Team Canada athletes often take us on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
With the holiday season setting in, we wanted to highlight the actions of Canadian athletes who gave us the feels off the field of play this year. After all, there’s nothing like some good heartfelt stories to keep us warm in the winter.
Kim Boutin – Short Track Speed Skating
Our actions can have a huge impact. Boutin learned this all too well when she found herself in a tsunami of cyber-bullying following her first race at PyeongChang 2018, when she was upgraded from fourth place to the bronze medal after South Korean skater Choi Min-Jeong was disqualified for making contact early in the race. The partisan South Korean supporters quickly turned to social media to express their fury, some going as far as sending death threats to Boutin.
What could have crushed Boutin’s concentration and confidence instead fueled the Canadian skater, who soon became an activist against all forms of bullying and a role model for children. When she won bronze in the 1500m, she ended up sharing the podium with gold medallist Choi. They took the moment to celebrate friendship in sport at the medal ceremony, the photo of which is now iconic. Her story is part of the “The Pursue” series within the Canadian Olympic School Program.
Andre De Grasse – Athletics
Sprinters are often seen as the rock stars of athletics. Three-time Olympic medallist De Grasse is obviously part of that elite club, but did you know that aside from his track fame, De Grasse is also the head of his own foundation?
Launched in May 2018, the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation aims to inspire and equip kids through sport and education to reach their full potential. In parallel, the 24-year-old has also established the Andre De Grasse Future Champions Fund, which encourages students to use competitive sport as a platform to develop their academic potential and become healthy citizens who get involved in their community. While his mother helps run the Foundation, De Grasse is directly involved by offering track clinics during his off season.
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Andre had a amazing time at @sickkidstoronto He got to hang out with the kids and play Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch and answer questions while playing Jenga. In addition Andre is thrilled to give a generous donation of 25,000 to the SickKids Caribbean Initiative whose aim is to help improve the treatment and care of children living with cancer and blood disorders across the Caribbean
Philippe Marquis – Freestyle Skiing
No ACL, no problem. That was Marquis’ mantra at PyeongChang 2018 where he printed the words “Keep Fighting” on his gloves to keep him motivated after he suffered a major knee injury just a month before the Olympic Games. In a remarkable show, Marquis made it to the men’s moguls final in PyeongChang, but his endearing personality also made him a great fit to participate in a Team Canada Champion Chats session from Canada Olympic House. He and some fellow Olympians conducted a videoconference workshop with students across Canada.
This one-of-a-kind experience had a snowball effect on the Olympian who later played a role in “The Pursue” series for the Canadian Olympic School Program and gave multiple presentations as an ambassador for Right to Play. Marquis is also a very active new member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission and participated in the grand opening of the Canadian Olympic Experience in Montreal.
Brigette Lacquette – Ice Hockey
Lacquette knows how to seize an opportunity when it arrives. With her nomination to the PyeongChang 2018 team, Lacquette became the first First Nations women’s hockey player to wear Canada’s colours at the Olympic Games. She is aware that this makes her a role model for young First Nations athletes, especially girls who play hockey, and it’s a role she is happy to take on.
Upon her return from the Games with a silver medal around her neck, Lacquette gave presentations and hockey clinics across the country to inspire First Nations youth to dream big and persevere, despite the road blocks they might be facing.
Chandra Crawford – Cross-Country Skiing
While some athletes are happy to be recognized purely for the medals they win, others go above and beyond off the field of play. Crawford is in the latter category. In 2018, she was awarded the IOC’s Women and Sport Award for the Americas region in recognition of her efforts to empower girls through sport via the organization she founded, Fast and Female.
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Raise your hand if you’re ready to do even more to engage your female athletes as leaders, inspire the next generation of girls to stick with sports, and give girls the role models and life skills they need to succeed in any endeavour!@fastandfemale Champ Chats events are a great option for sports clubs and national teams alike. Today I got the opportunity to present to 187 @teamcanada national and provincial sport system leaders about how they can tackle the social belonging issues causing girls to leave sport in their teens and how Fast and Female can work with them to improve the situation and help them host a champ chat for their members. I also got to thank the Canadian Olympic Committee for nominating me for my IOC women & sport award. The Canadian Olympic Committee is so amazing!!
The Turin 2006 Olympic champion wants to change the statistics that girls are six times more likely to quit sport than boys when they grow up. Fast and Female aims to inspire young girls to stay active by playing sports throughout their teenage years and to maintain their healthy athletic habits as adults.
Eric Radford – Figure Skating
At PyeongChang 2018, Radford became the first openly gay man to be crowned Olympic champion, standing atop the podium with the victorious Canadian figure skating team. In recent years, the pairs skater has been deeply involved in the LGBTQ+ community and with the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #OneTeam initiative. It is on this platform that he shared his story and the importance of allies to members of the LGBTQ+ community in sport.
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If somebody had told me I would walk in a pride walk in Red Lake when I was younger I would never have believed them. To see the progress made in my hometown and especially the attitude of the youth evolving towards the LGBT community makes me so #happy and #proud. Happy Red Lake Pride everybody!! #pridemonth #hometown #hometownpride #redlake #progress #unity #diversity #acceptance #together #loveislove #beyourself #lgbt #👬 #🏳️🌈
Since retiring from competitive skating after PyeongChang 2018, Radford has become even more involved in the LGBTQ+ movement, walking in pride parades in Toronto, Montreal, Madrid and his hometown of Red Lake, as well serving as the spokesperson for Team Canada #BeYou campaign.
Ariane Fortin – Boxing
After competing at Rio 2016, Fortin worked on a project that was close to her heart: making boxing more accessible to youth while ending the popular belief that boxing is a violent sport. That’s how, with the collaboration of fellow physical education teachers, Box’Éduc was created. Box’Éduc is a program that teaches elementary and high school-aged children the basics of boxing during their PE classes.
Through the various exercises found in the program, students will discover their fighting spirit and value courage at the expense of aggression.
Mark Tewksbury – Swimming
The Olympic gold medallist from Barcelona 1992 knows what it feels to be different. Even though he’s been openly gay for 20 years, Tewksbury experienced his greatest sporting achievements while in the closet. Since retiring from competitive swimming, Tewksbury has been committed to sharing his life experiences and their lessons through conferences and books around the globe. But 2018 has been truly remarkable.
For his work over the years with Special Olympics Canada, of which he’s now the chairs and president, the swimming sensation received the AthletesCAN Social Responsibility Award. The first Inclusion Day held in July was a success, raising more than $121,000 for the movement. Tewksbury thus proves that people’s differences, when united, can go a long way.
These Olympians are just a small sampling of Canadian athletes’ great moments off the field of play in 2018. Which athletes have stood out for you for their involvement and activism beyond their sport?