Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


The Pan American Games were hosted for a second time by Winnipeg in 1999, offering Canadians a unique "opportunity to rekindle a sense of excitement, optimism and shared vision" inspired by athletic achievement as they approached the 21st century. The Games in 1999 brought together 5000 athletes from 42 nations in the western hemisphere. Many of the competitions were Olympic pre-qualifying events and raised the caliber of the competition. The increased pressure to succeed at any cost left numerous athletes stripped of their medals after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite the occasional storms of controversy, which distracted from the field of play at the 1999 Pan American Games, many Canadian athletes competed with refreshing heart and honesty. As host nation, Canada placed third overall with an astounding total of 196 medals, many collected by athletes who performed with humility and integrity. Donovan Bailey's tremendous international success and charismatic personality had led organizers in Winnipeg to pay the sprinter handsomely to act as the goodwill ambassador for the 1999 Pan American Games. However by demonstrating exceptional sportsmanship as well as competitive fire, Winnipeg-born cyclist Tanya Dubnicoff became the unofficial face of the games. After acting as Canada's flag bearer in the opening ceremonies Dubnicoff won gold medals in the Women's 500 metre time trial and Women's Match Sprint, and qualified to compete in the 2000 Olympic Summer Games.

Other inspiring Canadians competing in the 1999 Pan American Games included Ian Millar, who at the age of 52 had represented Canada in international equestrian events for 28 years. Equestrian sports require patient collaboration and constant adaptability to balance the strengths and abilities of two athletes, horse and rider. Millar often credited his success to valuable lessons learned from the peerless horses he had partnered with, including the famous Big Ben, who had retired from competition in 1994.

Millar believed Big Ben had taught him that exceptional athletes possess a purity of intent in their hearts and minds, reflecting a simple but powerful desire to do their absolute best each and every time they compete. He translated this lesson into his own remarkable achievements at the 1999 Pan American Games. Shortly after Millar helped Canada win bronze in team show jumping, he was asked to act as Canada's flag bearer at the closing ceremonies. Although the bronze medal had qualified Canada's equestrian team to compete at the Olympic Games in Sydney the following year, Millar was not content to rest on the laurels of what he had already accomplished. Knowing he was about to carry Canada's flag on home soil in front of an international audience, he put in a remarkable performance with his horse Ivar in the final day of the individual show jumping competition, moving up from tenth place to win the gold medal. Millar's passionate pursuit of excellence and relentless determination at the 1999 Pan American Games redefined how veteran athletes could inspire Canadians as they moved towards the new millennium.

volunteer orange and grey jacket with Games logo and straw hat
Following the precedent set by the 1967 Games, over 20,000 volunteers assisted at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. Wearing their distinction orange and grey uniforms, the volunteers reflected the sense of community of the Games as well as the initiative and drive of the city.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

trading cards with parrot and wood duck mascots
The mascots for the 1999 Games were Lorita, a parrot and Pato Panamericano, a wood duck. Their names reflect the multicultural aspect of the games. The wood duck was chosen for its natural beauty and its habitat that extends through many of the participating nations including Canada, the USA, northeastern Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Canadian athletes with sign Thank You WPG
The Canadian team held signs saying "Thank You Winnipeg" at the closing ceremony of the 1999 Pan American Games. The Games brought together different cultures and raised political and social awareness. Winnipeg showed its confidence and ability to host one of the top competitive multi-sport events in the world.
Collection: CP PHOTO/Joe Bryksa

photograph of lit cauldron
As seen on the cauldron, the 1999 Pan American Games logo design included a flame as a symbol of the Games and sport excellence and converging lines for the joining of Winnipeg's two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine, as well as Manitoba's fields of grain.
Collection: CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson

gold medal with W logo on red and black ribbon
The gold medal for the 1999 Pan American Games featured the Games logo on the front and image of Victory on the back. Derek Porter won this medal in the men's single scull events in rowing. Derek was a strong and fierce competitor.
Collection: Private collections: Derek Porter

Ian Millar jumping his horse over Canada jump
First named to the Canadian Equestrian team in 1971, Ian Millar is known as Captain Canada, having competed internationally for Canada at the Olympic and Pan American Games, World Equestrian Games and Nations Cups. Although he has won numerous medals, he says the gold medal he won at home in 1999 at the Pan American Games is one of his most memorable moments in his career.
Collection: CP PHOTO/Pierre Obendrauf

black equestrian helmet with red maple leaf
Ian Millar wore this helmet while competing at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where he won a Silver medal in the team jumping event. Known for his strong commitment and team leadership, he helped the Canadian team to a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Photograph Tanya Dubnicoff racing on bend of cycling track
The velodrome is a specially built banked track for cycling. Racing in the sprint events on this track requires strong sprinting power and knowledge of race tactics. Tanya Dubnicoff was one of the top athletes in this event and won four gold medals at the 1999 Pan American Games.
Collection: CP PHOTO/Joe Bryksa

photograph Tanya Dubnicoff with Pan Am Games gold medal
Tanya Dubnicoff was a strong competitor representing Canada at three Olympic Games and was the World Champion, as well as a World Record Holder in cycling. She has a strong sense of commitment and community and has given back to her sport as a coach and mentor.
Collection: CP PHOTO/Joe Bryksa

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