December 21, 2016 12:55 pm

Penny, Crosby, Rio Olympics: 10 big Canadian sport stories from 2016

WATCH ABOVE: Canada’s ‘Golden Penny’ named Canadian athlete of the year

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From Team Canada’s victory at the World Cup of Hockey to Penny Oleksiak’s performances in the Olympic pool in Rio, Canadian athletes turned in stellar performances throughout 2016.

In no particular order, here’s a look at 10 big Canadian sport stories from the past year:

ANDRE THE GIANT

Sprinter Andre De Grasse did more than just win three medals at the Rio Games.

He let the world know there might just be an heir apparent to Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the long-standing owner of the world’s fastest man title.

READ MORE: Andre De Grasse returns home, receives warm welcome from fans

De Grasse won silver in the 200 metres and bronze in the 100 and 4×100 relay in his Olympic debut.

The 22-year-old from Markham, Ont., could be hitting his peak at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Bolt, 30, is not planning to defend his titles at the next Games.

TITLE DEFENCE

Team Canada’s Brad Marchand (63) hoists the trophy following his team’s victory over Team Europe during World Cup of Hockey finals action in Toronto on Thursday, September 29, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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The World Cup of Hockey made its return in 2016 and Team Canada picked up where it left off when the tournament was last played in 2004.

The host side successfully defended its title last September by sweeping a best-of-three final against Team Europe.

READ MORE: Canada beats Europe 2-1 to win World Cup of Hockey 2016

Brad Marchand scored the winning goal in the final minute as Canada wrapped up the title with a 2-1 win at Air Canada Centre.

The victory extended Canada’s win streak in best-on-best competition to 16 games, dating back to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

PENNY POWER

WATCH ABOVE: Oleksiak has a breakout year

Penny Oleksiak picked the perfect time for a breakout performance.

The Toronto swimmer won four Olympic medals – including gold in the 100-metre freestyle – and carried the Maple Leaf into the closing ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

READ MORE: Olympic swimming star Penny Oleksiak named Canada’s athlete of the year

Oleksiak, at the tender age of 16, became Canada’s most decorated swimmer at a single Summer Games.

She had competed at the world junior championships just a year earlier.

BROOKE SHINES

Canada’s Brooke Henderson is seen on 18th in the women’s individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Golfer Brooke Henderson became a force on the LPGA Tour in 2015. She showed this year that it was not a fluke.

Henderson won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last June to become the first Canadian to win a women’s golf major since 1968.

READ MORE: Teen golf star Brooke Henderson has sights set on Olympics

The 19-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., also successfully defended her title at the Cambia Portland Classic.

Henderson posted 15 top-10 finishes on the season and finished the year ranked eighth in the world.

MIGHTY MILOS

WATCH ABOVE: Milos Raonic does Canada proud at Wimbledon

Tennis player Milos Raonic keeps setting new Canadian benchmarks in his pursuit of that elusive Grand Slam title.

Raonic defeated Swiss ace Roger Federer in a thrilling five-set semifinal at Wimbledon last July to become the first Canadian to reach a men’s singles final at a major.

READ MORE: Young Montreal tennis players inspired by Milos Raonic’s semi-finals Wimbledon win 

The 25-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) decision to local favourite Andy Murray in the final.

Raonic beat Federer last January in Brisbane to earn his eighth career ATP World Tour title. He closed the season at a career-high No. 3 in the world rankings.

FINAL FOUR

 

The Toronto Blue Jays ended a 22-year playoff drought in 2015. They didn’t wait nearly as long to make their return to baseball’s post-season.

Under new president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays made it to the American League Championship Series for the second year in a row.

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors fall short against LeBron James in 116-112 loss to Cavaliers

Toronto needed extra innings to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card game before sweeping the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series. The Blue Jays eventually fell to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS.

Cleveland and Toronto also reached the final four in the NBA. The Cavaliers defeated the Raptors in the Eastern Conference final and then beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA final.

SID SHOW

WATCH ABOVE: Sidney Crosby brings Stanley Cup parade to hometown for 2nd time

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby keeps finding new ways to top himself.

The 29-year-old forward from Cole Harbour, N.S., had a dream year in 2016.

Crosby helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup last spring and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs.

He also led Canada to gold at the World Cup of Hockey in September and was named tournament MVP.

STAMPED OUT

WATCH ABOVE: Ottawa Redblacks win cities first Grey Cup in 40 years

Everything looked to be going the Calgary Stampeders’ way entering Grey Cup week.

The West Division champions were riding high after a 15-2-1 regular season and comfortable victory in the West Final. But the final hurdle could not be cleared as the Ottawa Redblacks ended the Stamps’ dominant season in an overtime thriller.

READ MORE: Five things to watch for in the 2016 Grey Cup

Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris threw for 461 yards and earned MVP honours. Ernest Jackson’s 18-yard touchdown catch was the difference.

Toronto’s BMO Field was home to another championship game less than two weeks later. The Seattle Sounders defeated Toronto FC 5-4 on penalty kicks.

RIO HARDWARE

WATCH ABOVE: Women dominating for Canada at Rio Olympics

The Canadian Olympic Committee’s goal at the start of the Summer Olympics was a top-12 finish in the medal standings.

Thanks to a 22-medal effort from Canadian athletes, it was mission accomplished.

READ MORE: Penny Oleksiak embraces star status after picking up 4 medals

Canada was 10th in the overall medal count after winning four gold medals, three silvers and 15 bronze medals.

Trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, swimmer Penny Oleksiak, high jumper Derek Drouin and wrestler Erica Wiebe won gold.

BARBER STRUGGLES

Canada’s Shawn Barber competes in the men’s pole vault final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 15, 2016.

Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Many athletics fans were left scratching their heads when pole vaulter Shawn Barber struggled mightily at the Rio Games.

Big things were expected for the reigning world champ from Toronto, who had trouble in the qualifying round and ended up settling for a 10th-place finish.

READ MORE: Canadian pole vaulter Shawn Barber tested positive for cocaine before Rio Olympics

It was revealed nearly two months later that Barber was only cleared to compete a few days before the Games after testing positive for trace amounts of cocaine.

Barber was permitted to compete in Rio after it was determined he unknowingly ingested the banned substance during a tryst with a woman in July.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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