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‘Tis the season… Season’s Greetings!

Do You Hear What [We] Hear?

It’s the sounds of the season… the oohs and aahs when you light up the tree, friendly family banter and of course, sleigh bells ringing.

The only thing that tops the sounds of the season are the oohs and aahs of a new Canadian or World record, a little banter from your relay mates after a sub-20 second 200-metres and of course, the sound of the gun to start the most important race of the year – the one that ends with a gold medal.

We hope this holiday season finds you and your family happy and healthy. We sure had a fun year and we hope you did as well. So, join us as we travel down Santa Claus Lane (a.k.a. memory lane) before we bid 2018 a final farewell.

The 2018 season saw Canadian athletes break 86 different national records on the track, in the field and on the road, with 31 coming from our Olympic stream and an astonishing 55 from para-athletes. To make things a little more interesting, it was an even split – 46 a piece – between men and women.

The most impressive record to fall in 2018? Some might say it was Brittany Crew’s feat in the women’s shot put, where she established a new mark of 18.20 metres indoors and 18.60 metres outdoors. Others would speak of Damian Warner’s silver-medal performance at the IAAF World Indoor Championships where he set a national record in the heptathlon (6,343 points – five personal bests) that drove him to a record-setting feat in Götzis where he shattered the Canadian record while accumulating 8,795 points in the decathlon. Or was it the re-birth of Cameron Levins, who crossed the finish line in Toronto in two hours, nine minutes and 25 seconds, obliterating the longest standing record in the Canadian record books (men’s marathon)?

On the para side of things, was it thrower Pamela LeJean who established two Canadian records – one in the F53 discuss (12.83 metres), the other in F53 shot put (4.76 metres)? Add F53 javelin to the mix, and LeJean would find herself comfortably seated second overall in the world in all three disciplines in 2018. But others would argue that it was Nathan Riech’s international debut in the middle-distance events. Riech, classified in late June by the International Paralympic Committee, would kick-start his career with not one, but two, World records – one in the T38 800-metres (1:52.95), the other in the T38 1,500-metres (3:57.92).

Canadian and World records weren’t the only noteworthy individual achievements in 2018. Three athletes ended their NCAA careers on top – Georgia Ellenwood in the women’s heptathlon, Justyn Knight in the 5,000-metres (indoor) and with a crazy kick, Ben Flanagan destroyed his previous personal best with a win in the 10,000-metres.

No matter what personal accomplishment tops your naughty or nice list, to say Canadian athletes had a great year is an understatement.

Now, on to our National Teams who collectively earned 63 medals – 19 gold, 22 silver and 22 bronze. Which team was the most impressive? That’s up for debate.

We went “Down Under” for the Commonwealth Games (three gold, six silver and four bronze) and saw Alysha Newman jump to new heights, setting a Games record in pole vault (4.75 metres). We also witnessed Alexandre Dupont beat a legend (Australia’s Kurt Fearnley) in the T54 1,500-metre final in what Dupont called “the best finish” of his wheelchair racing career.

Playing host to the NACAC Track & Field Championships (three gold, eight silver and 10 bronze), a first for Canada, we got to witness first-hand the future of our relay program. The men may have won gold in the 4x100-metre relay, but mark our words, the women will be a force to be reckoned with on route to Tokyo in the 4x400-metre relay.

Our throwers had an impressive showing at the World Para Athletics Winter Challenge, the first throws-only event of its kind, bringing home four gold, one silver and a bronze. Perhaps the strongest performance of the meet by a Canadian came from newcomer Greg Stewart in the F12 shot put (15.34 metres, 4.55 metres further than his closest competitor) who is mentored by Dylan Armstrong, arguably Canada’s top thrower of all-time.

But you will have to go all the way back to February when the podium at the Pan American / NACAC Cross Country Championships saw more red and white – two colours Jolly Old Saint Nick loves this time of year – than any other colour. Together, the team won 18 medals (seven gold, six silver and five bronze), which included a podium sweep by the Junior Women (Brogan MacDougall, Laura Dickinson and Martha MacDonald). We think that performance is pretty hard to top, don’t you?

It would be remiss of us if we did not share a few significant achievements off the track, including hosting one of the top coaching clinics in the world (NACAC Coaching Conference) that featured world renowned multi-events coach Harry Marra, the legendary Carl Lewis and select coaches from our National Team program. And speaking of coaching, we righted the ship in that area in 2018 with two new hires in Coaching Education who have successfully implemented the plan set forth by the Coaching Task Force.

Through Athletics Canada’s various digital platforms, including Athletics.ca, AthleticsCanada.tv and the association’s main social media channels, we reached more than one million Canadians. That’s a lot of people who love athletics. Our merchandise program has continued to grow with new offerings and partnerships, and continues to be a strong revenue generator and key part of our identity.

The National Championship Series scored above an 80 per cent satisfaction rating while remaining profitable, with the greatest victory in that area coming in cross country. The 2018 Canadian Cross Country Championships saw more than 1,110 athletes take part, making it the largest cross country event in Athletics Canada history.

Lastly, the association made significant updates to its Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy, in addition to the nomenclature of age categories to a numbered system, to ensure that Athletics Canada remains a national leader in inclusion and fair sport. The Commissioner’s Office continues to be a model for sport organizations across the country, one that we are truly proud of.

To everyone behind-the-scenes who helped Athletics Canada accomplish our goals for 2018, thank you. Your hard work and dedication are something else.

Before we say “so long, farewell, au revoir, Auf Weidersehen, adieu” to 2018, we’d like to say thank you to everyone who has supported Athletics Canada from Sport Canada and Own the Podium to our outstanding sponsors and our wonderful fans. We look forward to creating new memories with you in 2019 and hope to see you all on the ‘Road to Tokyo’.

One final note, the Athletics Canada office will be closed from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1 so our team can enjoy the holiday season with their family and friends. Shop.Athletics.ca will remain open; however, all orders placed after 12 p.m. ET on Dec. 20 will be processed starting Jan. 2.

Merry Christmas and holly, jolly holidays from all of us at Athletics Canada!

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