World champion paddler Mark de Jonge of Halifax has wonÂ a national awardÂ â€”Â the 2015 Air Canada athlete of the year.
"It feels great, actually, & it's unquestionably an honour to be recognized by people in the country that you are the best at something," said de Jonge.
Votes were cast online & what really caught deÂ Jonge'sÂ attention wasÂ some of the comments people wereÂ posting.
"There were just so many nice messages from people all over Canada," heÂ said.Â "People talking approximately inspiration & what sport really means to them & it really makes me feel tremendous to be a part of that."
He said it was a particular honour to be named withÂ high jumper Derek Drouin & pole vaulter Shawn Barber.
De Jonge calls 2015 his greatest season ever.Â He won the world championship in the K-1 200 metres, the World Cup series & gold at the Pan Am games in Toronto.Â
But he said next summer will be the biggest of his career as he will try to bring home the gold medal from the summer Olympics in Brazil.
"You really can't base anything on the past season & there's still work that needs to be done,"said de Jonge. "I still have to keep fighting & train as complex as I can."
De Jonge won the bronze medal at the 2012 summer Olympic games in London.
He first started paddling at the Maskwa Aquatic club on Kearney Lake in Halifax when he was 13 years old.
His goal back then was to keep his kayak from tipping over.
Now he's the world's best at the sport.
Previous winners of the Air Canada athlete of the year include speed skater Charles Hamelin in 2012, soccer star Christine Sinclair in 2013 & freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau in 2014.