Originator of the reverse jumping style, the "Brill bend," this track and field star was the first North American woman to clear the 6-ft (1.83 m) barrier.
Though most young Canadians have never heard of Tom Longboat, in the early 20th century he was one of the most famous athletes in the western world. He entered the 1907 Boston Marathon—at the time the most prestigious of all road races—as the odds-on favourite. In front of 100,000 spectators, Longboat defeated 123 other runners and smashed the previous marathon record by almost 5 minutes, running the final 1.6 kilometres uphill, into a snow squall, in four minutes, forty-seconds.
Russian émigré Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld established herself as perhaps the most accomplished Canadian female athlete of all time. Known as Bobbie because of her bobbed hair, by 1921 Rosenfeld was the top-ranked female sprinter in Canada. In 1925 she was ranked number one in 220 yards, long jump, shot-put and discus and so perhaps it’s not surprising that Rosenfeld won Canada’s first Olympic track and field medal—a silver —in 1928.
Harry Jerome Jr. was one of the greatest sprinters Canada has ever produced. On 15 July 1960, running at a meet in Saskatoon for the University of Oregon, Jerome set the world record of 10.0 seconds in the 100 metres. His career was almost cut short when, at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, Jerome completely severed his left quadriceps muscle. He could thrust his entire fist into the indentation in his thigh, and there was some doubt he would ever walk properly again. But Jerome persevered and won a bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
In the 1970s, BC High Jumper Debbie Brill invented a jumping style, the Brill Bend, which revolutionized the women’s high jump event.
Canadians caught their collective breath on 27 July 1996 when Donovan Bailey broke the tape at the XVI Olympiad. The fastest man to run the 100 metres was suddenly after 9.84 gut wrenching and muscle-twitching seconds, a Canadian.
Eight days after Bailey's win, on August 4, Robert Esmie, with "Blast Off" shaved on his head, broke from the starting blocks. Less than eleven seconds later, Glenroy Gilbert took the baton. After 9.02 seconds, Bruny Surin took it. Finally, 9.25 seconds afterwards, Bailey extended Canada's 4 x 100 metre relay team's lead and in 8.95 seconds, arm raised, Bailey brought another gold home for Canada.
They are all Footprints on the playing fields of Canada.