2012 Year in review: Highs and lows for Canadian sports this year

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Team Canada celebrates bronze medal win in women's soccer at the Olympics

Team Canada celebrates bronze medal win in women's soccer at the Olympics

Time is ticking away on 2012 so let's look back on five of the year's top Canadian sports stories:

5. Canada at the London Olympics

There were high expectations on Canadian athletes heading to the London Summer Olympics. While London put on a great show hosting the Games, Canada's performance was average. There were highlights like Rosie MacLennan of Toronto winning a trampoline gold and signs of promise for the future with bronze medals by high-jumper Derek Drouin, 22, and diver Jennifer Abel, 20. There also was the disappointment of shot-putter Dylan Armstrong, cyclist Tara Whitten and boxer Mary Spencer failing to reach the podium. Over the last four years Own the Podium spent $36 million a year on summer athletes. The Canadian Olympic Committee's goal in London was to finish among the top 12 countries in medals won. Canada earned 18 medals (one gold, five silver and 12 bronze) to finish 13th. The country's sports officials have four years to make improvements before the Rio de Janeiro Games.

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A lit candle lights up a picture of freestyle skier Sarah Burke (Canadian Press)

A lit candle lights up a picture of freestyle skier Sarah Burke (Canadian Press)

4. Ski deaths

Downhill skier Erik Guay had three podium finishes in 2012, Erin Mielzynski became the first Canadian since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race, and Jean-Philippe Le Guellec became the first Canadian ever to win a World Cup biathlon event in 2012. Sadly, the year will also be remembered for the death of two skiers. Sarah Burke, 29, a Canadian pioneer in freestyle skiing, died Jan. 10 after suffering a head injury during a training run in the superpipe at a personal sponsor event at the Park City Mountain resort. Nik Zoricic, 29, died from head injuries following a World Cup ski-cross race in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Zoricic's death resulted in calls for FIS, skiing international governing body, to improve safety.

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Canada's Ryder Hesjedal celebrates on the podium after winning the 95th Giro d'Italia (Canadian Press)

Canada's Ryder Hesjedal celebrates on the podium after winning the 95th Giro d'Italia (Canadian Press)

3. Ryder Hesjedal wins Giro d’Italia

Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal rode his bicycle where no other Canadian had gone before with his victory in the Giro d'Italia. He is the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour event and became the poster boy for young cyclists across the country. His victory also came at a time when American Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping and fellow Canadian Michael Barry admitted he used ban substances in the summer of 2006 while riding with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service Team. Hesjedal rides for Garmin-Barracuda, a team that prides itself on its anti-doping stance. A cloud will always hang over cycling but there's hope Hesjedal won't be part of future doping storms.

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Canada players celebrate winning the bronze medal during the women's soccer ceremonies at the 2012 Summer Olympics (Canadian Press)

Canada players celebrate winning the bronze medal during the women's soccer ceremonies at the 2012 Summer Olympics …

2. Canadian women’s soccer team wins Olympic bronze

For years money and resources were poured into the national women's soccer team with little to show in results. A team that had been largely ignored by Canadians suddenly caught the nation's imagination by winning a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games. Typically, national pride was stirred by the perception the United States had cheated our women out of a chance for a gold medal during a controversial semifinal game. Still, captain Christine Sinclair's three-goal performance in a losing effort lifted her to hero status. Hopefully the love affair with women's soccer is a lasting relationship, not a fling.

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Fans holds signs commenting on the NHL lockout (Canadian Press)

Fans holds signs commenting on the NHL lockout (Canadian Press)

1: The NHL Lockout

We knew there would be acrimony when the NHL owners sat down with the players to carve up a US$3-billion pot. No one expected the players to be happy about giving up a share of their 57 per cent of revenues and being forced into a contract system that would protect the owners from themselves, yet again. But did anybody see this labour dispute creeping toward an entire season being cancelled for the second time in seven years? It's hard to believe anybody's ego would be so big they'd put an entire sport in jeopardy. Yet the clock keeps ticking. And the scary part is markets in the U.S. which the NHL is desperate to save really don't care.

More on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Puck Daddy’s 10 people of controversy in 2012
PHOTOS: Top 5 NHL stories of 2012
Twitter 2012: How athletes have used social media to become the media
Buzzing The Net’s Top 5 junior hockey stories of the year
PHOTOS: Notable deaths in the world of sports in 2012

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