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Rick Zamperin: Reflecting on inspiring athletes on this Canada Day

National Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins arrives for an induction ceremony on July 24, 2016, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
National Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins arrives for an induction ceremony on July 24, 2016, in Cooperstown, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mike Groll

Happy Canada Day! What better way to mark our fabulous country’s birthday than by giving a big shout out to some of my favourite Canadian athletes?

Growing up in the GTA, the first athlete that I idolized was Rick Vaive, the prolific goal scorer for the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose back-to-back 50-goal seasons in the early-80’s still remain a franchise record.

Another favourite of mine during my younger years was Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, who I was introduced to while I wasted away many good summer days playing the Earl Weaver baseball video game on my old Epson PC.

Free admission to Ontario parks for Canada Day
Free admission to Ontario parks for Canada Day

Of course, Terry Fox and Rick Hansen are also on my list of favourite Canadian athletes, two individuals who inspired millions — and raised millions of dollars — through their athletic exploits.

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Manon Rheaume blew me away when the Quebec native became the first female hockey player to compete against men at the pro level. She was a true trailblazer that protected the net as fiercely as any goalie in the National Hockey League today.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker Paul Osbaldiston is also on my list, as are Canadian soccer superstar Christine Sinclair and figure skaters Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko.

Come to think of it, Canada has — and continues to produce — some of the world’s top athletes in so many sports.

And the best part about their story is they never forgot where they came from and the country they represent.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.