From right here at home to across the globe, Tri-Cities athletes took to the spotlight and set a brilliant tone to 2012.
And many of their stories highlighted tales of triumph over adversity, going up against the odds, and overcoming career-threatening injuries.
It's The NOW's honour to have reported on many of these athletes and their achievements, and to help cover the stories that represent the best of our community.
As we prepare to pin up a new calendar, here is our selection of the Top Six stories of 2012, in no particular order:
OUR OLYMPIC HEROES
It all came together in a whirlwind run, as Coquitlam's Jasmine Glaesser and teammates Gillian Carleton and Tara Whitten posted the third-best score in the women's team pursuit event at the London Olympics in August. After a cool fourth-place result in the qualifying round, the trio zoned in on the task a day later to collect its medal for Canada.
"It's just been phenomenal. I've been to the world championships and I've been to the Pan American Games, but I never thought my racing here would have that much of an impact and that I'd get this amount of support," Glaesser said from London. It capped an incredible journey for the German-born Glaesser, who anchored Canada's women's track cycling team to a bronze medal at the World championships in Australia in April.
Upon returning home from London, Glaesser and teammates were feted by a loud and boisterous crowd.
"I didn't expect it, I just thought it would probably be family and some friends (at the airport)," she said. "It's almost overwhelming to see the crowd, the cameras. It was just great."
With their best oars in the water, Canada's women's eight rowing team was ready to shine in London. The squad, which included Port Moody's Krista Guloien, secured the Olympic silver medal by pushing the champion Americans right to the end, with the final margin between first and second place just over one second. "You've got to race for gold to land amongst the medals. We did and we landed ourselves a silver," Guloien said.
It was her second Olympics, after competing in the women's four in Beijing.
In June, Guloien prepared for the Olympics by helping Canada's women's eight-rowing team capture the Samsung World Rowing Cup.
Brittany Timko entered the Olympics already with 111 caps for Canada, including the 2008 Games in Beijing. The Coquitlam native exited with a bronze medal and an amazing story to share with her family and friends. The Canadians edged France for third place, bouncing back after a heartbreaking and controversial 4-3 loss to the U.S. in the semifinal.
The team's run in London featured a litany of ups and downs, including Christine Sinclair's heroics in the semifinal against the favoured Americans - only to be trumped by a controversial call against Canada and a game-winning goal scored in injury time. That Canada, who entered the tourney rated eighth-best in the world, could regroup and put forth a dramatic effort in the bronze game was a testament to the women's determination and desire.
Coquitlam's Tory Nyhaug was edged from the pack in the men's BMX quarterfinals after finishing fifth in his final round. Getting to the Games was an emotional and physical rollercoaster for the 20-year-old, as he had his Olympic ticket punched at the last minute thanks to a doctor's OK. Nyhaug had posted the best marks throughout the season and earned the right to be Canada's rider only to suffer a major injury two months before the Games that resulted in surgery to remove his spleen.
On the gymnastic mat, Brittany Rogers achieved her lifetime goal of performing in the Olympics as a member of Canada's women's artistic gymnastics team. The 19-year-old reached the pinnacle after overcoming her own personal hurdles - including a career-threatening ankle injury that required surgery and a lengthy rehab. In June, Rogers secured her berth with a tremendous performance at the Olympic trials, posting top marks on uneven bars and vault, and the third-top score overall.
Coquitlam wrestler Haislan Garcia was competing in his second straight Olympics, which resulted in a seventh-place finish in the men's 66-kilogram freestyle event.
The Tri-Cities were also proudly represented by shooter Doug Blessin and runner Dustin Walsh at the London Parlymics. For Blessing, it was a debut at the Parlympic level that saw him finish 24th in mixed air rifle. Walsh, meanwhile, was competing in his third straight Parlympics. This time, he had two events to master, resulting in a sixth place result as part of Canada's 4x100-metre relay, and 12th in the men's 400m dash.
FOX SHOCKS AT B.C.S
For members of the Terry Fox Ravens, they'd assert it wasn't a shock as much as an arrival.
The senior boys basketball team had begun the 2011-12 B.C. AAA season highly ranked, and even held the No. 1 spot for a week. But a series of tough breaks, rough losses and character tests plugged them in as the 10th seed entering the senior boys provincial championship tournament in March.
That's when the hardwood patience of co-coaches Steve Hanson and Brad Petersen paid off. At the provincials the real run began as Fox rolled up win after another, and didn't end until they handed the Walnut Grove Gators a 75-74 loss on the strength of Jesse Crookes' final high school bucket.
Carting off the B.C. MVP award was post player Ryan Sclater, who promptly retired his hoop shoes in exchange for a volleyball scholarship.
It was a thrilling, even storybook-calibre climax to a tremendous season for a school that proudly carries the Terry Fox name.
HOCKEY'S FAST TRACK
He wears No. 97 and has talent to burn - and in early May it resulted in Coquitlam's Mathew Barzal being drafted first overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League's bantam draft.
The 15-year-old drew comparisons to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by the man who coached both. Two months later, the teen was among an All-Canadian squad of the brightest hockey talents at a highly scouted event in Ontario, where he continued to establish his spot among the top ranked bantam-aged players. The media spent a lot of time measuring the Burnaby Winter Club alumni with Ontario's Connor McDavid.
"There was about 4,000 fans screaming the whole time. I'm playing with and against the best players in Canada. It was just incredible," said Barzal. Getting drafted first overall was an honour, he said, but admitted that he would continue weighing his options before deciding whether to play major junior or go junior A with an eye on attending a U.S. Div. 1 hockey program.
Barzal also was the co-winner of the Hockey Now's Minor Hockey Player of the Year award, after captaining his Burnaby Winter Club squad to its second consecutive Western Canadian Bantam championship title.
SPLENDOR ON THE GRASS
The venerable Vancouver Golf Club put on the ritz and displayed its ample greenery as host of the CN Canadian Women's Open golf tournament in August. With a huge field of challengers - including Coquitlam's own Jisoo Keel, who qualified as an amateur - the course and its large team of volunteers were the centre of the ladies golfing universe for a week. And while virtually all the big names were in attendance - defending champion Brittany Lincicome, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie and Yani Tseng - it all came down to a confident New Zealand teen who carried the day. Fifteen-year-old Lydia Ko demonstrated remarkable calmness during the four-day event, culminating with a sizzling seven birdies on the final day to post a 13-under par 275.
ADANACS THRIVE AGAIN
A year removed from hitting the bottom, the Coquitlam Adanacs bobbed right back up into the thick of competition in the Western Lacrosse Association, pushing their way right to the league playoff final. They did it with a mix of returning veterans and some talented newcomers - including No. 1 draft pick Travis Cornwall. Netminder Nick Rose set a tone in the team's rebuild, providing a stellar stability between the pipes that had been missing over recent years. The 24-year-old netminder would be recognized with the WLA's MVP and top goalie awards.
"No team in any sport wins the big one without stellar netminding. That's what Nick gives us," remarked first-time GM Randy Delmonico.
BEST IN SHOW
The Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils emerged from a one-year sabbatical to land exactly where they left off - as B.C. champions. The senior boys soccer team fended off a furious push by district rival Terry Fox Ravens - who charted a formidable course as one of the tourney's biggest underdogs - to capture the provincial title with a 1-0 win.
The Best program was forced to take 2011 off from provincial championship competition due to a penalty assigned following the 2010 final, where they had topped North Delta 3-2 in overtime. This time around, Michael Mobilio's goal midway through the first half proved to be the difference. Midfielder Kyle Jones was chosen the tourney's MVP.
. Check next week's edition of The NOW for more on the best of 2012.