For a fun way of finding out what Canadians think, we set up a bracket-style tournament featuring 16 of Canada’s finest Olympic athletes — eight men on one side, eight women on the other. Each day, we’ve pitted two of these worthy candidates against each other and asked you to vote on who you’d like to see advance to the next round.
The response has been incredible. Wednesday’s men’s final between Simon Whitfield and Ian Millar drew 29,353 votes (trouncing the previous record of 18,078) as triathlon and equestrian fans across Canada (and even internationally) came out to support their favourite. And Whitfield needed nearly every one of them to squeeze out the win. His margin of victory? An unfathomably thin 11 votes.
All told, more than 104,000 votes have alread been cast in the tournament. And we’ve still got the final matchup (featuring the two most popular athletes) to go.
The athletes have gotten into the spirit, too. Whitfield, Catharine Pendrel, Adam van Koeverden, Karen Cockburn and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep were among the contestants who took to Twitter to share the link and ask for your support (or, in the case of the gracious van Koeverden, encourage you to vote for the other guy). Even marathon runner Reid Coolsaet, who wasn't in the bracket (sorry, Reid), tweeted daily about the latest developments.
Like any good single-elimination tournament, this one has produced its share of upsets — none more surprising than the three pulled off by Pendrel to win the women's division. The mountain bike world champion — seeded No. 8 and only in the tournament as a replacement after the sudden retirement of rower Tracy Cameron — knocked off top-seeded women’s soccer star Christine Sinclair in the first round before toppling Cockburn and multisport star Clara Hughes. What can we say, Catharine? We should have had you in the bracket from the beginning.
Now we’re down to the final two: Simon Whitfield vs. Catharine Pendrel. Voting is open until 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 3. We’ll announce the winner on the morning of Wednesday, July 4.
So, Whitfield or Pendrel? Which of these two terrific athletes is most worthy of carrying the Maple Leaf into London’s Olympic Stadium a month from now?
Your call, Canada.