Canada has an incredibly rich athletic history, in both male and female sports.
While it’s easy to rattle off some of the men’s names (Gretzky, Nash, Fox) that have helped build this proud athletic heritage, what Canadian women have done in sports is no less (and sometimes even more) impressive and deserving of recognition. But among a long list, who are the top five overall active (or recently active) accomplished Canadian sportswomen?
That’s exactly what we tried to answer below–and so that this list was not hockey-dominated, we decided to choose just one athlete from each sport:
Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, and now actually has more registered players in the country than ice hockey. That progress has been reflected in the recent success of the Canadian women’s national soccer team under the leadership of captain Christine Sinclair.
Christine Sinclair is Canadian women’s soccer’s all-time leading scorer
In her 15 years with the lady Canucks, the BC-native has led her team to Olympic bronze, CONCACAF Gold Cup gold, and an historic fourth-place finish at the 2003 World Cup. Her 162 international goals make her Canada’s all-time leader (men and women) and second all-time in the world (among women) behind only the United States’ Abby Wambach.
In August at Rio, Lesley Thompson-Willie will be competing in her eighth Olympic Games, tying an all-time record for appearances by a woman. The storied coxswain for Canada’s rowing eights team, Thompson-Willie has won Olympic medals on five different occasions (1G, 3S, 1B) and was the first Canadian to ever win medals at five different Games.
After Rio, no woman will have made more Olympic appearances than coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie
A member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame for over 20 years now, a silver medal in Rio would tie her first all-time among Canadians (with speed skater Cindy Klassen and cyclist/speed skater Clara Hughes) as the only Canucks to win six.
Clara Hughes is in exclusive company, and not just among female Canadian athletes. One of only five athletes ever to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, Hughes is also the only athlete ever to win multiple medals at both. The first were two bronzes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the cycling road race and time trial events. The aforementioned feats were then accomplished with a bronze in 5000m speed skating at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake and then two more medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Caption: Clara Hughes is just one of five athletes to medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics
Hughes’ medal count ties her with fellow speed skater Cindy Klassen for the most Olympic medals all-time with six. A prolific philanthropist, she can also lay claim to a combined five Pan American Games medals and seven World Championship medals in her two sports.
The Canadian women’s hockey team has long dominated the sport internationally, and key to those dominating performances for over two decades now is Hayley Wickenheiser. Regarded by many as the greatest female ice hockey player in the world, the Saskatchewanian has represented her country at five Winter Olympics, winning more golds than any other Canadian Olympian ever with four.
Five-time Olympic medalist Hayley Wickenheiser is considered the world’s greatest female hockey player
The first woman to play full-time professional hockey as a non-goalie, Hayley also has 13 IIHF World Women’s Championship medals in her trophy case, over half of them golds. On top of her hockey achievements, she also was part of Canada’s softball team at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Canada has a number of multi-talented female poker players, who have all evolved from online gaming first. However even with all the practice, none of them have performed as consistently over the years as Isabelle Mercier. While working on her master’s degree in Paris, Isabelle managed the poker room at the famed Aviation Club de France and around that time placed second in Amsterdam’s Masters Classic, netting $53,499.
Isabelle Mercier’s gave up a career in law for one in high-stakes poker
Her accomplishments and winnings have come steadily since then, including seven money finishes at the World Series of Poker and four on the World Poker Tour. Her live tournament winnings exceed $1.2 million and in 2009 she beat out a number of poker greats (including fellow Canadian Daniel Negreanu) to win PokerStars’ Ante Up for Africa charity tournament.