For Women’s History Month, the Canada Games Council wants to shine a spotlight on some of the great female athletes who have competed on the Canada Games field of play. Throughout the 56-year history of the Canada Games, countless women have inspired the nation through their grit, determination, and passion for sports. These former Canada Games athletes and coaches have gone on to break international records, win Olympic, Paralympic and world championship medals, become leaders in their communities, and open doors for the next generation. We thank and congratulate the thousands of women and girls who have sparked greatness at the Canada Games and hope to inspire all those who work towards their goals.
SUMMER AND WINTER ATHLETES:
Clara Hughes is one of Canada’s most decorated and versatile athletes. She has competed six times at the Olympic Games, three times in the summer for cycling and three times in the winter for long-track speed skating. Through that incredible Olympic career, she won a total of six medals — two bronze medals in cycling and two bronze, one silver and one gold in long track — making her one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians and the only Canadian athlete to win multiple medals at the Summer and Winter Games. Before that, Hughes competed for Team Manitoba at the PEI 1991 Canada Winter Games. Since retiring she has joined the Bell Let’s Talk program and is their national spokesperson. Hughes has been open about her struggle with depression and addiction, saying she wants to be a part of the solution to breaking down the stigma. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada, a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame among many other awards and recognitions for her achievements and work off and on the track.
Multi-sport athlete Heather Moyse has an illustrious career that has taken her all over the globe. While in her home country, she is most known as a winter sports athlete, she began her extensive resume by representing Team Prince Edward Island at the 1997 Brandon Canada Games in Athletics. Moyse would go on to represent Canada on the Olympic stage in a different sport, and by using the strength of her legs, she won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in bobsleigh in 2010 and 2014. Not only that, but Moyse was a national team rugby player and the first Canadian woman inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. To top it off, she also took up track cycling and competed at the 2012 Pan-American Cycling Championships. Moyse has shown her skill and determination to compete at the highest level of any sport she puts her mind to, but she also has a talent for helping people. She uses her platform as an author and keynote speaker to encourage people to see what they are capable of and be the best version of themselves. She is also involved in charities and foundations including Right to Play, Camp Triumph, and more. Moyse was inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour in 2023 for all her achievements both on and off the field of play.
Cindy Ouellet is one of the biggest stars of the Canadian wheelchair basketball world. Introduced to the game in 2005, her athleticism and tenacious personality have brought her to four Paralympic Games representing Team Canada, three World Championships — winning a bronze medal in 2010 and a gold medal in 2014 at home in Toronto — and four Parapan American Games, including three second-place finishes and one first-place finish. While she is best known for her play on the court, Ouellet also competed for Canada at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 for para-nordic skiing. But, before she became one of the few athletes to have competed at both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, she competed at both the Summer and Winter Canada Games. Ouellet represented Team Quebec twice at the Canada Games, first in 2005 for Athletics and then in 2007, winning gold with the wheelchair basketball team. She is an athlete ambassador for Parachute, an organization dedicated to injury protection including the dangers of concussions. An advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, she has also spoken out against bullying inside of sports, speaking from personal experience in hopes of creating a bully-free sports environment.
Six-time Olympian and four-time gold medalist, Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser is one of the most celebrated hockey players in the world. She is a dual-sport athlete of hockey and softball, having competed in five Olympic Games for the former and one for the latter. The longest-running member of Team Canada’s national team at the time, her equally lengthy list of hockey accolades all started with the 1991 Canada Winter Games in PEI when she competed for Team Alberta at age 12. Only three years later, she was the youngest player to compete at the IIHF Women’s World Championships at 15 years old. In 2007, she played for Kirkkonummen Salamat in Finland and became the first woman to score in a professional men’s hockey league. She retired in 2017 as Canada’s all-time leading women’s hockey scorer with 379 points in 276 international games; however, her legacy did not end after retirement, as Wickenheiser became a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization as the assistant director of player development the following year. She was promoted in 2022 to assistant general manager for the team. Wickenheiser also completed her MD in 2021 and played an important role in the COVID-19 relief efforts by raising money and spreading awareness of the pandemic in its early stages.
