Shaunavon, Sask. is Canada's top town for producing Winter Olympic athletes - Macleans.ca

Shaunavon, Sask. is Canada’s top town for producing Winter Olympic athletes

A look at nearly a century of Canadian winter Olympians shows that relative to its size, the tiny town has made its mark like no other

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Hayley Wickenheiser, the flag bearer for Canada during the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, hails from Shaunavon, Sask. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Like so many other small prairie towns Shaunavon, Sask. boasts of “wide-open prairies dotted with ranches” and “yellow fields of swaying grain.” To that, the community of 1,800 people in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan can add something of an Olympic record: the town has produced more Winter Games athletes per capita than any other Canadian town or city.

One of those athletes, Hayley Wickenheiser, is also one of the few Canadian athletes to compete in both the summer and winter Olympic games.

READ: Hayley Wickenheiser reflects on her career

The other two athletes who were born in Shaunavon: Dennis Lawrence, a cross-country skier who last competed in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary and Jim Hunter, an alpine skier who last competed in the 1976 games in Innsbruck, Austria.

Unsurprisingly, Rossland, B.C., a town “nestled in the crater of an ancient volcano” and known for its powder skiing, produced the second highest number of athletes per capita (160 athletes per 100,000).

Toronto, the largest city in the country, was the birthplace of the most winter Olympic athletes (130), but when the sheer size of the population is accounted for, it has one of the lowest proportion of athletes (4.8 per 100,000).

Explore the results:


Rank Town/City Province Number of athletes 2016 population Athletes per 100,000
1 Shaunavon Saskatchewan 3 1,714 175.0
2 Rossland British Columbia 6 3,729 160.9
3 Banff Alberta 8 7,851 101.9
4 Invermere British Columbia 3 3,391 88.5
5 Melville Saskatchewan 3 4,562 65.8
6 Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts Quebec 5 10,223 48.9
7 Humboldt Saskatchewan 2 5,869 34.1
8 Princeville Quebec 2 6,001 33.3
9 Camrose Alberta 6 18,742 32.0
10 Parry Sound Ontario 2 6,408 31.2
11 Rocky Mountain House Alberta 2 6,635 30.1
12 Labrador City Newfoundland and Labrador 2 7,220 27.7
13 Goderich Ontario 2 7,628 26.2
14 Lac-Beauport Quebec 2 7,801 25.6
15 Lloydminster (Part) Saskatchewan 3 11,765 25.5
16 New Glasgow Nova Scotia 2 9,075 22.0
17 Mont-Tremblant Quebec 2 9,646 20.7
18 Cranbrook British Columbia 4 20,047 20.0
19 Nelson British Columbia 2 10,572 18.9
20 Williams Lake British Columbia 2 10,753 18.6
21 Thunder Bay Ontario 19 107,909 17.6
22 Whistler British Columbia 2 11,854 16.9
23 Dawson Creek British Columbia 2 12,178 16.4
24 North Vancouver British Columbia 14 85,935 16.3
25 High River Alberta 2 13,584 14.7

How we did it: Maclean’s collected the birthplace of every athlete who has competed in a Winter Olympics games for Canada since 1924 from sports-reference.com.

We connected each athlete’s birthplace to the most relevant census subdivision, geographical divisions used by Statistics Canada. Using the population for each census subdivision from 2016, we calculated the number of athletes per 100,000 people. To be included, towns and cities must have produced at least two athletes, at least one of which competed in the Winter Olympic Game since 1998.