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The Mount Rushmore of Manitoba sports has been officially decided.
We started with 32 hopefuls, but after three rounds of voting and a couple of upsets along the way, the Blue Bombers, Jets, Olympics and Local Pros regions have crowned their champions.
The Sports Showdown voters have chosen Milt Stegall, Dale Hawerchuk, Clara Hughes and Jonathan Toews as the Fantastic Four.
To vote, visit Sports Showdown.
Voting begins every Friday at noon, and remains open until the following Thursday at noon. You can vote on each match once per day.
The Final Four pairings are available for voting now; vote daily until noon on June 11.
Thursday afternoon we’ll tally everything up and set up the two winners for voting in the final starting June 12.
It's not identical to the final four that I had on my bracket when this all began, but I must say I think the voters knocked it out of the park.
The most intriguing matchup in the Excellent 8 took place in the Olympics region, where speedskater/cyclist Hughes trailed legendary Paralympic swimmer Tim McIsaac for the majority of the week. But Hughes surged Wednesday night and took a narrow lead over McIsaac. Hughes hung on from there and went on to win 420-404.
Despite the loss, McIsaac, who beat speedskating icon Cindy Klassen by more than 100 tallies the week before, had the second-most votes out of all competitors in the Excellent 8. McIsaac had a heck of a run in the competition, as the 14-time Paralympic gold medallist started out with an impressive victory in the first round against hockey star Jennifer Botterill.
The other matchups didn't exactly go down to the wire. Chris Walby is a hometown boy, but his Manitoba roots weren't enough to get by Stegall. The CFL's all-time touchdown reception leader led from start to finish and won by nearly 100 votes.
Now, I know some people were disappointed this bracket involved athletes who aren't from Manitoba. I get it, but as I mentioned before, we wanted this to represent all aspects of sports in this province.
Regardless if you agree or disagree, don't think for a second that winning this wouldn't be meaningful to a non-Manitoba-born athlete such as Stegall or Hawerchuk. Don't believe me? Well, here's what Stegall had to say when I told him he made it to the Fantastic Four in Sports Showdown.
"That's beyond cool," he said over the phone from his home in Atlanta.
"I mean, that's such an honour to be recognized with just not only the Blue Bombers, but all the greats of Manitoba. You're talking about a guy who didn't step in Canada until he was 25 and never heard of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Some of the accolades I've been able to obtain and even more than that, just the way I was treated as a person. I was treated so well as a person.
"It's truly unbelievable to have that honour put on myself. Even if I don't win, the fact that I'm in the running with all these great individuals, I mean, that's pretty cool and that's pretty nice to hear."
But in order for Stegall to win it all, he has to get through Hawerchuk first. Ducky had a tough matchup in the Jets final against rookie sensation Teemu Selanne, but Hawerchuk prevailed by 69 votes to earn a date with Stegall in the semifinals.
As for Hughes, her semifinals opponent will be the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Toews battled Anola-born major leaguer Corey Koskie, who was coming off of victories over former NFL defensive lineman Israel Idonije and golfer George Knudson. Koskie's bat ended up being no match for Toews, as Captain Serious made it out of the round with the third-most votes out of anyone with a total of 308. Koskie finished with 177.
We're officially in crunch time, folks. The four remaining competitors are all worthy of winning this whole thing (at least in my opinion). Again, we all know this is extremely subjective and there's no prize at stake.
But while we sit on the sidelines and wait for sports to return, we might as well whip out our devices and cast some votes. Nobody knows how this will end, which can't be said for the classic sports games we're stuck watching on TV these days.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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