Canada at its best: 2019’s sports highlight reel
By Zach Worden, Staff Writer
With the sports world now frozen across the world due to COVID-19, there’s no better time than now to look back at the best of 2019 from our Canadian teams and athletes.
Despite a lack of success on the ice for Canadians in 2019, athletes across a handful of other sports picked up the slack. From basketball to tennis, we saw many firsts and records broken in our country.
Hopefully, we can get our athletes back on the field, ice or court soon. But for now, here are the top four moments of Canadian sports in 2019.
Bianca Andreescu makes Canadian tennis history
To kick things off, we’ll start with the tennis superstar who became the highest-ranked Canadian ever in the Women’s Tennis Association in 2019 at number four. Not only did Andreescu win the Canadian Open at 18 years old, but she did it by beating the undisputable greatest player of all-time, Serena Williams.
Winning on home soil wasn’t the end of Andreescu’s stellar 2019. She followed up her Canadian Open victory, by beating Williams once again in the US Open claiming the Grand Slam title. In her run to the championship, she captivated the country and became the headliner for all Canadian sports.
The Thornhill, Ont., native was named the Lou Marsh Trophy winner, as the top Canadian athlete in 2019. Andreescu was both the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Slam singles title and the first teenager to do so since 2006.
Soroka one of baseball’s best
After getting his first taste of big-league action in 2018, Calgarian Mike Soroka stormed onto the scene in 2019. As a 21-year old, Soroka not only held his own on the mound but dominated against the best competition in the world. In 29 starts for the Atlanta Braves, he went 13-4, finished with a 2.68 ERA (fifth in the MLB), and struck out 142 hitters in just under 175 innings pitched.
For all his work in 2019, Soroka was named an MLB all-star. At the midsummer’s classic in Cleveland, he pitched a scoreless sixth inning, retiring all three hitters he faced.
Unfortunately for Soroka and the Braves, the team fell in the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. The Braves turned to their rookie ace in game three and he came through with a win. In his playoff debut, Soroka threw seven innings and only gave up one run on two hits.
At the year-end MLB awards, Soroka finished second in National League rookie of the year voting, and sixth in votes for the Cy Young award. After his outstanding 2019, he did receive the Tip O’Neill Award as the top Canadian baseball player.
Raptors win first Canadian title in 26 years
“CANADA, THE NBA TITLE IS YOURS!” Words that had never been said before came from Matt Devlin as the Toronto Raptors secured the first NBA Championship in Canadian history.
In a thrilling run to the NBA finals, led by finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors turned what is usually a hockey country into a basketball country. With fans coast to coast gathering to form their own version of Toronto’s “Jurassic Park” the Raptors took down the Golden State Warriors dynasty in six games.
En route to the finals, the Raptors took down the Orlando Magic in five games, the Philadelphia 76ers in seven, and the Milwaukee Bucks in six.
In the series against the 76ers, Leonard hit “the shot.” A replay that has been shown thousands of times now, a four bouncer at the buzzer. The Raptors won the series on Leonard’s heroic buzzer-beating shot in game seven. The dramatics of the shot put the team into the conference finals, where they lost the first two games to the Bucks before winning the next four to advance to the finals.
Between the dramatics of the ending of the 76ers series and the comeback from the dead to beat the Bucks, the Raptors captured the imagination of Canadians near and far on their way to Canada’s first “big four” sports title since 1993.
Henderson becomes winningest Canadian ever
Brooke Henderson has been on the LPGA Tour since 2015. Since then all she has done is win. Her first career tour win came at the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015, as she became the first Canadian to win on the LPGA tour since 2001.
Over the next three years, Henderson picked up six more LPGA victories. All while becoming only the third Canadian to win multiple LPGA events in the same season, the first Canadian since 1973 to win the Canadian Women’s Open and was awarded the Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
She entered 2019 just one tour victory away from tying Sandra Post, Mike Weir and George Knudson for the most victories by a Canadian on LPGA or PGA tours.
It didn’t take her long to tie the record as in April she won the Lotte Championship in Hawaii for the second straight year.
She followed that up by breaking the record at the Meijer LPGA Classic in June. Her second victory at the event helped her secure the title of most victorious Canadian golf player ever, all at the age of 22