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Sunohara, Chan, Nestor among 2024 inductees into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

CALGARY — Hockey player Vicky Sunohara, figure skater Patrick Chan and tennis player Daniel Nestor were among the athletes unveiled Wednesday for induction into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame this year.

CALGARY — Hockey player Vicky Sunohara, figure skater Patrick Chan and tennis player Daniel Nestor were among the athletes unveiled Wednesday for induction into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame this year.

Distance runner Angela Chalmers, para swimmer Kirby Cote and the late multi-sport athlete Fred Thomas will join them among athlete inductees.

Guylaine Demers, who works for gender and sexual orientation equity in sport domestically and internationally, and Indigenous sports leader Alex Nelson will enter as builders.

High jumper Debbie Brill will be recognized in the trailblazer category established in 2022. She pioneered the "Brill Bend" jump technique.

The nine new members will receive the Order of Sport at the Oct. 23 induction ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

The class of 2024 was chosen from 237 nominations, Hall president and CEO Cheryl Bernard said Wednesday in a statement.

Over 740 people and three horses have been inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame since 1955.

Toronto's Sunohara won two Olympic gold medals and seven world championships during her 19 years on the Canadian women's hockey team.

The forward played in the first IIHF women's world championship in 1990, as well as in the Olympic debut of women's hockey in 1998.

"I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have represented our women's national hockey team alongside some of the most incredible teammates," Sunohara said.

Three-time men's world figure skating champion Patrick Chan of Toronto helped Canada win gold in the team event in 2018 and earned a silver medal in men's singles in 2014.

Toronto's Nestor won eight Grand Slam titles in men's doubles and another four in mixed doubles. He teamed with Sebastien Lareau to win Olympic men's doubles gold in 2000.

"It’s a thrill to be mentioned in the same sentence as this year’s inductees as well as all of the influential members of the past," Nestor said. "For me, this recognition is the highest honour an athlete can achieve in our country so I’m very appreciative to have been chosen.”

Distance runner Angela Chalmers of Brandon, Man., a member of the Birdtail Sioux First Nation, claimed an Olympic bronze medal in the women's 3,000 metres in 1992. She was the first Indigenous woman from Canada to win an Olympic medal.

"When I first started travelling internationally, my father said to me to “make sure people know you are Canadian” and gave me a little Canadian Maple Leaf pin to wear," Chalmers said. "Little did I know I would be wearing the Maple Leaf running on the world stage of athletics."

Winnipeg swimmer Cote claimed a combined seven gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games and is also a seven-time world champion in the visually-impaired classification.

"I would not be celebrating these accomplishments if it weren't for my family or the blind and vision-impaired sports athletes and builders who paved the way for me," Cote said. "I come from the birthplace of accessible sport in Canada and am proud to be part of the advocacy we continue to build.”

Posthumous inductee Thomas of Windsor, Ont., played baseball, basketball and football at an elite level.

He broke the colour barrier in Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) Eastern League in 1948 when he played right field for the Wilkes-Barre Barons. In 1949, Thomas became the first Black Canadian and second Black athlete to play football for the Toronto Argonauts.

He was also invited to attend the Harlem Globetrotters training camp in 1949 and spent two years playing pro basketball for all-Black teams in the U.S., including the New York Renaissance and Kansas City Stars. Thomas died in 1981 at the age of 57.

"Receiving Canada's greatest sporting honour, the Order of Sport, we as a family are extremely proud of his achievements and how he represented himself, his teammates and the city of Windsor during the adverse times of early sport integration," said his son Dennis Thomas.

University of Laval professor Demers works for gender and sexual orientation equity in sport on many fronts.

She's testified on issues before the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and helped create a program to develop female coaches and administrators for Qatar Women's Sport.

Demers received the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sport Award for the Americas in 2020. She's served as chair of the gender equity task force for the federal government and is a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee sports inclusion task force.

Soccer helped Nelson of the Musgamaqw-Dzawada’enuxw First Nation in B.C., live through seven years in the Alert Bay residential school system.

While studying sports administration at the University of Victoria, Alex helped found the Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Association of British Columbia in 1989.

He was the first chair and three-time president of the North American Indigenous Games and continues to develop sport for Indigenous Peoples.

"It's a complete, complete honour and a wonderful surprise," Nelson said of his induction.

Three-time Olympian Brill of Burnaby, B.C., developed the "Brill Bend" unique reverse jump technique that helped her become the first North American woman to clear six feet.

Ranked No. 1 in the world in 1979, Brill was unable to compete in the Olympic Games the following year when Canada joined a boycott of Moscow's Summer Games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press