Jennifer Abel is one of Canada’s most recognizable divers in the last decade. She began her career competing for Team Quebec at the Regina 2005 Canada Games at the age of 13. Abel has competed in four Olympic Games earning two medals, one silver in 2020 and one bronze in 2012 both in Synchronized Springboard 3m. She won five Pan American Games medals — including three gold and two silver — as well as five Commonwealth Games medals — two gold and three silver. In addition, she has won 10 medals at the FINA World Championships and seven medals at the FINA World Cup. Adding up all her medals, and having won at every major international event, Abel is Canada’s most decorated diver in history. Abel retired from her illustrious career in 2021 after her final Olympic Games. She announced her retirement in an emotional public letter to herself, explaining that it was not common for someone of mixed race to want to dive, but her perseverance and determination helped her make a giant splash in Canadian diving history. Abel continues to inspire girls of every race to fight for what they want in sports and beyond.
Stacey Allaster has been an important innovator in tennis for over a decade and has dedicated herself to growing the women’s game. She began playing tennis at a young age, and her love only grew. As she began her incredible career, Allaster served as Team Ontario’s manager at the 1989 Canada Games in Saskatoon. She would go on to run Tennis Canada, and then the National Bank Open held in Ontario and Quebec. Due to her smashing success there, she became the chair and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association. According to Forbes, she helped bring in approximately $1 billion in revenue and televised 2,000 women’s matches annually. She became the USTA’s chief executive of professional tennis and in 2020, she was named the first-ever female tournament director of the US Open in its 140-year history. For all her work in growing the game and levelling the playing field, Allaster received the Order of Canada in 2022 and was inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour in her hometown at the Niagara 2022 Games.
Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc took the Canadian soccer world by storm beginning with her debut for the national team in 1998. Only a year before, she was representing Team British Columbia on the soccer field at the Brandon 1997 Canada Summer Games. LeBlanc competed in two Olympic Games, winning the history-making first bronze medal for Canada at London 2012. She became the first Canadian woman to compete in five FIFA Women’s World Cups with a team-best finish of fourth place. She competed in three Pan American Games, including winning the gold medal in 2011 and the bronze medal in 2007. LeBlanc has kept her foot firmly planted on the soccer field ever since retiring. She is the former head of women’s football for CONCACAF and is the current president and general manager of 2022 NWSL champions, the Portland Thorns — whose roster includes Canadian soccer legend, Christine Sinclair. LeBlanc is a motivational speaker and hopes to spread her enthusiasm and passion for helping people to live life purposefully. She is a UNICEF ambassador as well as having her own Karina LeBlanc foundation which empowers young girls to be the best versions of themselves as they grow up. LeBlanc was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2022 and is a member of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.
Recent Canada Summer Games alum, Jaida Lee stole the hearts of the whole nation when she became the first female to ever pitch in a Canada Games men’s baseball tournament for Team Newfoundland and Labrador during the Niagara 2022 Games. She broke barriers as she threw the ball for the first time and will go down in history for playing for equal rights in baseball, a typically male-dominated sport. Her home province has even announced that the 2025 Canada Games in St. John’s, NL, will feature the first-ever female baseball tournament at a Canada Games, allowing the best young female baseball players to play against each other on a national stage. Lee inspired girls everywhere to try baseball and proved it is not just a sport for boys. She’s only at the beginning of her young career, but she’s already smashing the glass ceiling.
Diana Matheson began her storied soccer journey by competing in the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London for Team Ontario. Less than two years later, at 18 years old, Matheson was representing Team Canada at her first Women’s World Cup in 2003. She competed in three Olympic Games — Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016 — winning the bronze medal twice and scoring the historic winning goal in London. Matheson is also decorated with two Pan American medals — a gold in 2011 and a bronze in 2007 — making her one of Canada’s best soccer players throughout her career. Since retiring, she has dedicated herself to growing the women’s game in Canada. She is the co-founder and CEO of Project 8, whose vision is to create Canada’s first women’s professional soccer league. Canadians have excitedly supported the idea of the league which is set to begin in 2025. In bringing a professional league to Canada, Matheson will help to grow women’s sports as a whole and supports the dream of young girls looking to make a living as an athlete in Canada and beyond.
