LAST year, Canada climbed to the top of the sporting world. It was the year they defeated the Americans at their own game - baseball - and reclaimed ice hockey for themselves. Canada has always been a land of immigration, so it was appropriate the Toronto Blue Jays, which won the 1992 World Series, came from countries throughout North and South America. It took the Blue Jays from 1976 to 1992 to build a World Championship team and, this year, after losing most of its top stars, it has rebuilt a winning team. The Blue Jays won the World Series by beating the Atlanta Braves in a thrilling series, 4-2. When Toronto won, 500,000 people poured on to the streets of the city, and celebrated until the early hours. The World Series win went some way to avenging the city losing the 1996 Olympic bid to Atlanta. In ice hockey, last year saw the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup. If there has ever been a dynasty in sport, it is the Montreal Canadiens. The team was one of the original six in the National hockey league and has won more than 30 Stanley Cup championships over the years. But during the past 10 years it has struggled, while watching US teams dominate hockey - particularly the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. The final of the Stanley Cup series divided the hearts of Canadians because Canada's favourite son, ''The Great One'', Wayne Gretsky, played for the Los Angeles Kings against the Canadiens. Another Canadian hero, Mario Lemieux - Gretsky's biggest rival on the ice and the world's number two ice-hockey star and Stanley Cup winner for the previous years with the Pittsburgh Penguins - was found to have cancer but, six weeks after the diagnosis,he was back on the ice. Last year also saw Karen Lee Gartiner win the gold medal at the Albertville Winter Olympics in the premier title - women's downhill skiing. Her win brought Canada back to the glory days of the Crazy Canucks (including Ken Reed and Steve Podborski) - Canada's men's downhill ski team, which mesmerised the Europeans with its hell-for-leather attacks on the slopes of the World Cup circuit. At the summer Barcelona Olympics, Mark Tewksbury, a 24-year-old Calgary swimmer, won the gold medal in Olympic record time in the 100-metre backstroke. Tewksbury's win erased Ben Johnson's infamous debacle four years earlier in Seoul from the Canadian conscience when the sprinter was stripped of the gold 100-metre sprint medal after testing positive for steroids. Mark McCoy, having completed his own drug ban, was the surprise winner in the men's 110-metre hurdles, beating Colin Jackson of Britain, who had been the pre-race favourite. But the real hero of Canadian sport in Barcelona was Silken Laumann, who was world champion single sculler at the time of the games. A collision, 13 weeks before the event, brought this obscure sport to the forefront of Canada's sports-loving population. Laumann had her right leg shattered when the hull of another racing skull accidentally came into contact with hers. It tore off the muscles from her calf and 42 operations were required to repair the damage. It was uncertain whether she could even walk again. But, after limping to her boat with the aid of a walking stick, her leg heavily bandaged, she secured her place in Olympic folklore when she won the bronze medal. Laumann was not the only athlete to survive the games after personal tragedy. Sylvie Frechette from Montreal went into the Olympics as the world champion. She took the synchronised world title with ease and looked set to repeat her success at the Olympics when, the day before she left to go to Barcelona, her fiance committed suicide. It left her shaken, but she decided to compete. After a brilliant display, the Brazilian judge mistakenly punched in a lower score than she had intended and, despite an appeal, gold went to an American with Frechette taking silver.