Still leading the all-time medals tables for hockey, curling, and freestyle skating at the Winter Olympic Games, Canada’s contribution of athletes to the world of sports goes far beyond what’s contested on ice. 

Canadian athletes have dominated on the court, in the octagon, and even set still-unbeaten records on the soccer pitch and across the Olympics. 

While being far from a definitive list of all of the deserving greatest Canadian athletes of all time, this page goes to many of the country’s record holders and the greats of their individual sports. 

Clara Hughes (Cycling and Speed Skating)

Clara Hughes boasts global acclaim by becoming the only athlete to win multiple medals at both the Summer Olympic Games and the Winter Olympic Games. 

In the Summer Games, the cyclist collected two bronze medals during Atlanta 1996 in the road race and time trial, then headed off to the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics to land the gold in the 5000m and silver in team pursuit in speed skating. 

In 2002 and 2010, the multi-sport athlete also brought home two bronze medals in the 5000m speed skating events.

On top of her Olympic success, Hughes also won gold at the Pan American Championships, Commonwealth Games, and World Single Distance Championships. 

Wayne Gretzky (Hockey)

Few athletes in the history of sports earn the moniker of “the Great One” from critics and see it continue to stick without question or debate for decades onwards: Wayne Gretzky is one of those few exceptions.

In his time on the ice, Gretzky won three gold medals for Canada, scored 2,857 points in 1,487 NHL games, 382 points in 208 playoff games, boasts some 55 combined NHL records – many of which seem impossible to beat – and four Stanley Cup triumphs.

Among Canadians, Gretzky’s time in the NHL will be most fondly remembered from 1979 to 1988, during which, he won all of his Stanley Cups for the Edmonton Oilers.

Now, his mantle has passed to another generational talent, Connor McDavid, who’s out at +1500 in the betting to be the captain to hoist the Cup this season.

Georges St-Pierre (Mixed Martial Arts)

The phrase gets thrown around a lot these days, but Georges St-Pierre was genuinely the most feared man in the UFC throughout the 00s. 

Known as “Rush” in the octagon, St-Pierre was an ungodly mix of speed, athleticism, and raw power, with the welterweight going down in the records as the best of his division in the history of the sport for many. 

In MMA circles, losses are all but expected during a long career, and while GSP walked away from the octagon 26-2, he avenged both of those losses and held the record for the most title bout triumphs when he retired.

Terry Fox (Distance Runner)

In 1980, Terry Fox embarked on the incredible feat of trying to run from one side of Canada to the other on one leg, which he lost to cancer. 

The aim was to raise awareness and money for cancer research, and while his 143 days and 5,373km didn’t get Fox to the finish line, there’s now an annual Terry Fox Run that draws millions of participants and donations. 

Penny Oleksiak (Swimming)

Still only 22-years-old, Penny Oleksiak is already Canada’s leading medal-winner with seven in total for Swimming. Across the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games, Oleksiak brought back the gold, three silvers, and three bronze medals.

At the 2016 Games in Rio, the Toronto native burst onto the scene by becoming the youngest Canadian athlete to win a gold medal (100m freestyle).

Christine Sinclair (Soccer)

Few players in the history of soccer can stand among the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (118), Lionel Messi (98), and Ali Daei (109) for international goals, but Christine Sinclair of Canada eclipses them all – and by quite a margin.

At the time of writing, Sinclair was already on 190 goals from 319 appearances for Canada’s national team, and at 39-years-old, the team captain still has some games to go to try to get to an incredible 200 goals.

Cindy Klassen (Speed Skating)

Setting the bar as the only Canadian athlete to land five medals during a single Games, Cindy Klassen took Turin 2006 by storm after netting a bronze in 2002.

In the Winter Games, the Winnipeg-born speed skater won bronze in the 3000m and 5000m, silver in the 100m and team pursuit, and topped it all off with her 1500m gold medal triumph.

Donovan Bailey (Sprinter)

At the 1996 Olympic Games, Donovan Bailey blazed to the gold medal that commands the most attention every four years – the 100m sprint. 

With a time of 9.84, the Canadian set the world record for the 100m, hit the fastest recorded speed for a human at 12.10 metres per second, and then he also helped to win the gold medal in the men’s 4x100m relay. 

Steve Nash (Basketball)

Over 18 seasons in the NBA, the 6’3’’ Steve Nash won the MVP award twice and was named to the All-Star team eight times, putting up averages of 14.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game in the prestigious league.

Unfortunately, Nash’s first stint in NBA coaching was mired by player-driven controversy and a mismatch of underachieving or injured star players. 

Still, after sacking Nash near the start of the season, the Brooklyn Nets are now out at +10000 to win the NBA Championship and aren’t always the favourites in the live betting online

Charles Hamelin (Speed Skater)

On par with Carolina Ouellette (hockey) for gold medals with four, Charles Hamelin tops the gold medals column for Canada and sits second overall with six in total.

At five consecutive Olympic Games, Hamelin collected four gold medals, one silver, and one bronze, with Beijing 2022 proving to be his final skate and his fourth gold medal, which came in the 5000m relay event.

A longer list would have contained several other deserving Canadians, but these names stand out as the greatest Canadian athletes of all time.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 13th February 2023

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.