A comeback story can make for a great sports movie. But for some Team Canada athletes, it’s more fact than fiction.
Whether it was a major illness, an injury no one thought they would come back from, or just choosing to take a step back from competition for a while, these athletes came out the other side stronger than ever – and their performances proved that.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Figure Skating)
As much as we would love Canada’s sweethearts to be together forever, that wasn’t always the case. After their double silver at Sochi 2014, the duo took a two-year break from competition. In that time, they realized they had some unfinished business. In their third and final Olympic appearance at PyeongChang 2018, we watched them win double gold and become the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Such an amazing comeback, right?
Silken Laumann (Rowing)
In just 10 weeks, Laumann went from being told her rowing career might be over to standing on the podium at Barcelona 1992. After suffering a shattered right leg in an on-water crash with a much larger boat, Laumann underwent five surgeries and competed at the Games bandaged up but raring to row. The reigning world champion won single sculls bronze for a comeback story like no other.
Harry Jerome (Athletics)
Three-time Olympian Jerome set seven world records in his career but also went through his share of hurdles. In his Olympic debut at Rome 1960, Jerome suffered a torn hamstring during his 100m semifinal. Unable to finish the race, he was labelled a “quitter” and was said to have cracked under pressure. Then, at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Jerome tore his whole left quadriceps that required surgery to repair it. While many would have hung up their shoes and call it career, Jerome made it to Tokyo 1964. After his two major injuries, making the Games was a feat in itself – but Jerome was out to silence his critics. Not only did he win the 100m semifinal, he won bronze, earning him the respect he deserved as one of the world’s fastest men.
Mark McMorris (Snowboard)
After his horrific backcountry snowboarding accident in 2017, which resulted in a ruptured spleen, shattered pelvis and collapsed lung, McMorris’ future was uncertain. But his brush with the near-death accident didn’t stop him. Not only did he make the PyeongChang 2018 team, but he would stand up on the podium, winning a bronze in slopestyle for a comeback nothing short of spectacular.
Related: Mark McMorris – Be Olympic
Max Parrot (Snowboard)
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I’ve been working really hard the past weeks to get back in shape in time for @xgames!! Our practice starts later today and I can’t wait to hit the jump and be part of the contest! 2 months ago I was getting chemo at the hospital and it’s still feel like yesterday! I’ll do my best of course but no matter what the results will be, being here today on my board means so much to me! 🙏🏻
Standing alongside McMorris on the podium in PyeongChang was Parrot, who captured slopestyle silver. But a year later, Parrot would face the toughest nine months we could ever imagine. The Olympic medallist announced he had cancer and went through treatment which he said taxed his body like nothing else. Despite his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphona and six months of chemotherapy, Parrot made the decision to compete at X Games in Oslo, just two months after his treatments finished. If that’s not impressive enough, Parrot won the big air event. Now in remission, Parrot is back full force. This comeback is truly inspirational, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Roseline Filion (Diving)
A household name in diving, Roseline Filion made her mark with partner Meaghan Benfeito at London 2012 when they won 10m synchro bronze. Just two months before the FINA World Cup (and final Olympic qualifier) would take place in February 2016, Filion broke her right ankle. Unable to put any pressure on her foot, her training was disrupted. But even without full mobility, she qualified her individual spot for Rio 2016. Think her comeback stopped there? At the Olympic Games, Filion and Benfeito won their second straight bronze. Her story shows the determination Team Canada athletes have.
Denny Morrison (Long Track Speed Skating)
Just a year after he won a silver and bronze at Sochi 2014, Morrison was in a motorcycle crash that nearly killed him. The accident left him with a broken femur, torn ACL and internal bruising. After his recovery he had another medical scare, suffering a stroke while mountain biking in April 2016. Despite the odds working against him, Morrison was back training just months later. When he marched into the Opening Ceremony at PyeongChang 2018, he did so alongside wife Josie, also a speed skater and Morrison’s “guardian angel” for recognizing the signs of stroke and getting him the necessary help. It’s a story that is so moving to all of us.
Georgia Simmerling (Track Cycling/Ski Cross)
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Thank you thank you @teamcanada for the 🇨🇦 team swag and the lovely note!☺️ Excited to get this jello knee taken care of and know that every day, as painful as some may be, is a day of healing and closer to my full recovery. This gives me strength. . . Now LETS GO CANADA!🙌🙌🙌
It’s hard to make the Olympic team, we all know that, but Simmerling upped the level of difficulty, making her comeback remarkable. The summer and winter Olympian stopped at nothing to earn her spot on the Tokyo 2020 team in track cycling after missing the PyeongChang 2018 team. Just weeks before the Winter Games were to begin, Simmerling broke both her legs in a ski cross accident at a World Cup, tearing nearly all the ligaments in her left knee. Despite the heart-breaking injury, Simmerling hopped back on the bike to make Tokyo 2020 her fourth Olympic appearance.
Related: Simmerling qualifies for Tokyo 2020
Andre De Grasse (Athletics)
De Grasse became a household name after his triple medal performance at Rio 2016. A year after the picture perfect moment with Usain Bolt in the 200m semifinal, the world was ready to see the two battle it out again. Fans anticipated the head-to-head race at 2017 World Championships – but the face-off never happened. De Grasse suffered a hamstring injury just days before and could not compete. Injuries also limited his 2018 season, but despite his setbacks, De Grasse came roaring back in 2019. He won medals in both the 100m and 200m at the worlds, making him the only man to double podium in both sprint events. Talk about making up for lost time.
Christa Deguchi (Judo)
The new Canadian is aiming to make her Olympic debut in the land of her birth. Before making history in 2019 as Canada’s first ever world champion in judo, Deguchi had to make the tough decision to sit out of competition for three years – a requirement from the International Judo Federation when changing countries. Deguchi, who previously competed for Japan, made the switch to represent Canada thanks to her father’s Canadian roots. Representing Canada in front of a hometown crowd in Tokyo would be the best of both worlds.
Emily Overholt (Swimming)
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Today was a very special day. I’m so incredibly honoured and grateful to be back on the National Team after some very tough times in the last two years. I am so lucky to have an amazing group of people around me who never stopped believing in me, and without them this would not have been possible! I’m happy to be back and excited for what’s to come!!!!
Overholt made her first Olympic Games at Rio 2016, winning bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay. But afterwards, Overholt felt like she hadn’t performed the way she wanted to and would later reveal her mental health deteriorated. In the fall of 2016, Overholt was hospitalized for two months and stepped away from swimming for over a year to focus on healing. She made it back on to the national team in 2018, an emotional moment she wasn’t sure would ever happen, as she eyes qualifying for Team Canada again for Tokyo 2020.