From the building blocks of the Canada Games, great athletes and individuals are born.
That was evident looking back, as on Tuesday at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, the Canada Games Hall of Honour Class of 2019 was announced.
Those honoured included athletes Jennifer Heil, Cindy Klassen and Bruny Surin, along with builder Clare Drake and distinguished alumna Elizabeth Cannon.
“Because of the incredible things they’ve done since they came to the Canada Games, they just show what an unbelievable step along the way that the Canada Games are,” said Dave Patterson, Canada Games Council president and CEO, at the announcement.
“When people come to the Canada Games, they have gone on to do amazing things; like become an Olympic champion, or the president of a university, or an inspiration to thousands of hockey players.
“Whatever it is they go on to do, it’s always incredible. These are five unbelievable examples.”
Every two years during the Games, athletes and builders are inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour. The official induction ceremony takes place Feb. 14, during the Hall of Honour Celebration Dinner.
Heil, a native of Spruce Grove, competed as a 15-year-old in moguls, during the Games in Newfoundland and Labrador and called the experience a highlight of her career.
She went on to win Olympic gold in Turin in 2006 and also added a silver in 2010 on home soil.
“Jenn Heil went on to compete at the Olympics just three years later,” Patterson said.
“You can rest assured here in Red Deer, there will be athletes that will compete at the next Winter Olympics in Beijing or the Paralympic Games. This is not just the next generation, it is now. These athletes are world class now.”
Klassen is one of the most decorated speed skaters in Canadian history.
She won six Olympic medals, five of which came at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. She also has 18 world championship medals.
“The Canada Games provided me with invaluable learning opportunities that have helped me in both sport and life,” said Klassen, who will coach Team Manitoba at the 2019 Canada Games.
“I cherish my time at the Canada Games and this induction has given me the chance to reflect on those experiences. It is a proud moment to have my name placed among other Canadians who have contributed so much to our country.”
Surin competed in the Games 30 years ago and said at that time he dreamed of one day becoming an Olympian. He posted the fastest time of his career on Aug. 22, 1999, just three years after winning gold with Canada in the 4×100-metre relay at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Drake is being honoured posthumously as a builder after he died in May 2018. He was one of the most influential hockey minds in Canada and coached at the University of Alberta for nearly 30 years.
Cannon, who just stepped down as president of the University of Calgary, is being recognized in the distinguished alumni category for her accomplishments outside the field of sport.