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Phil Edwards


At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Dr. Phil Edwards was named captain of the Canadian Olympic team. Edwards was the perfect fit for the role; he had captained McGill's University track team to five successive championships, and had won four Olympic bronze medals at the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games. His selection as captain, however, was a powerful statement since Germany intended to use the Games as a means to showcase the "superiority" of the Aryan race, and Edwards was a black Canadian.

Adolf Hitler, and his propaganda expert, Jospeh Gobels, used the Berlin Games to promote Nazi ideals, which included the belief of the inferiority of non-White groups. In the 800-metre track final, Edwards raced to third place to take the bronze medal, and in doing so, became Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete during the twentieth century. In such a racially tense atmosphere, Edwards, along with other black athletes from around the world, continued to run in the face of racism. On the way back to Canada, the Canadian Olympic team stopped to stay the night at an English hotel, but other patrons began kicking up a fuss at the presence of a black man in their midst. In a gesture of solidarity, the team stood up for Edwards and they left for a safer and more welcoming night stay elsewhere.

After his return to Canada, Edwards enlisted in the Army and served as a Captain fighting against the Nazi regime in World War II. But Edwards did not just confront racism on the track and on the battlefield; he also challenged the racist stereotype that black people are not intelligent. Edwards graduated as a medical doctor from McGill University in 1936, and he also received a graduate diploma specializing in tropical diseases for his pioneering medical work.

Although prejudice against people of color still exists today, the idea that black people are inferior to others is completely false. Dr. Phil Edwards' athletic excellence, leadership skills, and medical career successfully and heroically defied racist stereotypes. Due to the effort of Edwards, and many other figures like him, Canadians have a proud history of confronting racism.

photograph of Phil Edwards running in race
Phil Edwards was known as the "man of bronze" for the five bronze medals he won at the Olympic Games from 1928 to 1936. No other Canadian athlete matched this achievement until 2002. Originally from British Guiana (now Guyana), he moved to Montreal to compete for Canada at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. He was among the first Black athletes to win an Olympic medal showing the competitive spirit that marks a true Olympian.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Phil Edwards on far right with members McGill track team
While studying medicine at McGill University Phil Edwards competed at every intercollegiate meet and was captain of the track and field team from 1931 to 1936. The team won six consecutive championships. He was considered to be the backbone of the team through his leadership and integrity.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Phil Edwards on far right on podium
Phil Edwards was recognized not only as a top athlete but as a humanitarian. After his athletic career was over he became a leading physician and tropical disease expert in Montreal and went on to use his expertise on international medical missions. He helped develop Canada's first international sport effort which assisted young developing athletes in the eastern Caribbean.
Collection: Private Collection: M.M. Robinson, on loan from William F. Clark, Executor

1934 commemorative medallion from British Empire Games
Phil Edwards competed for his home country of Guyana at the 1930 and 1934 British Empire Games. He was the first black athlete to compete and win a medal at these Games, winning a gold medal in the 800m in 1934. As one of only a few black athletes to compete in the 1920's and 1930's he was a pioneer in breaking down racial barriers.
Collection: Private Collection: M.M. Robinson, on loan from William F. Clark, Executor

medallion with human figure Berlin 1936
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were intended to showcase Aryan supremacy. Black athletes were referred to as "Black Ancillaries". Phil Edwards was so well respected as a team player and integrity that he was elected team captain. He showed his courage and self-respect when he competed at these games. He was the first recipient of the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's top athlete in 1936.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

gold coloured medal relay baton
The gold medal for the 4 x100m relay in 1996 was achieved because of the team spirit and team work. Individually they were not the four fastest men on the track but when they put the effort together and created the trust between them, they achieved great things. This is the relay baton carried in the semi-final.
Collection: Private Collection: Bruny Surin

photograph of the 1996 men's relay team with medals
The 1996 relay team consisted of Donovan Bailey, Bruny Surin, Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert and Charlton Chambers who ran in the heats. Each member of the team had a job to do and they achieved their success through their personal work ethic and the team spirit they had. They knew they could win because they believed in themselves and the team.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Donovan Bailey with baton
Donovan Bailey won two gold medals at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, winning the 100m sprint and team relay. His values as a person and an athlete included discipline, focus, hard work and staying true to himself in order to achieve his goals.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Charmaine Crooks running in race
Charmaine Crooks represented Canada for close to 20 years as an outstanding track athlete. She won numerous medals at international competitions. She has used the drive, commitment and perseverance that made her a top athlete in her post athletic career as a mentor and spokesperson for athletes at the international level. She is also well respected for her work with underprivileged children in her active support for the Fair Play organization.
Collection: CP PHOTO/COC/Claus Anderson

photograph of Charmaine Crooks, far right with relay team
Charmaine Crooks, Jillian Richardson, Molly Killingbeck and Marita Payne won the silver medal in the women's 4 x 400m relay at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Each member of the team showed their commitment and strength and their strong sense of team work to win the medal.
Collection: CP PHOTO/COC/Crombie McNeil

headband with Charmaine Hooper's name
Charmaine Hooper was a pioneer in women's soccer, playing on Canada's first national team formed in 1986. She helped the Canadian team win its first game at an international tournament in 2003. Her competitive spirit and drive extended through a 20-year career that has brought women's soccer to the public.
Collection: Private Collection: Charmaine Hooper

photograph of Charmaine Hooper playing soccer
Charmaine Hooper started playing soccer as a young girl. She played largely against boys which helped her to develop her skills. She played at the university level and as a professional, enjoying a stellar international career. She is recognized as one of the greatest Canadian players. Her commitment to soccer has led her to serve on several World Cup committees and her accomplishments act as a motivator for young players everywhere.
Collection: Private Collection: Charmaine Hooper

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