2021 Year in Review: The 15 most-searched athletes of the year

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

After COVID-19 brought the sports world to a halt in 2020, this past year saw many leagues return to more normal schedules.

With sports fans itching for something to cheer for, 2021 delivered in a big way. The Tokyo Olympics were full of intriguing and controversial storylines, the Montreal Canadiens made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup final, and Tom Brady led his new team to a Super Bowl victory, just to name a few of the highlights.

Amid all the big plays and shocking upsets, a handful of people stood above the rest in terms of hype. Here are the 15 athletes Yahoo Canada users searched for the most in 2021.

Tiger Woods

Dec 19, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Tiger Woods and son Charlie Woods hug after the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament at Grande Lakes Orlando Course. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods and son Charlie Woods hug after the final round of the PNC Championship. (Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports)

Woods was involved in a terrifying car wreck in February that left the golf star wondering if he would lose a leg. The 45-year-old is still recovering but recently returned to the golf course with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship, where the two fell just short of a victory after an impressive 11-birdie streak.

Bianca Andreescu

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Bianca Andreescu of Canada returns a shot to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on October 11, 2021 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Bianca Andreescu of Canada returns a shot to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia during the BNP Paribas Open. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Andreescu became a household name in 2019 after defeating Serena Williams at the US Open. This past year wasn't a successful one for her, as she was upset in the first round of both the French Open and Wimbledon. She withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics over COVID-19 concerns and also tested positive for the coronavirus in April. She has already announced she will not participate in the 2022 Australian Open due to personal reasons.

Simone Biles

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Simone Biles performs during the Gold Over America Tour at Staples Center on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
Simone Biles performs during the Gold Over America Tour in Los Angeles. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

Biles delivered the most shocking moment of the Tokyo Games when she announced her withdrawal. Considered the greatest gymnast of all-time and favoured to win every time she set foot on the mat, her absence left a massive hole in some of the marquee events of the Olympics. Biles was dealing with a mental issue known as "the twisties," which left her disoriented in midair. The American was panned by many for "quitting" on her team, and praised by others for prioritizing her mental health.

Wayne Gretzky

Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Wayne Gretzky on stage as Philip Broberg is selected as the number eight overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Wayne Gretzky left his position with the Oilers earlier this year. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

The Great One made headlines earlier this year when he stepped down from his front-office role with the Edmonton Oilers to join the TNT broadcast crew. Gretzky had a fun debut with the network, shooting pucks on Charles Barkley before getting made fun of for his sweater vest. Gretzky was also in the news in March, when his father, Walter, passed away after a nine-year battle with Parkinson's disease.

Leylah Fernandez

Leylah Annie Fernandez has captured hearts around the world with her US Open run. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leylah Annie Fernandez captured hearts around the world with her US Open run. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Much like Andreescu two years prior, Fernandez made a name for herself at the US Open. Unseeded at the tournament, the 19-year-old plowed her way through the field, knocking off a series of heavyweights in upset fashion. She rode her momentum all the way to the final, where she met her match in another unseeded teenager (more on her later). Fernandez quickly won over Canadians with her Cinderella run and established herself as a name to watch for the future.

Andre De Grasse

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Men's 200m - Medal Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 5, 2021. Gold medallist, Andre De Grasse of Canada celebrates on the podium REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Andre De Grasse of Canada celebrates on the podium with his gold medal. (REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

He wasn't going step for step with Usain Bolt this time around, but De Grasse was all over the podium in Tokyo. He won bronze in both the 100-metre race and as part of the 4x100m relay team, but shone brightest in the 200-metre race, where he won gold.

Tom Brady

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady (12) of the Buccaneers holds the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl LV game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tom Brady won yet another Super Bowl in 2021, this time with a different team. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The greatest quarterback of all-time proved he wasn't just a product of the New England Patriots' system, winning the Super Bowl in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition to the on-field success, Brady continued to build his brand as one of social media's funniest athletes.

