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Moment in Olympic history: Canadians win gold in 1996 relay

We're looking back on proud Olympic moments this week as we head in to the opening ceremonies. It is 20 years ago now since these four sprinters won gold in the 4 x 100m relay.


Before the opening ceremonies of the Olympics this year, we are counting down by celebrating significant moments in Canadian Olympic history. It’s a week full of special running anniversaries and highlighted today is one of our favourite moments in sprinting.

Featured above, is the men’s 4 x 100m relay race that took place at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The Canadian team of sprinters easily took the gold with an impressive lead over the second and third place runners. They won the race in just 37.69 in a moment that many Canadian running fans still talk about 20 years later.

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Our team was (clearly) stacked with talent with two of the four athletes still holding a Canadian record. Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin still tie for the nation’s 100m record: 9.84. Bailey ran that first in Atlanta in 1996. Surin ran it in 1999. Also on the team when the sprinters won gold was Robert Esmie and Glenroy Gilbert.

After their big win, back in Canada, then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called from a wedding in Collingwood, Ont. to congratulate the team of four. He said he interrupted the best man’s speech to speak to the Olympians. “Everybody is so proud of what you’ve done today,” he said congratulating each of them and emphasizing how happy Canadians were. “I’m tempted to call an election,” he said.

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Hear that phone call on the CBC archives here.