Canada’s Best Athlete of 2006 – Female Edition
By Naila Jinnah
At the end of each calendar year, experts and fans alike weigh in on Canada’s best athletes. The Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy made 2006 an especially fruitful year, as Canada placed third overall, earning a record 24 medals.
Canadian athletes also dominated the professional sports. Steve Nash was named the NBA’s most valuable player for the second consecutive season, and Joe Thornton won several prestigious NHL awards, including the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy. The MLB also profited from the play of a Canadian first-baseman Justin Morneau, the American League MVP.
But what about the women? Apart from the Olympics, there aren’t many competitions where female athletes can broadcast their talents to the world. That makes their accomplishments harder to spot, and tougher to applaud. This top three of Canada’s best female athletes for 2006 is sure to stir up some memories.
Speed skater Cindy Klassen indisputably takes the top spot. The 26-year-old Winnipeg native earned record-breaking five medals at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, making her the most decorated Olympian ever in Canada. Klassen placed third in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, came second in the 1,000 race, and earned her first gold medal in the 1,500 meters. She also won a silver medal for her performance in the 2,400 team pursuit, playing a major contribution to Canada’s third place finish. Klassen also won the overall title at the world championships, and was crowned the World Cup champion in the 3,000 meters race. She set numerous world records in the 1,000, 1,500 and the 3,000. Klassen has six career Olympic medals, having won the bronze in the 3,000 during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Christine Sinclair is not a household name, but the Burnaby, B.C. soccer player is making a name for herself on the international scene. Sinclair was named the MVP of the 2006 W-League Championship Tournament, leading the Vancouver Whitecaps to their second title in three years. The 23-year-old university student was also on the Canadian national team that finished second in the Women’s Gold Cup, playing the full 90 minutes in most games. Sinclair was named to the FIFA shortlist for the 2006 player of the year, her second consecutive nomination for the award. Sinclair also received honours for her performance in the NCAA, having played with the University of Portland Patriots for the 2005-2006 season. She was named the top female college athlete of 2006, taking the Honda-Broderick Cup for her record-setting 39 goals in one season. For her strong performances in many different circuits, Christine Sinclair is the runner-up for Canada’s best female athlete of 2006.
Clara Hughes won her first-ever gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, topping fellow Winnipeg native Cindy Klassen in the 5,000 speed-skating event. But it’s her determination that places her third on this year’s list. Trailing by nearly four seconds halfway through the race, Hughes pushed herself to the limit on her final lap, finishing in six minutes and 59.07 seconds. Hughes also earned a silver medal in the team pursuit event. The 34-year old became the first-ever Canadian to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, having earned two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Inspired by American speed skater Joey Cheek’s donation of his $25,000 medal bonus to the athlete-driven charity Right to Play, Hughes donated $10,000 of her own money, since Canada does not give out medal bonuses.
-30-Feel free to comment!