canadian sport."
Hesjedal was also in contention for the overall lead in the Tour de France before a crash in the sixth stage forced him to withdraw with an injury. He went on to be the lone male road cyclist for Canada at the London Olympics, competing in both the road race and time trial.
Sinclair captained the Canadian women's team to an Olympic bronze medal in soccer at London and is arguably the best female player on the planet, despite being left off the list of three finalists for FIFA world player of the year.
Of most significance, the medal represented the first time that a Canadian team had ascended the medal podium at a Summer Olympics since the men's basketball team won silver at the 1936 Berlin Games. Without Sinclair, the medal would not have been won.
Sinclair also became the all-time leading goal scorer for the national team at age 29 and led the Olympic tournament in scoring with six goals. Her three-goal effort against the United States in the semifinals remains a landmark performance and she was rewarded with the honour of carrying the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies in London.
MacLennan captured trampoline gold at London -- the only Canadian crowned Olympic champion in 2012.
Although her sport may be classified as niche, the fact remains that MacLennan delivered at the appointed hour, a moment which occurs once every four years.
She also won the test event for the Olympics at the same venue earlier in the year and, at 24, is acknowledged to be the future star of her sport.
This ice dancing duo has been unbeaten and untouched in 2012. Once again, they're World champions, Four Continents champions and have dominated the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating by winning events in Canada and Russia.
Virtue and Moir continue to post record scores and, as reigning Olympic champions and two-time world champions, are poised to surpass Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean as the greatest ice dancers of all-time.
Chan is world champion again. When it comes to men's skating, he is the dominant figure -- maybe for a generation. Chan won his fifth Canadian championship, the Four Continents in Colorado Springs, the Grand Prix title in Russia and the worlds in France.
The Lou Marsh Trophy winner as Canada's athlete of the year in 2011, he is proving he's still at the top of his game in spite of a coaching upheaval and, at 21, has an incredible future in front of him, which may include becoming the first Canadian male singles skater to capture Olympic gold.
Humphries is a female bobsleigh pilot who has won six races in a row, including a world title, and she's done it with a variety of brakemen.
Since winning Olympic gold with Heather Moyse at Vancouver in 2010., she's partnered with Jennifer Ciochetti to win the worlds in Lake Placid and with Chelsey Valois in winning the first three races of the current World Cup campaign.
Here's the thing about Humphries -- she doesn't just drive the sled, she pushes it too!
We know there are others who merit consideration, but let's start the conversation with these superb six candidates.
Let's face it, you fans are the ones who truly appreciate all the greatness on every field of play and we'd like you to have your say in choosing Canada's athlete of the year for 2012.
What's on CBC Sports Weekend
CBC Sports Weekend features championship alpine skiing, notably the women's speed events from Lake Louise, Alta.
We'll present two downhill races headlined by the amazing Lindsey Vonn. The American sensation also took the time to engage in a feature-length interview in which she discussed, for the first time, her desire to race against the men on the World Cup circuit.
At 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, we'll preview figure skating's Grand Prix Final, including the four Canadian entries, as Brenda Irving, Tracy Wilson and P.J Kwong set the table for the crucial Olympic test event.
At 1 p.m. local on Sunday, it's the women's super-G from Lake Louise with play- by-play from Scott Oake and Olympic champion Kerrin Lee-Gartner. Rob Snoek will be at the finish line to get reaction from the champions.
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