Do You Need International Success to be a Great Canadian Athlete?

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The Tragically Hip

I have been a big fan of the Tragically Hip. The band from Kingston, Ontario write and perform great music with a unique Canadian flavour. It has been said that if you want to make it as a musician (or actor, comedian, etc.) then you have to gain attention outside Canada. The Hip have shown that they can be successful even though their music has not struck a chord with people outside Canada. It kind of makes you wonder whether Canadian athletes have to win Olympic Gold, major international titles, or world championships in order to be seen as successful. You will notice that I am focusing on sports not dominated by Canadians. I have omitted anything in this piece related to hockey.

Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic are just a couple of names that come to mind. Their level of play has gotten the attention of the tennis world. Both came close to a Wimbledon title this year with Bouchard losing in the women’s final. Their future looks bright but if they don’t play another match would their playing career be seen as a disappointment? I remember Scott Goodyear coming so close to beating Al Unser Jr. in the 1992 Indianapolis 500. As it turned out that was as close as Goodyear got to winning a race at the Brickyard. But people still see him as being one the great race car drivers from Canada.

Also, take this into consideration. Steve Nash was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in consecutive seasons (2004-2005, 2005-2006). Justin Morneau was the 2006 American League MVP. Larry Walker won the National League MVP in 1997. Ferguson Jenkins was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1971 and was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1991. Race car driver Jacques Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 en route to capturing the CART title that year. Golfer Mike Weir won the Masters in 2003, his first and only Major golf championship. They all achieved greatness but Nash, Morneau, Walker, and Jenkins were never part of a world championship team. Some would find that disappointing. Villeneuve and Weir had long playing careers after their crowning achievements but were never able to match that same success.

We have a lot to be proud of when we see Canadian athletes playing sports on the world stage. Considering there are millions competing in the field from around the world, the fact that they got there should be an accomplishment in itself.

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