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Damian Warner and Andre De Grasse finalists for 2021 Lou Marsh Award

The award is given out annually to Canada's top athlete

Who was Canada’s top athlete in 2021? After such an incredible year in Canadian sport, that is the question a group of journalists will be trying to answer next week when they decide who will be the recipient of the historic Lou Marsh Award. This year, journalists at The Toronto Star created a bracket of 16 worthy candidates, and after thousands of votes, readers have chosen Olympic gold medalist Damian Warner for the top spot.

Damian Warner wins GOLD for Canada in the decathlon

The final choice came down to two-track athletes, Warner and six-time Olympic medalist Andre De GrasseBoth athletes won gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, and both set Canadian records in their respective events. It was Warner’s performance in the decathlon, which made him only the fourth athlete in history to break the 9,000 point barrier in the event, that Canadians ultimately decided was the most deserving of the trophy. Of course, the real decision is not made by popular vote but through a nomination system by sports journalists, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 8.

The Lou Marsh Award, named for Toronto Star sports journalist Lou Marsh, has been given out to several track and field athletes over the years. Sprinter Phil Edwards, who won five bronze medals at three Olympics, won the inaugural trophy in 1936, and  Gérard Côté was the first distance runner to win the award in 1940. Other notable runners who have received the award include 1964 Olympic 5,000m runner Bruce KiddOlympic 800m runner Bill Crothers and sprinter Ben Johnson. The last time a track and field athlete won the award was when 1996 Olympic 100m gold medalist Donovan Bailey took it home that same year. Terry Fox also won the award in 1980 for his Marathon of Hope.

Bruce Kidd, centre

Karsten Warholm and Elaine Thompson-Herah named World Athletics Athletes of the Year

Both De Grasse and Warner are deserving of this year’s trophy, but they are up against some talented athletes, including swimmers Penny Oleksiak and Maggie Mac Neil, Tokyo Olympic soccer goalie Stephanie Labbé and hockey player Connor McDavid, to name a few. Whether the panellists consider the popular vote in their decision remains to be seen, but whoever wins, just having your name on such a prestigious list is an honour.