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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

BRUNY SURIN

Inducted in 2008

Member Details

Date of Birth: July 12, 1967
Place of Birth: Cap-Haitien, Haiti
Sport: Athletics
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1995, 1997

1st place in the 4x100m relay at the World Championships

1995, 99

Silver Medals for 100m at the World Track and Field championships

1996

Gold Medal in the 4x100m relay at the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games

2008

4 x 100 metre track team inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of  Fame

Honoured Member BRUNY SURIN
Inspire

Story

The site where Canadian sport history was made is gone. Only two days after Canada's 4x100 metre relay team beat the Americans on home soil at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, work crews started to dismantle the athletics venue and tear up the track. But if history lives and is nurtured any place, it is in the heart, and that's where Canadians keep their most famous relay team - Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin, Donovan Bailey and alternate Carlton Chambers who started the first two rounds that put Canada on stage for the final. Bailey, who set a world record of 9.84 seconds to take gold in the 100 metres at the same Games, says the 1996 relay squad could be considered Canada's greatest team in history. No one saw the Canadian Dream team coming when the 4x100 relay first came into the public eye with a world championship bronze in 1993, but there would be no holding them back. "Every time people talk of the best team, and they think of Canada, they think it must be hockey, but from 1994 to 1998, we were the fastest team on the planet, through the Commonwealth Games, two world championships, the Olympics and the Goodwill Games," Bailey says. "We were the best in a sport where there are 200 countries competing. Hockey, on a good day, maybe only 20 countries have teams. At the end of the day, we beat the very best, and we beat the Americans at home. The results are there." The drama of the night still evokes excitement. Atlanta was hot and the air was thick. The stadium was buzzing as a crowd of 83,000 was packed in, expecting a great American triumph. Somehow, all the American press and jingoistic NBC had forgotten the Canadians were reigning world champions in the relay and that Bailey and Surin were first and second in the 100 metres in the 1995 world championships. Before the race, the U.S. coach guaranteed victory on TV. Guaranteed it! Take it to the bank and cash it, he said. Esmie, with the word Blast Off sculpted into his hair, stayed within a tenth of a second of U.S. leadoff man Jon Drummond and handed cleanly to Gilbert, who ran a brilliant 9.02-second backstretch to destroy American Tim Harden (9.36), who bobbled the baton. Gilbert passed to Surin, one of the best bend runners in the game, who maintained the lead. In the famous portrait of Canada's relay win from 1996, Bailey is in the foreground, running home the baton and Surin is pictured behind him, about half his size, arms up in victory after making the crucial last pass. He didn't just hand Bailey the stick. He handed him a big lead and Bailey thundered home in 8.95 seconds for his leg, in front of the arrogant Dennis Mitchell and the time for the relay was 37.69. "Anything is possible in a relay race," Surin recalled late in his career. "Somebody can always make a mistake when the pressure is on. In 1996, we were underdogs to the Americans. They were all able to run the 100 metres in 9.9s, but we got it right and we killed them. All it took was to be a team." Surin was the man who lifted the banner of Canadian sprinting in the dim days after the Ben Johnson scandal. He seldom got the glory he deserved as an individual, but both he and the even-tempered, bull-shouldered Gilbert, who now coaches today's relay hopes, emerged as the core of the team. More than anyone, Gilbert brought the principle of team values into the egomaniacal world of men's sprinting and was the soothing counterpart to the fiery Bailey and Surin. Esmie, whose best 100 metre time before the Games was 10.18, was the loose cannon on the team but found his place. As junior member of the 1995 team, he had his initiation year - barber and valet to the veterans. He won a world indoor bronze medal behind Surin, to go along with a world championship 4x100 metre relay in Sweden. Chambers was the reliable fifth man in the mix. He ran for Clemson University in the NCAA championships and was fourth in a personal-best 10.19 seconds. He was fifth in the 1994 world junior championship 100 metres and was on the gold-medal winning 1994 Commonwealth Games team in Victoria. The Atlanta relay team was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. (Written by James Christie. James is a sports reporter with The Globe and Mail and has covered 13 Summer and Winter Olympics since 1976.)


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