We wondered what a list of Toronto’s finest athletes currently active in their respective sports would look like. So here, ranked completely subjectively, are our picks. Feel free to argue.
10. Matt Stajan (Hockey, Toronto Maple Leafs) — Stajan was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft with the 57th overall selection. In his first game with the blue and white, he netted his first NHL goal on his very first shot against the Ottawa Senators. Played for such minor organizations as The Toronto Red Wings and Mississauga Senators. Stajan was a member of Team Canada in 2003 World Junior Championships.
9. Gillian Apps (Hockey, Team Canada) — In her senior year at Dartmouth College (’06), Apps was named Second Team All-American, the ECAC Player of the Year, the New England Hockey Writers MVP and to the ECAC First All-Star Team. In 2008, she helped the Brampton Canadette-Thunder win the 2008 CWHL championship. Gillian has been a member of Canada’s National Women’s Team since 2001, winning Olympic gold in 2006 in Turin, Italy. Her father, Syl Jr., played 727 games in the NHL from 1970 through 1980, while her grandfather, Syl, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 after playing from 1936 through 1948 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
8. Perdita Felicien (Track and Field, 100-metre hurdles) — Recognized as one of this country’s top track athletes, Felicien earned All-American honours in her first year competing at the University of Illinois by setting the record for fastest time by a freshman in NCAA history for the 100-metre hurdles. At the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Felicien became Canada’s first female world gold medalist. That same year, she was named Canada’s female Athlete of the Year — the first track athlete to capture that honour in 25 years.
7. Russell Martin (Baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers) — Originally a third baseman before switching to catcher, Martin was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round in 2002. He was born in East York, but grew up in Chelsea, Quebec, and lived in Paris, France from ages eight to 10. In 2007, Martin became the first Canadian-born catcher to start the All-Star Game, and at the end of that season was awarded the National League Gold Glove Award and the Silver Slugger award. If you happen to run into Martin on the streets of Toronto, don’t ask for his entire John Hancock — Martin’s full name is Russell Nathan Jeanson Coltrane Martin, Jr.
6. Julian de Guzman (Soccer, Toronto FC) — Signed with Toronto FC in early September, making him the newest designated player in the MLS. Previously, he played for Deportivo de La Coruña in the First Division of Spain’s La Liga, becoming the first Canadian to play in that league. The defensive midfielder has been a regular with the Canadian national team, and in Canada’s opening match of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Julian scored twice to help defeat Costa Rica 2-1. After the competition, de Guzman was named tournament MVP.
5. Dwayne De Rosario (Soccer, Toronto FC) — Born in Scarborough, De Rosario is the only player ever to receive MLS Goal of the Year honours in two consecutive years (2004 and 2005). DeRo also won the male Canadian Player of the Year award three consecutive times (’05, ’06 and ’07) and was named MLS Cup MVP in both 2001 and 2007, the first player ever to win that award twice. In 325 career matches, De Rosario has scored 99 goals and assisted on 68. His cousin is Canadian Olympic hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
4. Patrick Chan (Figure Skating, Men’s Singles) — Born in the nation’s capital on New Year’s Eve in 1990, Chan now attends École secondaire Étienne-Brûlé, a French language school in North York. He is arguably the most dominant male figure skater in the world at the present, while still 19. Chan is the 2009 Four Continents champion, the 2009 world silver medalist, the 2007 world junior silver medalist, as well as the 2008 and 2009 Canadian champion. He is currently attempting to perfect the triple Axel and looking to put a quadruple toe loop into his routine before Vancouver.
3. Daniel Nestor (Tennis, Men’s Doubles) — Currently the top ranked doubles player in the world, on July 4, 2009, Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjić repeated as champions at Wimbledon. Born in Yugoslavia, Nestor moved in 1976 to Canada with his parents. He competed in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics, winning gold at the 2000 Sydney Games. On July 5, 2006, Nestor participated in one of the longest matches in Wimbledon history, lasting six hours and nine minutes. He has a 714-275 record as a doubles player, good for 62 titles. In his combined singles and doubles career, he has made a cool $8.04-million US.
2. Adam van Koeverden (Sprint Kayaker, K-1 1000-metres; K-1 500-metres) — Born in Toronto, but now residing in Oakville, van Koeverden was Canada’s flag bearer for the 2008 Olympics. At those games, he won silver in the K-1 500 metres, his third Olympic medal. In 2004, he became both the Olympic champion in the K-1 500 metres and took home a bronze medal in the K-1 1000 — the first time Canada has won a medal in either event, and the first Canadian athlete to win more than one medal at a Summer Olympic Games since sprinter Donovan Bailey and cyclist Clara Hughes in 1996. In 2004, van Koeverden won the Lou Marsh Award for Male Athlete of the Year.
1. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (Track and Field, 100-metre hurdles) – Lopes-Schliep won both a gold medal in the 100-metre hurdles to go along with a bronze in the 100 metres at the 2008 Canadian Track and Field Championships. In early September 2009, she posted a career-best time of 12.49 seconds in wet and chilly conditions en route to a silver medal in the 100-metre hurdles at the Van Damme Memorial. Represented Canada in the 100m hurdles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the first Canadian to win a medal in athletics at the Summer Olympics since 1996. It was also the first medal for a Canadian woman in Olympic track and field since 1992.
Tell me what you think!