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Whitfield heads list of Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame inductees

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By Reuters
Whitfield heads list of Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame inductees
FILE PHOTO - Triathlete Simon Whitfield speaks after being named Canada's flag bearer for the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa July 12, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie   -   Copyright  Chris Wattie(Reuters)

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) – Former triathlon champion Simon Whitfield and diving standout Alexandre Despatie are among this year’s class of nine inductees to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced on Monday.

Whitfield, who announced his retirement in 2013 after 16 years racing for Canada, unexpectedly won the inaugural Olympic triathlon event at Sydney in 2000 and added a silver eight years later in Beijing.

In Sydney, Whitfield was in the middle of the field after the swimming and cycling legs but used his sprint speed to pass the leader, German Stephan Vuckovic, less than 300 metres from the finish line before pulling away for the victory.

Whitfield’s triumph is credited with sparking a massive growth in the sport across Canada.

Despatie became the first Canadian man to reach an Olympic podium in diving when he won a silver medal in the individual 3m springboard at the 2004 Athens Games. He repeated the feat four years later in Beijing.

Emilie Heymans, who became the first female diver in the world to win medals at four consecutive Olympics, and Christine Girard, who is Canada’s first ever Olympic weightlifting champion, rounded out the four athlete inductees.

Girard’s bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics were awarded several years after the competition when athletes who had initially placed ahead of her were disqualified for doping.

Now a passionate advocate for anti-doping in sport, Girard shares her story and is actively involved in discussions with domestic and international anti-doping advocates.

“These individuals remind us that the Olympic Movement is about more than just victory,” COC President Tricia Smith said in a statement. “It’s about making an indelible impact on our communities, our nation and the next generation.”

The women’s ice hockey team that conceded just two goals en route to a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics and women’s soccer team that in 2012 won Canada’s first Summer Olympic team sport medal (bronze) since 1936 are also being inducted.

Hiroshi Nakamura, who is responsible for the establishment of judo as a competitive sport in Canada and served as head coach at five Olympics is also being inducted.

Jack Poole, who played a key role in bringing the Olympic Games to Vancouver in 2010 as chairman of the bid corporation, and Randy Starkman, an award-winning journalist known for his coverage of amateur sports, will both be inducted posthumously.

The induction ceremony will take place in Toronto on Oct. 23 and individual inductees will be commemorated with murals that will appear in their respective local communities across Canada.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)