Naomi Osaka

Sep 3, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan gestures after missing a shot against Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada (not pictured) on day five of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Naomi Osaka sent shockwaves through the sports world when she refused to attend her media availabilities. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Osaka won the 2021 Australian Open, but winning a grand slam is not the reason she appears on this list. The 24-year-old tennis star made waves ahead of the French Open when she announced she would not participate in her mandatory media sessions. She ended up withdrawing from the tournament due to mental health issues, and also missed Wimbledon. Many athletes voiced support for Osaka's controversial decision.

Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18:  Serena Williams of the United States leaves the court after losing to Naomi Osaka of Japan in the women's singles semi-finals during day 11 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 18, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)
Serena Williams did not win a tournament in 2021. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

One of the most dominant individuals in the history of professional sports, Williams did not have the type of year we've grown accustomed to seeing. She did not win a tournament in 2021 as injuries forced her to withdraw from numerous WTA events. There were even rumours after the Australian Open that she was headed for retirement.

Emma Raducanu

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Emma Raducanu of Great Britain reacts during her exhibition match against Elena Ruse of Romania on Day Four of the ATP Champions Tour at Royal Albert Hall on November 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu established herself as a rising star in the tennis world. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

The other teenager to reach the US Open final in 2021 was Raducanu, who was born in Toronto but moved to England when she was two years old. Like Fernandez, she shockingly recorded upset after upset over the course of the tournament, and capped things off by hoisting the trophy. Raducanu took home BBC Sports Personality of the Year for her remarkable triumph.

Novak Djokovic

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 11, 2021   Serbia's Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy as he celebrates after winning his final match against Italy's Matteo Berrettini Pool via REUTERS/Ben Solomon
Novak Djokovic now has 20 career grand slam titles on his resume. (REUTERS/Ben Solomon)

On the court, Djokovic furthered his case for being the greatest men's tennis player of all-time. He tied Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 career grand slam wins thanks to his victory at Wimbledon. Off the court, Djokovic has caused a stir by refusing to publicly disclose his vaccination status, which could cause him to miss tournaments.

Carey Price

TAMPA, FL - JULY 07: Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) skates off the ice following Game Five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 7, 2021 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fl.  (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Carey Price backstopped the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup final appearance last season, but hasn't played in 2021-22. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Price was instrumental in leading the Canadiens all the way to the Stanley Cup final last season, returning to his all-star form at the perfect time. Right before the 2021-22 season was set to begin, Montreal announced Price had entered the NHL's player assistance program, which helps players and families with matters of mental health, addiction, and substance abuse. Price has since rejoined the Canadiens for workouts, but has yet to appear in a game.

Kyle Lowry

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 11: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat dribbles up the court against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at FTX Arena on December 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Kyle Lowry is now a member of the Miami Heat. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

This past year marked the end of the Kyle Lowry era in Toronto, as the Raptors icon joined the Miami Heat. Lowry's absence has been felt in a big way, with the Raptors struggling to find consistency. Luckily for the Raptors, Lowry has already expressed his desire to retire with the team, whenever that time comes.

Penny Oleksiak

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Swimming - Women's 200m Freestyle - Medal Ceremony - Tokyo Aquatics Centre - Tokyo, Japan - July 28, 2021. Penny Oleksiak of Canada poses with her bronze medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Penny Oleksiak is the most decorated Canadian Olympian in history. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

After capturing hearts by winning four medals at the 2016 Olympics as a 16-year-old, Oleksiak further cemented herself as one of the greatest Canadian athletes ever with her performance in Tokyo. She won three more medals in the pool, bringing her total to seven — the most ever for a Canadian Olympian. It's a good thing she didn't listen to the teacher who told her to stop swimming.

Conor McGregor

Jul 10, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor holds his leg after suffering an injury against Dustin Poirier during UFC 264 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Conor McGregor holds his leg after suffering an injury against Dustin Poirier during UFC 264. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

McGregor is one of the most polarizing figures in sports, seemingly making news several times per month with controversial comments and behaviour. On top of all his usual antics in 2021, McGregor broke his leg in gruesome fashion during a fight with Dustin Poirier in July. As to be expected, the Irishman didn't take the defeat well.

More from Yahoo Sports

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting