What is Canada's finest moment at the Summer Games? That’s the question The Globe and Mail put to readers in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the London Olympics. Canadians from coast to coast weighed in with their shining memories of our athletes over the years. To share your own memories, go to tgam.ca/olympics-moment
Greg Joy, 1976
Greg Joy’s jump was a moment of national pride at the 1976 Montreal Games. On the final full day of competition, he cleared 2.23 metres to win the country’s first Olympic track and field medal since 1964 and the first medal in high jump since 1932. The win was considered a Canadian highlight – one reportedly replayed for years when CBC TV signed off the air each night.
“For the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, my parents purchased a 26-inch colour TV. … Sitting in front of it, I watched the East German ‘women’ dominate the pool and I watched a Soviet fencer try to cheat his way to a gold medal. But, most importantly, I watched Greg Joy win a silver medal in high jump. It was magical and they were 16 days I’ll never forget.” - Rick Loewen, Landmark, Man.
“Greg Joy high-jumping to silver. I remember sitting in my Dad’s car listening to it on the radio.” - John R. Miller, Guelph, Ont.
“Greg Joy’s silver was unbelievable. It was unexpected and, well, pure ‘joy.’ ” - Robert Laur, Bath, Ont.
Alex Baumann, 1984
Alex Baumann was amassing swimming and world records in his teens, but he was also plagued by injuries. Prior to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, his father died from complications from diabetes and his brother committed suicide. He persevered, and had a spectacular performance in Los Angeles, winning two gold medals and setting two world records.
“My favourite moment was a trio of gold medals in 1984 when Victor Davis (200-metre breast stroke), Alex Baumann, (400-metre individual medley) and Anne Ottenbrite (200-metre breast stroke) all won gold in about 20 minutes. I still remember jumping up and down in my parents’ family room.” - Geoff Kirbyson, Winnipeg
“With or without the boycott, Alex Baumann was our golden hero.” - Ken Fitzpatrick, London, Ont.
Lawrence Lemieux, 1988
“I think Canada’s finest moment was during the 1988 Seoul Olympics when Lawrence Lemieux selflessly gave up a potential medal to rescue two Singaporean sailors, competing in a different boat class, who were thrown from their boat, injured, and unable to right their boat. This was a true display of sportsmanship, which is what the Olympics should really be about.” - Alan Wong, Montreal
“It was lost in the circus of Ben Johnson, but there was the decision of a single sailor from Alberta to abandon a race to help those in need. Many have won medals, but only 11 have received the highest honour of the Olympic movement, the Pierre de Coubertin Medal. If that is not something to be proud of as Canadian, I do not know what is.” - Trevor Powell, Fonthill, Ont.
“Lawrence Lemieux showed sportsmanship and humanity far beyond what any medal could do and it makes me proud of our athletes every time I think of it. Bravo, Mr. Lemieux!” - Richard Graham, Brandon, Man.
Silken Laumann, 1992
Silken Laumann was a heavy favourite to win gold in the single sculls in Barcelona in 1992, but her plans seeemed doomed when she suffered a tibia fracture and muscle and nerve damage when she collided with another scull while training in Essen, Germany. She refused to quit, pushing herself into rehab, and finished third.
“Silken Laumann and her phenomenal comeback following injury at the Barcelona Games. … I was 14 at the time and was struck by the sheer guts and her determination to remain focused on a goal. It left an indelible mark on me.” - Mark Landis, London, Ont.“Silken Laumann’s 1992 bronze medal after a grotesque leg injury has to be the pinnacle of fine moments.” - Adam McKinty, Burnstown, Ont.
Sylvie Frechette, 1992
A week before the 1992 Barcelona Games, synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette found her fiance and manager Sylvian Lake dead in their apartment, having committed suicide. She plunged on, performing spectacularly in her figures routine -- but a judge mistakenly pressed the wrong button and recorded an 8.7 instead of a 9.7. The error cost her the gold medal. She is seen, upon arriving home in Montreal, holding her original silver medal and a solid gold medal given to her by a local TV station. She was later awarded her true gold medal in a special ceremony in Montreal.
“Synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette, who won the solo event just weeks after her fiancé committed suicide. She was initially robbed of the gold because of a judges’ mistake, but still acted with such grace and class.” - Derek Eng, Toronto
Donovan Bailey, 1996
In the lead-up to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Donovan Bailey was fast making a reputation for himself as an exceptional sprinter. He set a world record time of 5.56 seconds in the 50-metre event. The record still stands. At the Games, he won double gold on the track. He won the 100 metres in a record 9.84 seconds and helped teammates in the 4x100 relay in a record 37.69 seconds. He also helped most Canadians forget the disgrace of Ben Johnson’s disqualification at the 1988 Seoul Games.
“Donovan Bailey’s golden victory was a surreal moment that overwhelmed so many Canadians with pride and joy (and tears, in my case), particularly after the Ben Johnson scandal. It provided such redemption for the Seoul disgrace and we got to beat the Americans in disciplines they had dominated for so long, in their own backyard!” - Benoit Caron, Montreal“As an eight-year-old watching the 1996 Olympics, it was all about Canada doing well. All that summer my brother and I could only talk about how awesome it would be to have Donovan Bailey as a friend – my brother, aged 5, decided to change his name to Donovan Bailey when he grew up so that he could be the fastest man in the world.” - Rebecca Murray, Ottawa
“I think for sheer marquee value of the event, it would have to be Donovan Bailey winning the 100-metre. … Beating the vaunted American sprint machine at their own game, on their home turf. A thrilling evening.”- Mary Gillmeister, Toronto
Simon Whitfield, 2000
“I think anything can happen,” said Simon Whitfield before his gold-medal winning performance at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. His race began unspectacularly: he was 28th after the 1.5-kilometre swim, was almost knocked out when a series or riders crashed on the 40-kilometre bike course but broke from the pack in the final 200 metres of the 10-kilometre run.
“Canada’s finest moment in the history of the Summer Olympics was when Simon Whitfield raced to an edge-of-your-seat, gold-medal finish in the inaugural triathlon event in Sydney in 2000. The image of Simon burying his nose in his bouquet of flowers, tears streaming down his face as the Canadian national anthem played is the epitome of Canadian pride.” - Natasha Estey, Toronto
“Simon Whitfield has been a role model and has created a legacy for young triathletes like Paula Findlay to pursue.” - Matt Mazurek, Smithers, B.C.
“I was in Grade 6 when the Sydney Olympics were on and was involved in track and field at the time. Watching the athletes swim, bike, then run at such a pace opened my eyes to how much training goes into becoming an Olympic athlete. To this day I am still hopeful to compete, and preferably finish, in an Ironman triathlon before my 25th birthday next year.” - Ian Clark, Aurora, Ont.
“Simon Whitfield had crashed in the cycling portion of the race, but managed to catch up again. He made it to second place and you could almost feel his exhaustion and exhilaration as he finally overtook the front-runner. It was absolutely amazing to watch.” - Meredith Clayden, Halifax