Katherine and Michelle Plouffe:
Twin sisters Katherine and Michelle Plouffe have been busy creating a legacy on the basketball court. The pair played for Team Alberta at the 2009 Canada Games in Prince Edward Island and won the gold medal. Since then, they have competed in two Olympic Games and one Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015, where they also won gold. Michelle has also competed at the FIBA World Championship three times, while Katherine joined her sister twice in 2011 (U19) and 2014. The 2014 World Championship tournament’s fifth place finish was Canada’s best since 1986. The sisters have continued to work together more closely by playing FIBA 3x3 basketball and claimed the gold medal at the FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series in Romania as well as a silver at Canada’s debut in the 3x3 Basketball World Cup last summer. When they’re not playing basketball, they are working to grow the game. Michelle is a community ambassador for the CEBL’s Edmonton Stingers, and both sisters have worked to grow the girls’ basketball community through training camps and similar programs in Edmonton.
Katarina Roxon is a decorated Canadian para-swimmer who has shown that passion and drive for sport can take you to new personal and athletic lengths. Her career began at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, competing for Team Newfoundland and Labrador at just 12 years old. She has gone on to compete in four Paralympic Games so far, beginning in Beijing 2008 and up to the most recent edition in Tokyo 2020, winning a gold and a bronze medal in that span. Roxon also competed at two Parapan American Games and won a combined ten medals — two gold, five silver, and three bronze — including seven at home at the Toronto 2015 Games. Roxon has used her platform to encourage people to get active and healthy including as a spokesperson for Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s #HealthyMeBetterMe campaign and has been an ambassador for the War Amps of Canada. She received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Jenn Salling has been one of the top Canadian softball players for almost two decades. Her career began while competing for Team British Columbia at the Regina 2005 Canada Summer Games at 18 years old. She made her national team debut only a year later at 19 when she competed at the 2006 WBSC Women’s Softball World Championships — her first of five appearances at the international tournament. Salling has competed at two of the most recent Olympic Games for softball in Beijing 2008 and Tokyo 2020. In Tokyo, Team Canada won their first medal in softball, a historic bronze with Salling setting a record for the best batting average with a .571. Salling also represented Canada four times on the Pan American stage, where the team won three silver medals — 2007, 2011, and 2019 — and one gold medal in 2015 at home in Toronto. She retired after winning the Olympic bronze medal and has since stepped into coaching. She is the assistant coach at the University of Central Florida and also is the assistant coach for the team she called home for two decades, the Canadian national softball team.
Lisa Thomaidis has proven she is an elite basketball coach at the university and national levels. Her Canada Games touch point comes from her time coaching Team Saskatchewan at the London 2001 Canada Games during the time she was Saskatchewan’s provincial team coach. Thomaidis has been the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan women’s basketball team since 1998. The Huskies have won the 2015-16 and the 2019-20 U SPORTS National finals and seven Canada West titles during her tenure, with no signs of relinquishing their dominant reign. She has won the Canada West coach of the year five times and the U SPORTS coach of the year twice. From 2013 to 2021, she managed two elite coaching jobs when she became the head coach of the Canadian Women’s National Team. With the country’s best, she took Canada to two Olympic Games — Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 — and once as the assistant coach in London 2012. In addition to the Olympics, Thomaidis has coached in the FIBA World Championships, FIBA World Cup, FIBA Americas Championships and the Pan American Games — the latter two Canadian teams went home with historic gold medals in 2015.
Anastasia Bucsis has been one of the prominent representatives for long-track speed skating in the Canadian media. Her journey began when she competed at the 2007 Canada Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, and went on to compete in two Olympic Games. She also competed at the ISU World Single Distances Championships and the ISU World Sprint Championships. In 2013, Bucsis came out publicly as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and shortly after competed at the Sochi 2014 Olympics as the only publicly 'out' athlete from North America. She timed it as a symbol of protest to speak out against the unfair treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Russia. After retiring, she began working with CBC by launching and hosting the “Player’s Own Voice” podcast in which she speaks to Canadian athletes about their deeper experiences in and out of their respective sports. She is a passionate champion of inclusion and uses her platform to help build a better world.
