January 9 , 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 55  

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Year in review: Top sports newsmakers of 2003

By Ian Denomme & Alison Stolz
Gazette Staff

The sports world saw an incredible amount of highs and lows in 2003.
With so many athletes making headlines, The Gazette decided to take a look back at the events that made 2003 a memorable one.

In April 2003, Weir made history at Augusta National Golf Club. The lefty from Brights Grove, ON trailed Len Mattiace by two strokes with four to play, but hit a six-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff.
Weir won the sudden death playoff hole with a bogey and became the first Canadian to ever win a major championship. He also became the first lefty to win the Green Jacket.

He also had wins at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Nissan Open. He tied for third at the US Open and tied for seventh at the PGA Championship as part of his 12 top 10 finishes.

He finished fifth on the PGA money list and currently sits sixth in the World Golf Rankings. He was a candidate for player of the year, but that title once again went to Tiger Woods.

Weir won the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year and was also named the Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year.

The World Hockey Championships is a tournament often overshadowed in Canada by the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canadian roster is often made up of lesser known NHLers from teams that don’t make the playoffs.

That’s why 2003’s championship team was so special. The team, led by bona fide NHL stars such as Anson Carter, Dany Heatley, Ryan Smyth, Roberto Luongo and Sean Burke made an incredible run to the gold medal, going 8-0-1 in the tournament, including their win over the heavily favoured Swedes in the final.

It was only the third gold medal for Canada in the tournament since 1977, when NHL players began taking part in the event.

The team was named the Canadian Press Team of the Year, narrowly beating out the women’s World Cup soccer team.

On July 2, 2003, it was announced that Vancouver, BC will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. This honour did not come easy, however. Close behind Vancouver’s 56 votes was Pyeongchang, South Korea with 53 votes on the second ballot.

The Olympic events will be split between Vancouver and Whistler — as many Europeans favour Whistler for its high scale skiing facilities.

The City of Vancouver is looking forward to hosting the athletic competition, which is sure to benefit the entire region. It’s expected the Olympic Games will generate up to $10 billion in direct economic activity and create 228,000 jobs throughout the province.

Perdita Felicien, at age 23, was named Top Female Athlete of the Year for 2003 by the Canadian Press. Her biggest success internationally has been winning the 100-metre hurdles at the World Track and Field Championships last summer.

She became the first Canadian female to win a gold medal at the world championships. Smashing her own personal best as well as beating the previous Canadian best of 12.61 set in 1999 by Katie Anderson, Felicien recorded a new Canadian national time of 12.53.

Making Canadian history, Felicien also became the first track athlete to win the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award since 1978. Canadians will look to this rising track star to win gold in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

All females love impressing their audience, especially when it means beating the boys! Swedish golf star Annika Sorenstam made all women proud during the recent Skins Games.

Following her performance at the Colonial Invitational, when she became the first woman in 58 years to participate in a PGA Tour event, she outclassed her male competitors when she chipped in a 40-yard shot from the ninth hole sand trap.

She explained to reporters that she surprised herself with her success, and was only attempting to make it to the green. This shot earned her $175,000 as well as the fame over her PGA rivals Phil Mickelson, Mark O’Meara and Fred Couples.

Tragedy struck the NHL just days before the regular season was set to begin. Atlanta Thrashers all-star Dany Heatley was driving with teammate Dan Snyder when their car spun out of control and hit a wrought iron fence on Sept. 29 in Georgia.

Both players suffered severe injuries in the accident. Snyder died on Oct. 5 as a result of brain injuries. He was 25. Heatley has been charged with vehicular homicide.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer from Montreal had a record setting year, winning the National League Cy Young Award, the first relief pitcher to win the award in 11 years.

Gagne had a perfect season, converting all 55 of his save opportunities, and also holds a major league record for having 62 consecutive saves.

He also became the first Canadian since Fergie Jenkins to win the Cy Young Award.

NBA star Kobe Bryant made headlines when he was charged with sexual assault by a 19-year-old Colorado woman who claimed he raped her while staying at the hotel where she worked.

Bryant, who admitted to having sex with the woman but said it was consensual, is set to go on trial in the summer.

The Canadian women’s World Cup soccer team made an impressive run and left their mark on the soccer world at the 2003 World Cup.

Holding a 1-0 lead over Sweden in the semi-finals, they were minutes away from the championship game, but two quick goals in the second half by the Swedes ended their gold medal dreams.
The team ended up fourth after losing the bronze medal game to the Americans.



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