When decathlete Damian Warner was chosen as the flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic Team during the closing ceremonies on Sunday evening—an honour given to a significant member of the team—it was against some stiff competition. Despite the year delay, the COVID restrictions, the lack of crowds, this group of athletes was everything we could've hoped for and more.
From the somewhat expected (though still incredible) triumphs of stars Warner and Andre De Grasse and the women's swim team, to the dream-fulfilling wins of the women's football team and 'almost-rookie' cyclist Kelsey Mitchell, Canada had themselves an Olympics to remember.
Best tally ever*
The country's final tally of 24 medals—7 gold, 6 silver, 11 bronze—is its best ever at a Summer Games outside of the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games. This was when a total of 17 nations—including medal powerhouses the Soviet Union and East Germany—refused to attend the Games due to political reasons, which opened more opportunities to other countries. Canada finished that year with 44 medals, including 10 gold.
But outside of that? The magic mark was 22—taken both in Barcelona 1992 and Rio de Janeiro 2016. The Canadian team confidently strode past that mark this year. And they did it winning as many gold medals as they did in both of those previous games. Against the world's best, this was something to be proud of! As we say goodbye to Tokyo, let's embrace some of the best moments!
Stars of track and field
Six for six. That's sprinter Andre De Grasse's record for medalling in Olympic events. In two years of running the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay events, he has won four bronze, one silver, and one gold.
That gold came last week in the 200m, with him running a national and personal best of 19.62. He proved his ability to blast past competitors and actually get faster as the race went on. Not only did this unique ability give him his gold medal, it was also what allowed him to lift his teammates to a bronze medal in the relay.
Check out that unreal speed for yourself below.
And then there's Warner. Despite being the oldest man in the field and going up against the world record holder (France's Kevin Mayer), he smashed the Olympic record in the event breaking the '9,000 point barrier' for only the third time in decathlon history. Decathlon is scored by adding up points collected from the performances in all ten events and combining them.
And what are those events? They are: 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m, 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1500m. Being great at any of these events is the life's work on many Olympians. When you consider that Warner did all of them, in record-setting fashion, and across two days of heat wave conditions in Tokyo, his performance is even more amazing.
Christine Sinclair's great adventure
There's really so much to get to in recapping this Olympics, and we simply don't have the room to get them all. But even with the brilliance of Warner and De Grasse, perhaps the greatest feel-good story was that of the women's football (soccer) team. After bronze medals in 2012 and 2016, this team finally scaled the mountain, beating an incredible Swedish team in a penalty shootout for a precious gold medal.
Canada's best players were probably confident young forward Jessie Fleming and its seemingly always-smiling keeper Stephanie Labbe. But there was no question which player had put in the most time and effort getting to this point. Team captain Christine Sinclair.
The leading international goal scorer all time for men and women, Sinclair only scored once this Olympics. But her inspirational leadership—and her incredible career—was the biggest reason Canada was there at all.
From Fleming to Janine Beckie to Ashley Lawrence and so many more, most of Canada's team is made of women who were inspired to play soccer as young girls watching Sinclair score a hat-trick against the Americans in London 2012. Now that Canada are Olympic champions in the sport, you can only imagine how many more girls can't wait to hit the pitch and prove their skills!
Whether on the track, the pitch, in the pool or in a pond (shout out to Canada's awesome canoe sprinters, too!), we can't wait to see what the future holds for Canadian athletes. Congrats to our Olympians!