Toronto's Olympians include both medal contenders and late bloomers making their first appearance.
Russia’s legislative and cultural oppression of gays and lesbians has drawn worldwide condemnation and cast a shadow over the Sochi Olympics. There are difficult, and some say impossible, lines to be drawn: between supporting Russia and the Olympics, between supporting the Games and individual athletes—some of whom, of course, are lesbian or gay, and many of whom have been vocal queer allies.
There was no widespread move to boycott the Games, and so a number of athletes from our own backyard, who have trained for years for a chance to complete, are now in Sochi. Here are eight Toronto Olympians to follow and root for, even if you’re not rooting for the country that’s hosting them:
Patrick Chan: This is the Olympian that your grandmother loves, and that is because your grandma has excellent judgement. Chan is a strong medal contender in figure skating, having won the past three world championships. Chan was born in Ottawa but moved to Toronto at an early age. In case you need another reason why this 23-year-old is better than you: he also speaks French and Cantonese fluently. He graduated from North York’s École secondaire Étienne-Brûlé. You can follow him on Twitter @PChiddy.
Dylan Moscovitch: While the big stars of Canadian figure skating are Chan and the ridiculously charming Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Moscovitch and his skating partner Kirsten Moore-Towers have been doing pretty well lately, too. In four international competitions this season, Moscovitch and Moore-Towers have placed first, second, third, and sixth. Moscovitch is representing Parkdale, so wave the local neighbourhood toque when he skates. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanMoscovitch.
Phil Brown: The surrounding Toronto area isn’t known for its world-class skiing, what with its nearby bunny hills. But that hasn’t stopped Etobicoke’s Phil Brown from going to the Olympics as one of Canada’s 15 alpine skiers. Brown grew up skiing at Craigleith in Collingwood, and can solve a Rubik’s Cube. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilBrown7.
Natalie Spooner: The 23-year-old Scarborough native graduated from Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute, where she was a star hockey player. Spooner has been playing at various levels of Canada’s national hockey program since she was a teen, and she was a high-scoring forward for the NCAA’s Ohio State Buckeyes. Spooner is rooming with Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, who was selected as Canada’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. You can follow Spooner on Twitter @natspooner5.
Katie Tsuyuki: The 31-year-old didn’t start the sport until she was 16, when she was inspired to take it up after seeing it in action at the 1998 Nagano games. She was an alternate for the 2010 Olympics, but 2014 represents the Scarborough-born Tsuyuki’s first games. Her top finish in half-pipe so far this World Cup season was 11th. You can follow her on Twitter @KatieTsuyuki.
PK Subban: The Montreal Canadiens defenceman grew up in Rexdale, and his dad Karl was a principal at a Jane and Finch middle school. Having won the Norris trophy for the NHL’s best defenceman last year, the 24-year-old Subban is one of the league’s best young stars. But he’s also faced a racial slur on the ice and criticism from hockey’s arbiter of decorum, Don Cherry, for over-exuberant celebrations. We say he’s awesome. You can follow the blueliner on Twitter @PKSubban1.
Michael Lambert: The 27-year-old snowboarder is part of Canada’s strong alpine team, and finished 12th in the 2010 Olympics. He’s been featured on two MTV reality shows, and plans to pursue a career in real estate. You can follow him on Twitter @theywantML.
Lenny Valjas: Cross-country skiing is typically dominated by athletes with builds closer to cyclists than volleyball players, but Valjas is an exception. The 6’6″ Torontonian uses his big strides to his advantage, and has earned multiple podium finishes on the World Cup circuit. But the Bayview Glen graduate has run into a bit of an obstacle at Sochi: He has a cold. You can follow him on Twitter @LennyValjas.