Hall Notebook

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

RELAY SPRINTER THANKS JOHNSON

Olympic gold-medal winner Robert Esmie, who was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame yesterday as part of Canada's 4x100 men's relay team from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, gave a shout-out to disgraced runner Ben Johnson in his acceptance speech.

"If it weren't for the guidance of Ben Johnson, I wouldn't have been in Atlanta," Esmie said.

Johnson was forced to give back the gold medal he won in Seoul in 1988 after he tested positive for steroids.

It eventually was determined that almost all of the runners in that race were on some sort of performance enhancing drug.

Johnson's exploits before he was disqualified, however, had influenced a generation of young Jamaican runners, including Esmie who, like Johnson, had immigrated to Canada with his family from the then poverty-stricken island.

"Ben has a big heart," Esmie said. "And not enough people know just how big his heart is."

BEST TEAM EVER?

Former Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman and former world record holding sprinter Donovan Bailey, who ran the anchor lap in the 4X100 event in Atlanta had a friendly disagreement yesterday on the greatest team in Canadian sports history.

Bailey and Yzerman were both inducted into the Hall of Fame in their respective sports but, when the runner announced that himself, Esmie, Bruny Surin, Glenroy Gilbert and alternate Carlton Chambers had been slighted by not being anointed as the best Canadian sports team in history, Yzerman gave him a wry grin.

Yzerman played on several world championship teams that would have to be considered among any top teams.

"Well, we were certainly the best team in any sport that lasted less than 40 seconds," Bailey said.

GARAPICK TAKES A PASS

Vancouver swimmer Nancy Garapick, who won bronze medals in the 100 and 200 backstrokes at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal at the age of 14, was to be inducted into the hall yesterday as well, but she was forced to miss the event because of illness.

Speed-skater Marc Gagnon, winner of three gold and a pair of bronze Winter Olympic medals, making him the most honoured Canadian in Winter Games also was inducted.


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