Next week, a group of sports journalists from across the country will sit down together and try to solve the impossible: Who is Canada’s athlete of the year?
The Lou Marsh award is given annually to the country’s top athlete of the calendar year. A number of athletes are nominated before a smaller group of finalists are debated until the winner is chosen. Last year the award was shared between Alphonso Davies and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Just for fun, we created a bracket with 16 worthy choices for this year’s honour. It was a big year for Canadian athletes, especially with an Olympics where Canada set a record for medals won in a non-boycotted Summer Games, and there are a number of notable omissions on this list.
We want Star readers to tell us who they think is this year’s Canadian athlete of the year. This bracket is not at all connected to the actual Lou Marsh voting or nomination system.
Make your picks, share your thoughts in the conversation below, and check back here Tuesday evening for the next round of voting.
ROUND 1 — Polls close at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday
No. 1 Andre De Grasse vs. No. 8 Cyle Larin
Andre De Grasse
Following an incredible showing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where he went toe-to-toe against Usain Bolt, De Grasse came up with his own signature race in Tokyo, winning gold with a Canadian record in the men’s 200-metre race. De Grasse also won bronze in the men’s 100-metre and 4×100-metre relay races, bringing his overall Olympic medal haul to six.
With his two goals against Mexico on a recent snowy evening in Edmonton, Larin tied Dwayne De Rosario as the top Canadian men’s goal-scorer in history with 22. His performance throughout the first eight matches of World Cup CONCACAF qualifiers has been a big factor in why Canada sits at the top of the table at the halfway mark.
No. 2 Aurélie Rivard vs. No. 7 Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
At just 25 years old, Rivard competed in her third Paralympic Games in Tokyo and was a force in the water once again. She won an incredible five medals at these Games, including a pair of golds and one silver in para swimming, bringing her career total to 10 Paralympic medals.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The young Blue Jays star was the best hitter in baseball season, flirting with the Triple Crown at times en route to finishing as runner-up for American League MVP. The 22-year-old Guerrero also became the youngest player ever to win the Hank Aaron award as the AL’s top offensive player.
No. 3 Connor McDavid vs. No. 6 Stephanie Labbé
McDavid became only the second unanimous winner in the 97-year history of the Hart Trophy — the award given to the NHL MVP — placing first on all 100 ballots. McDavid led the league in a pandemic-shortened season where he seemingly scored at will, tallying 105 points in 56 games.
Labbé’s heroics in goal helped Canada win its historic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics as the ’keeper, calm and collected, stopped two of the last three shots she faced in the six-round shootout. She was rock solid in goal for Canada throughout the Olympic tournament, saving five of the 12 penalty kicks she faced in the final vs. Sweden and quarterfinal against Brazil.
No. 4 Kelsey Mitchell vs. No. 5 Marie-Philip Poulin
Mitchell capped off Canada’s Summer Olympics with a bang, capturing the second gold medal in Olympic track cycling in Canadian history. The stunning performance in the women’s sprint marked her first podium finish in her debut Games and gave Canada a record 24 medals in a non-boycotted Summer Olympics.
‘Captain Clutch’ put Canada back on top of the women’s hockey world earlier this year when she scored the golden goal in overtime against the rival Americans at the women’s world hockey championships. Remarkably, it was Poulin’s third gold medal-winning goal, following her heroics at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
No. 1 Maggie Mac Neil vs. No. 8 Alphonso Davies
Maggie Mac Neil
Already an award-winner as the best female athlete of Tokyo 2020, Mac Neil was the breakout star in the pool — and on social media — bringing home three medals in her Olympic debut, including gold in the women’s 100-metre butterfly. Mac Neil also won silver in the 4×100-metre freestyle relay and bronze in the 4×100-metre medley relay.
Last year’s Lou Marsh co-winner picked up right where he left off with his German club Bayern Munich, and then showcased his talents to his home nation. Davies has been the leader of the Canadian men’s national team’s remarkable run over the last few months as they look to qualify for next year’s World Cup for the first time since 1986.
No. 2 Damian Warner vs. No. 7 Penny Oleksiak
Is the world’s greatest athlete a Canadian? Warner vaulted himself into the forefront of that conversation at the Tokyo Games, taking home the gold medal and setting an Olympic record as he became just the fourth man to ever break the 9,000-point mark in the decathlon, which some have called the competition to determine “the world’s best athlete.”
The most decorated Canadian Olympian of all time is quite the title. Oleksiak put the world on notice, again, in Tokyo. The 21-year-old picked up where she left off in Rio, earning three more medals (silver and two bronze) in the pool and bringing her now-unmatched total to seven.
No. 3 Ashley Lawrence vs. No. 6 Kylie Masse
If you come across a major award in women’s soccer for this year, you’ll likely find Lawrence on the shortlist. After leading Canada to its historic Olympic gold medal, the PSG Féminine star was named as a finalist for the Ballon d’Or and BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year.
Masse improved on her single-medal showing in Rio by winning silver medals in both the women’s 100-metre and 200-metre backstroke events in Tokyo, narrowly finishing behind Australian star Kaylee McKeown. She was just the fourth woman to ever finish as runner-up in both backstroke events at the same Olympic Games, and added a bronze in the 4×100-metre medley for good measure.
No. 4 Leylah Fernandez vs. No. 5 Maude Charron
Fernandez fought her way to a remarkable U.S. Open final appearance, defeating three top-5 players, including former champ Naomi Osaka, before falling to fellow teenager Emma Raducanu. While she came up short in the end, the 19-year-old tennis sensation won her first WTA title and was recently nominated for most improved player.
Charron finished atop the podium in the women’s 64-kilogram competition in Tokyo to take home Canada’s first Olympic weightlifting medal since Christine Girard in 2012. Unlike Girard, Charron got her moment to celebrate, and her emotional reaction on her final lift captured the hearts of anyone who watched.
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