Who is Canada’s greatest Olympian?

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Canada is one of few nations with more gold medals in the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics, though its greatest Olympian may be a dual Summer/Winter Olympian. A look at some of its legends …

Charles Hamelin
Short Track Speed Skating
Three Olympic gold medals

Canada’s most decorated male Winter Olympian with five medals (his three golds and one silver break a tie with fellow short trackers Marc Gagnon and François-Louis Tremblay, who didn’t have the individual Olympic success that Hamelin boasts). Hamelin has been competing in the world championships since 2004 and the Olympics since 2006, still going as of last season. He owns multiple world titles at each distance, and Olympic golds in three different events (one relay). Hamelin’s peak occurred on Feb. 26, 2010, when he earned Olympic 500m and 5000m relay titles in the same hour, at home in Vancouver.

Kaillie Humphries
Bobsled
Two Olympic gold medals

Largely considered the greatest female bobsledder in history. Humphries is an American now, but, as a Canadian, became the first female driver to win multiple Olympic titles in 2010 and 2014, then tacked on a bronze in 2018. She also won two world titles and four World Cup season titles, trailing only to German Sandra Kiriasis (who won one Olympic title). This all came after Humphries abandoned an Alpine skiing career at age 16 due to injuries, then failed to make the 2006 Olympic team as a brakewoman.

Kathleen Heddle/Marnie McBean
Rowing
Three Olympic gold medals

Olympic champions in three different events. Olympic medalists in four different events. The first women to earn multiple rowing golds at a single Olympics. At the turn of the millennium, McBean was the only woman to earn a medal in all six open-weight classes at a world championships or Olympics. Heddle began rowing at 18 and retired between their first and second Olympics (1992 and 1996), lured back by McBean. McBean did more at worlds (eight medals, three titles), but a back injury kept her out of the 2000 Sydney Games after Heddle retired for good.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir
Figure Skating
Three Olympic gold medals

Most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history, thanks in part to the addition of the team event. In 2010, Virtue and Moir became the youngest Olympic ice dance champions at 20 and 22, after first pairing in elementary school in Ontario. They dropped to silver in Sochi, then emerged from a two-year break to ascend back to the top of ice dance. Virtue and Moir earned double gold in PyeongChang, their final competition. They had such chemistry on the ice, such a magnetic romanticism, that many refused to believe they weren’t a couple off of it.

Hayley Wickenheiser
Hockey, Softball
Four Olympic gold medals

Arguably the greatest female hockey player in history. Wickenheiser competed in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments — 1998 through 2014 — among a 23-year span with the national team. She was MVP of the Olympic tournament in 2002, then again in 2006. Some forget that she also made Canada’s softball team for the 2000 Sydney Games. Wickenheiser, who grew up on a Saskatchewan ranch, also attended the Philadelphia Flyers rookie training camp in 1998 and 1999.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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