The Lou Marsh Award is given annually to Canada’s top athlete, and this year’s decision, to be announced today, has to be one of the toughest to date. The impact that Canadians are making across the sporting landscape continues to grow, which is epitomized in the nominees for this year’s award. But for all of the deserving athletes from north of the border – which include fresh-faced Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) captain Connor McDavid (@cmcdavid97), upstart LPGA (@LPGA) superstar Brooke Henderson (@BrookeHenderson), and back-to-back Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan (@RosieMacLennan) – there are a handful who stood out just a touch more in 2016. But the real question is – who is the most deserving?
McDavid may be the up-and-comer, but to be the best, you have to beat the best. And right now, the best is still Captain Canada. Sidney Crosby’s legacy has long been supplanted with his Golden Goal in Vancouver, but his 2016 calendar year would make any Canadian beam with pride. Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) to a (somewhat surprising) Stanley Cup victory, picking up Conn Smythe honours along the way, showing that he is, once again, the crème of the crop in the NHL (@NHL).
The icing on the cake, meanwhile, was an equally impressive (and yet another MVP) showing at the World Cup of Hockey. Once again sporting the ‘C’, he helped Team Canada (@HC_Men) show the world that they, in fact, own hockey, thanks in large part to his tournament-leading 10 points. Not too shabby for 2016, but is it enough for his third Lou Marsh Award?
Be honest –had you heard of Penny Oleksiak (@OleksiakPenny) before the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics (@Rio2016)? One of the best parts of the Olympic Games is that it can turn a relatively unknown into a national icon, and if you don’t believe us, then just look at Oleksiak. The 16-year-old, Scarborough-native quickly became the story of the Olympics, but what exactly did she do to earn the attention?
Set an Olympic-record time in the 100M freestyle? Check. Earn a Canadian record-setting four individual medals? Check. Become Canada’s youngest ever gold-medalist? Check. Be chosen as flag bearer at the Closing Ceremonies? Check. Oleksiak did it all in Rio, and whether she was leading Team Canada (@TeamCanada) to success in the water or showing off her playful personality in interviews, she has quickly become a fan favourite among Canadians. She has already had a year for the ages and has cemented her role as Swimming Canada’s (@SwimmingCanada) leading lady for years to come, but will she also add a Lou Marsh Award to her already impressive resume?
Andre De Grasse
Oleksiak may have set the standard in the water, but the Canadian content continued to sizzle on the track. There were medals abound for Canada’s track and field contingent, but none came with quite the same swagger or intrigue as Andre De Grasse (@De6rasse). Yet another Olympian to grab Canada’s attention ahead of every race, De Grasse certainly showed that he could very well be the heir to Usain Bolt’s (@usainbolt) running dominance, even providing one of the most picturesque moments of the Olympics as he shared a mid-race chuckle running alongside the aforementioned Bolt.
De Grasse is the present and future of Athletics Canada (@AthleticsCanada), putting up numbers that hadn’t been seen since the likes of Donovan Bailey (@donovanbailey). Not only that, but his three Rio 2016 medals made him the first Canadian to earn hardware in all three sprint events – bronze in the 100M, silver in the 200M, and bronze in the 4x100M while serving as the anchor. He is undoubtedly one to watch as he toes the starting line for many more races moving forward. But as 2016 comes to a close, the real question is, has De Grasse sprinted his way to his first ever Lou Marsh Award?
Speaking of heights not yet being reached in Canadian sport, some of you tennis fans may have heard that Milos Raonic (@milosraonic) had quite a year on the ATP Tour (@ATPWorldTour) in 2016. Raonic had already proven himself as the most successful singles players to ever don the maple leaf, but this season was his most successful yet. In fact, if not for his biggest opponent this year – the injury bug – Raonic may have even gone a step further in the Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) history books!
The world #3 (highest ever ranking for a Canadian singles player) did everything in his power to make his presence felt this season, compiling a 52-17 record along the way. He started the year by winning the Brisbane International, capped off by a finals victory over Roger Federer (@rogerfederer). His sizzling play continued into the season’s first slam, as he powered his way to the Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) semi-finals where he ultimately fell victim in five sets to Andy Murray (@andy_murray) (and a nagging injury). He made finals appearances at the BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) and AEGON Championships, before finishing as runner-up at Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) to Murray. Raonic capped off the year with a grueling semi-final loss to Murray at the World Tour Finals, but rocketed up the rankings nonetheless. But will the powerful Canadian be served up a Lou Marsh Award as well?
No matter who comes home with the hardware, it will be well-deserved. And whether it’s in hockey and basketball or swimming and golf, there has never been a better time to cheer loud and proud for all that the red and white are doing in sport.