There have long been questions about how much attention Canada pays to individual Olympic athletes, and a poll from the Association for Canadian Studies suggests that many still favour the professionals. When asked to name two Canadian athletes whose Olympic performances stood out the most, the largest percentage of respondents (8 per cent) came up with "Sidney Crosby". The NHL star scored the gold-medal winning goal for Canada in men's hockey the 2010 Olympics, and that apparently stands out the most in Canadian minds. From this corner, though, while Crosby's performance was impressive, it's a little disappointing to see more focus on a well-compensated professional athlete who popped in for the Games than on any of the remarkable athletes who spend their lives training for the Olympics with little financial reward.
Maybe it's not all that surprising that Crosby topped this poll. Thanks to his consistent TV appearances during NHL broadcasts (when he isn't injured), he probably has far more name recognition than even famed Olympians like Clara Hughes, Simon Whitfield or Adam van Koeverden. Moreover, the men's hockey competition was obviously one of the most-watched events of the Vancouver Olympics, the Winter Olympics tend to evoke more fervent nationalism amongst Canadians, and Crosby did score the dramatic winner for Canada, so perhaps his Olympic feats were watched by more Canadians than anyone else. There's just so much else to talk about with Crosby, though, from his Stanley Cup win to his contract to his concussion issues. While his gold-medal goal stands out, it's questionable whether it really makes him primarily remembered as an Olympian.
Of course, if you prefer non-NHL Olympians, the rest of the list has plenty to offer. Diver Alexandre Despatie, who's entering his fourth Olympics and won silver medals in both Athens and Beijing, was noted by seven per cent of respondents, while Hughes (the only person ever to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games) was named by six per cent. Famed sprinter Donovan Bailey earned six per cent of the mentions as well, and disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson picked up the same total. It's also interesting how much the responses differed by age group and language; 24 per cent of francophone respondents mentioned Despatie, while 11 per cent of those over 65 named skier Nancy Greene Raine, who earned a gold medal in the giant slalom and a silver medal at the 1968 Grenoble Games. This is just what stands out to various Canadians, so it's more about personal preferences than anything universal. It just stands out from this corner that so many more remember part-time Olympian Crosby instead of the athletes who train for the Games year-round.