Sharon and Shirley Firth:
Twin sisters Sharon and Shirley Firth of the Gwich'in First Nation were two of the first Indigenous women to make it to the Olympic Games for Team Canada. They represented Team Northwest Territories twice at the Canada Winter Games for cross-country skiing in Saskatoon 1971 and Lethbridge 1975, before competing for Team Alberta at the 1979 Games in Brandon. The two Firth sisters also represented Team Canada in four consecutive Olympic Games starting in 1972 until 1984. Their success and drive helped to bring competitive cross-country skiing to the Canadian north. They have received the Order of Canada, and are members of the Northwest Territories Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame among many other honours. Sharon and Shirley changed the face of Canadian cross-country skiing. After retiring Sharon worked with the youth of the Northwest Territories to teach the most important lesson she learned through cross-country skiing — perseverance.
Jennifer Heil is the Guinness World Record holder for the number of gold medals won at the Freestyle Skiing World Championships with five wins under her belt. She began her career at the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador and never looked back. Heil went to three Olympic Games where she won a gold medal in 2006 and a silver medal in 2010 in moguls. For her success in freestyle skiing, she is a member of the Canadian, Quebec and Alberta Sports Halls of Fame. Beyond the slopes, she founded B2ten, a business helping athletes become the best version of themselves and worked as a policy developer of Safe Sport for abuse and harassment. She also uses her skiing experience as a keynote speaker and works as a CBC sports commentator for freestyle skiing competitions. Heil shows no signs of stopping as she pursues her passion: helping others live their best lifestyle.
Hockey Hall of Fame member and recipient of the Order of Canada, Angela James is the definition of a trailblazer in women’s hockey. From an early age, she fought for her place as a Black girl in hockey while playing on a boys' team in Toronto, Ontario. She played in the first-ever IIHF Women's Hockey World Championship in 1990, where Team Canada won the gold medal and James led the team with 11 goals in five games. While her skill on the ice was astonishing, her work for women’s hockey as a whole continued long after she hung up her skates. Her Canada Games connection comes from coaching Team Ontario at the Corner Brook 1999 Games. She would later become the assistant coach to the Premier Hockey Federation’s Toronto Six before becoming their General Manager in 2022. James has fought for equality in women’s hockey long before women had their first opportunity to play on a global stage. From being a player to coach to general manager, she continuously shows that women, especially women of colour, belong in all aspects of the sport.
Recently named to the Order of Canada, Colleen Jones was a Canadian curling superstar during her career. She competed for Team Nova Scotia at the 1979 Canada Games in Brandon and earned a silver medal. Only three years later, Jones became the youngest skip to win a Canadian Women’s Curling Championship. Throughout her career, she won two World Championships of Curling, cementing herself as a curling legend in the country and her home province of Nova Scotia. Jones is a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Curling Canada Hall of Fame. She has spent her retirement with her feet still firmly planted in the curling world. Currently, she is a reporter for CBC, an author, and a host for ‘That Curling Show,’ all while following through on promoting the sport for the next generation.
Marie-Philip Poulin is one of the most recognizable Canadian hockey players in her generation, but before she became a household name, she competed for Team Quebec at the Whitehorse 2007 Canada Games. Her successes have become a living legend. She has won three gold medals and one silver medal for Team Canada at the Olympic Games. Poulin has scored all three golden goals to bring home the first-place medal and has totalled 35 points in 22 games at the Olympics. Her international success doesn’t end there. Poulin has won two gold medals, six silver medals, and one bronze medal at the women’s hockey World Championships, and looks to earn another one this April at home in Brampton, Ontario. Poulin has been a member of the PWHPA since the folding of the CWHL in 2019, where she currently sits on top of the scoring list in this year’s Dream Gap Tour. Known as Captain Clutch for her skill on the ice, she is also a champion of equality in hockey and sports by using her platform to fight for an equal playing field.
Alana Ramsay is a three-time Paralympian in para-alpine skiing and a four-time bronze medallist — a pair each coming from Super G and super combined respectively in 2018 and 2022. Her career started at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia when she competed for Team Alberta and won a silver in giant slalom and a bronze in slalom. In March 2017, Ramsay won the Crystal Globe for downhill and slalom, further adding to her trophy shelf. On the top of her game and on her own terms, Ramsay retired from racing before the 2022-2023 season. She told Alpine Canada she is looking to go to school to study psychology, to examine the way injuries and mental health impacts high-performance athletes. Ramsay does not plan to venture too far from skiing, however, and looks forward to coaching the next generation of athletes and sharing her experiences.