Who were the MVPs of Canada's Olympics?
Recounting great moments from Montreal '76, Calgary '88 and Vancouver '10
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Before it won a Winter Games-record 14 gold medals in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada had a reputation for flopping whenever it hosted the Olympics. Fair enough: in 1976 in Montreal, Canada became the first (and still only) summer host country to not reach the top of the podium, and it also failed to win gold at the '88 Winter Games in Calgary.
Not a great look, obviously, but Canadian athletes still produced some excellent performances at those Olympics. So, with this being Canada Day weekend (sort of), we thought it might be nice to pick the Canadian MVPs for the three Olympics held in Canada, along with some honourable mentions. Here goes:
MVP: Greg Joy
If you can get past the gold-medal shutout, Canada actually did pretty well in Montreal. It won 11 medals — the 13th-highest total at those Games and one more than Canada picked up at the previous two Summer Olympics combined. Five of those medals were silver, and four of them were individual efforts.
Joy gets the MVP nod because his silver came in the highest-profile event of the bunch — the high jump — and because it was such a pleasant (and well-timed) surprise. Joy was only 20, and he would never win another medal at the Olympics or the world championships. But on the final night of competition in Montreal, inside a packed Olympic Stadium, he cleared 2.23 metres to beat world-record holder Dwight Stones of the U.S., who settled for bronze. Only an Olympic-record jump of 2.25 metres by Poland's Jacek Wszoła kept Joy from becoming the first Canadian to win gold on home soil. He was selected to carry the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony the next day.
Honourable mentions: Cheryl Gibson and Nancy Garapick
They were part of a strong Canadian swimming team that won eight medals in Montreal (two silver, six bronze). Gibson's silver in the women's 400-metre medley was the closest Canada came to winning an individual swimming gold. Garapick picked up a pair of solo bronze medals, in the 100 and 200 backstroke. The only athletes who beat Garapick and Gibson in those races were from East Germany, which was running a massive, state-sponsored doping program.
MVP: Elizabeth Manley
A dozen years after Montreal, Canada's best hope of avoiding another gold-medal shutout appeared to be Brian Orser. He'd taken silver in the Olympic men's figure skating event in '84 and followed that up with three straight silvers at the world championships before beating American rival Brian Boitano to capture the '87 world title. That set up the epic Battle of the Brians in Calgary, where Boitano beat Orser by just a tenth of a point. An Olympic silver medal is nothing to be ashamed of, but this was a defeat for Orser. Read more about the Battle of the Brians in this wonderful longform piece by Vicki Hall for CBC Sports.
On the other hand, Manley's silver in the women's event felt like a victory. No one considered her a serious contender, but she put herself in position for a medal with strong compulsory and short skates, and then pulled off the free skate of her life to win that segment and come within a hair of upsetting defending champ Katarina Witt (one of the sport's all-time greats) for the gold medal. It's one of the great out-of-nowhere performances in Olympic history. Watch Manley reminisce about it 30 years later in this video.
Honourable mention: Karen Percy
Manley and Orser won Canada's only two silvers in Calgary, but Percy was the most decorated Canadian there. She took bronze in both the downhill and the super-G. Canada finished with only five medals in Calgary, so we may as well mention the other one: a bronze by Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall in the ice dance that gave Canada a medal in three of the four figure skating events.
MVP: Sidney Crosby
The Golden Goal. We could probably just drop the mic right there. But it's also worth noting that Crosby wasn't a one-hit wonder in Vancouver. He had seven points (including four goals) in seven games.
Honourable mentions: When you win 14 gold medals, there's gonna be a lot. Marie-Philip Poulin scored both goals in Canada's 2-0 win over the U.S. in the women's hockey final; short track speed skater Charles Hamelin won two gold medals (an individual and a relay); moguls skier Alex Bilodeau captured Canada's first Olympic gold on home soil; and Jon Montgomery chugged beer straight from the pitcher after winning skeleton gold.
You can relive some of the moments covered here on Saturday's edition of Olympic Games Replay, which features great performances from the three Olympics held in Canada. Watch the stream Saturday from 3-6 p.m. ET here, or catch it on the CBC TV network (check local listings for times). In the meantime, you can watch this video by CBC Sports montage master Tim Thompson.
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