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Speed Skating, eh? Klassen deserves to top Twins' Morneau, and Suns' Nash for Canadian athlete of the year

by Daniel Smajovits (writer), , January 07, 2007

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2006 saw Canadian athletes achieve unprecedented feats in a variety of sports, however, only Speed-Skating's Cindy Klassen, Baseball's Justin Morneau, and Basketball's Steve Nash deserve consideration

2006 saw Canadian athletes achieve unprecedented feats in a variety of sports, however, only Speed-Skating's Cindy Klassen, Baseball's Justin Morneau, and Basketball's Steve Nash deserve consideration to be considered Canada's best, and after further analysis, Cindy Klassen triumphs over her competition to skate away with the honor.

Cindy Klassen made her pitch for the award on the world's grandest stage. She was not flashy and did not garner much attention outside Canadian media outlets, and in just over two weeks, her efforts were all but forgotten. Yet, her dominance in Turin, Italy was the story of the Twentieth Winter Olympiad. The one gold, two silver and two bronze medals led all athletes at the games, set a new Canadian record, and tied an Olympic record.

Unfortunately for both Nash and Morneau, who play for professional North American teams, they were doomed from the onset if their goal was to capture the award.

Since 1976, only Wayne Gretzky in 1982 and Larry Walker in 1998 were the only non-Olympic athletes to be awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy and recognized as Canadian athlete of the year when pitted against athletes who competed in a Summer or Winter Olympics.

The case made by Justin Morneau for the distinction is the strongest of any non-Olympic Canadian athlete as he not only put up the individual statistics, but led his team as well. Although his season began on a low note, with a .236 batting average that resulted in his benching, he was able to improve his game and inspire his club to qualify for the playoffs and capture a division championship on the season's final day.

In 157 games, Morneau batted in 130 runs on 190 hits, which included 34 home runs, 27 doubles and one triple as he finished with a .321 batting average. His numbers played a pivotal role in the Minnesota Twins' playoff push, and earned him the league's Most Valuable Player award. With that distinction, he became only the second Canadian to win the award, following Larry Walker in 1997.

Unlike Morneau, Steve Nash had already tasted success as he was both the National Basketball Association's (NBA) MVP in 2005 and Canada's athlete of the year. However, his follow up effort separated Nash into a class reserved for the NBA's elite. His second straight MVP award allowed him to join the ranks of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson amongst 6 others to win the award in back to back seasons.

The honor solidified Nash's place in various Hall of Fames, however, he should fall well behind Klassen and Morneau for the Canadian honor as a result of his team's failure. The Phoenix Suns came into the season as a powerhouse and a heavy favorite; yet, they underachieved as they failed to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight season.

The two professionals were also assisted by teammates and although they won individual awards, they were aided and hurt by the play of those around them. Additionally, athletes of their caliber are expected to post numbers and usually are monetarily compensated for their efforts.

Both Morneau and Nash can be compared by their statistics and their team's results as their sports are similar, however, for Klassen, her efforts were made in an almost entirely individual sport on the toughest of stages amongst the best athletes in the world.

Klassen, an amateur athlete in a sport where multi-million dollar contracts are a figment of one's imagination captured four medals as an individual and a fifth in a team competition. She showed a consistent effort with the pressure and high expectations of a nation on her shoulders, and as a result, Cindy Klassen is the Canadian athlete of the year for 2006.



About the Writer

Daniel Smajovits is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Speed Skating, eh? Klassen deserves to top Twins' Morneau, and Suns' Nash for Canadian athlete of the year

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By Josh Marks on January 08, 2007 at 02:27 am
Interesting article. I didn't know Cindy Klassen set those records at the Olympic games. I am always impressed by Steve Nash's performance, considering basketball doesn't have the popularity it does here in the States. I know Canada exports great comedians and hockey players, but you Canucks are rare on the hard court so kudos to Nash. Does Canada have something like the ESPYs, honoring the top athletes of the year?
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