There’s no clear Canadian athlete of the year, but here are some good candidates

By admin Dec8,2023

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

This Monday, a bunch of Canadian sports media VIPs will gather to pick the winner of the Northern Star (formerly Lou Marsh) Award for Canada’s athlete of the year. With no obvious choice on the board, it’ll be an interesting vote.

Here’s who I (a non-VIP) think should be the top candidates, plus some others who deserve recognition:

Summer McIntosh

It was another banner year for the swimming phenom. Before turning 17 in August, McIntosh became the first Canadian swimmer to win four world titles when she repeated as the gold medallist in two events at the world championships in Japan. Earlier in the year, she set a pair of world records at the Canadian trials. And last week, McIntosh capped off her terrific 2023 with two dominant wins at the respected U.S. Open Championships, including a victory over American rival Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh’s athlete-of-the-year credentials are very strong. But she’s poised to be Canada’s biggest star at next year’s Paris Olympics, and no one has won this award back-to-back since (gulp) Ben Johnson in 1986 and ’87. So some voters may decide to hold off on Summer this time.

Help shape the future of CBC article pages by taking a quick survey.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Last spring, the young guard completed the best regular season by a Canadian NBA player since Steve Nash’s heyday. Gilgeous-Alexander finished fourth in scoring with 31.4 points per game and placed fifth in MVP balloting while helping the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder land a surprising play-in spot. This season, he’s still averaging more than 30 points while his assist and rebound numbers are up and OKC is 13-7 — the second-best record in the Western Conference.

But Gilgeous-Alexander’s best work may have come in the summer at the Basketball World Cup in Asia, where he powered Canada to a bronze-medal upset of the United States and its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since Nash led the way in 2000. Gilgeous-Alexander was not the highest scorer in the tournament, but his extraordinary blend of offence, defence, unselfishness and efficiency was unmatched.

Like McIntosh, SGA might become an even bigger Canadian hero in Paris, where his team is emerging as a legit contender to win the country’s first Olympic basketball medal since 1936.

Nick Taylor

The veteran golfer authored the country’s best sports moment of the year when he nailed a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth hole of a wild sudden-death playoff at Toronto’s Oakdale club to become the first Canadian in 69 years to win the men’s Canadian Open. In the pantheon of Canadian golf victories, this rivaled Mike Weir’s iconic 2003 Masters title and was more celebrated than the women’s majors won by Brooke Henderson and Sandra Post.

Unfortunately, Taylor did not win any other tournaments this year. And he was awful in the majors, missing the cut in all three he entered while also failing to make the weekend at the big-money Players Championship. Should he win athlete of the year based on one great week?

Honourable mentions

These athletes probably won’t and/or shouldn’t win, but they did great things this year.

Jamal Murray: The Denver Nuggets guard was the second-best player on an NBA championship team. But he bailed on Canada for the World Cup, so it would be tough to pick him over SGA.

Connor McDavid: Last spring, the world’s best hockey player captured his fifth NHL scoring title with the highest point total since Mario Lemieux, and was the near-unanimous choice for his third MVP (some fool voted for David Pastrnak). But the Oilers got bounced in the second round of the playoffs, and this season both the team and McDavid (by his standard) are off to slow starts.

Brady Oliveira: The bruising tailback ran away with the CFL rushing title for his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers and became just the 15th player in league history to rack up 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season. But Oliveira’s team got upset in the Grey Cup game for the second straight year, this time by Montreal.

Pierce LePage: Some people believe that whoever wins the Olympic decathlon is the planet’s greatest athlete — a shaky argument that helped carry Damian Warner (to be fair, a deserving candidate) to the Lou Marsh in 2021. By that logic, maybe LePage should be considered for Canadian athlete of the year after winning the decathlon title at the track and field world championships. But then what about hammer throwers Ethan Katzberg and Camryn Rogers and 800m runner Marco Arop, who also won gold at those worlds?

Laurence St-Germain, Jack Crawford and Alex Loutitt: Each of these three skiers surprised us by winning their first world championship. St-Germain shocked American star Mikaela Shiffrin (and everyone else) in the women’s slalom, Crawford slayed the men’s alpine giants in the super-G, and the 19-year-old Loutitt became Canada’s first-ever ski jumping world champ.

Leylah Fernandez: The 21-year-old had a so-so singles year on the women’s tennis tour, failing to advance past the second round in the Grand Slams before winning a lower-tier event in Hong Kong near the end of the season. But she reached the French Open doubles final with American teammate Taylor Townsend and was absolutely electric for Canada at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals. Fernandez won all four of her singles matches, including the title clincher against Italy, and had a clutch doubles victory in the semis to lead Canada to its first-ever BJK Cup.

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *