Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


Few people have the necessary discipline and focus to excel in one let alone two careers, but Benjamin Keeper had both. Although of aboriginal descent, Ben Keeper was educated in a Christian Methodist School because of the strong missionary influences in the local area. In fact, Keeper the youngest of ten children was the only member of his family to attend school and he didn't waste the opportunity.

While at school, Keeper became known for his outstanding athletic talent. In particular he seemed to revel in the most physically demanding sports because of his ability to remain disciplined and focused while immersed in pain. Keeper developed a passion and love for endurance running to the extent that by 1911 he had set a Canadian record for the ten-mile run. The following year, Keeper was to excel again as he became locked in a fantastic duel for the Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000m final at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. With the race leader long gone, Keeper and two other runners battled for two medals. Despite exhausting himself, Keeper narrowly missed out on the bronze medal finishing in fourth. To this day Keeper's position remains the greatest result of any Canadian in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games.

With such athletic prowess it would seem somewhat natural that Keeper would excel in the Army as well. But athletes have not always made the best soldiers as the disciplines demand such uniquely specific talents. Nonetheless Keeper served the 107th Pioneer Battalion with his usual discipline, focus and distinction. Pioneers were soldiers responsible for constructing camps, fortifications and communications and Keeper was a dispatch rider, a notoriously insecure and dangerous yet vital role. In fact, Keeper performed this role so well he was awarded the Military Medal in 1917 for outstanding bravery; a medal that may have made up for the one he narrowly lost five years earlier at the Olympic Games.

Photograph of Joseph Benjamin Keeper wearing a jersey with a maple leaf
Joe Keeper was an athlete with tremendous ability and focus. Competing at the 1912 Olympic Games he came in a valiant fourth in his race, showing his will and discipline in this highly competitive race.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

1912 red maple leaf shaped crest with CANADA in white letters.
Canada sent a small contingent to the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm including Joe Keeper. He wore his crest with distinction and humility, characteristics of this quiet man. Joe Keeper went on to serve in World War One as a dispatch runner.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Military metal shoulder badge that reads CANADA
Canadian soldiers in World War One wore a standard battle dress that was similar to the British. The "Canada" insignia was worn with pride and a growing sense of national identity like this metal shoulder badge.
Collection: Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regimental Museum & Archives

Photograph of soldiers in a trench during World War One
Soldiers fought and lived in the trenches during World War One. Joe Keeper's position as dispatch runner had him running from one area to another to bring messages.
Collection: Library and Archives Canada

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