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


Video Transcript

[Narrator - Angela James]

[Images behind Angela James of women's baseball team, Barbara Ann Scott skating, newspaper articles about Barbara Ann Scott, images of Barbara Ann Scott posing, skating and in a car at Toronto parade.]

Following the upheaval of World War II, female athletes in Canada rekindled the momentum pioneering women had achieved in sport throughout the 1920's and 1930's. Among Canada's most influential post-war sports icon, Barbara Ann Scott became the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1948. Celebrated as a national hero, Barbara Ann was greeted by cheering crowds of supporters when she returned to Canada after her Olympic victory. Her doll-like appearance and sunny personality fascinated the press, occasionally threatening to obscure her athletic prowess. A fiercely disciplined competitor, Barbara Ann Scott made many personal sacrifices at a young age to maintain the training regimen that inspired her international success. These outstanding qualities made her a true champion and a powerful role model for aspiring female athletes at the dawn of the modern era.

[Historica footage of Marilyn Bell entering Lake Ontario, showing boats, swimming in Lake Ontario, arriving in Toronto at night after swimming Lake Ontario, cheering crowds at parade in Toronto]

Marathon swimmer Marilyn Bell was among the many young girls who looked to Barbara Ann Scott as a personal hero after attending a parade held in the skater's honour. In 1954, at the age of 16, Marilyn became the first athlete to swim across Lake Ontario, tracing a route from Youngstown, New York to Toronto in 20 hours and 58 minutes. Conditions were poor when she entered the dark, cold water of Lake Ontario. Rain and wind created violent waves, and lamprey eels added to the unsettling experience of swimming across the lake at night. Persevering in trying conditions, Marilyn Bell triumphed and was greeted the following day in Toronto by cheering crowds even greater in number than those of her childhood hero.

[Images of skiiers, Wurtele sisters posed images and skiing]

On the slopes, a number of groundbreaking female athletes helped make the Canadian Women's Alpine Ski Team a dominant force in the international competition following World War II. Their tradition of excellence began with Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele, identical twins from Montreal who began ski racing at the age of eleven, despite their mother's concerns it wasn't a "ladylike pastime". Achieving a career total of over 120 national and international victories, in 1948 they also represented Canada at the Olympic Winter Games. Many skiers the Wurteles mentored continued to place Canada at the forefront of international competition in the decades that followed.

[Images of Lucile Wheeler skiing, posed with skiis, images of Anne Heggtveit, Nancy Greene action images, ski team photos, Kerrin Lee Gartner action and posed images with skiis and image of Kerrin Lee-Gartner holding her gold medal.]

In 1956, Lucile Wheeler became the first Canadian ever to win an Olympic ski medal, capturing bronze in the downhill event. Shortly afterward, her teammate, Anne Heggtveit won Canada's first Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing capturing the slalom title in 1960. Anne's roommate that year was Nancy Greene, a fearless competitor who went on to capture Canada's first Olympic gold medal in giant slalom in 1968. Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, champions on the Canadian Women's Alpine Ski Team continued to credit the trailblazing athletes who preceded them for their ongoing success.

Kerrin Lee-Gartner grew up two houses away from Nancy Greene's childhood home in Rossland, B.C., and developed her passion for skiing as a young girl in the local Nancy Greene Beginners League. In 1992, Kerrin brought decades of pioneering achievements on the slopes full circle when she became the first Canadian to win gold in the Olympic Downhill Skiing.

[Images of women playing hockey in late 1800's, women wearing ski outfit from early 1900's, panning shot of women's gold medal team from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.]

Although Canadian women had played hockey since the late 1800's, they had little opportunity for elite competition until a National Women's Hockey Team was formed in 1990. The impact of these new opportunities for women's hockey in Canada was electrifying.

[Image of Manon Rhéaume, fan shots at Olympic Winter Games, Olympic footage of 1992 Olympic Winter Games women's hockey team]

In 1992, Manon Rhéaume became the first woman to play in the National Hockey League, goal tending in an exhibition game. Following her groundbreaking appearance, the sport's popularity grew exponentially. Women's ice hockey first became part of the Olympic program in 1998, and Canada's National Team won four consecutive gold medals between 2002 and 2014. Attracting unprecedented audiences each time they defended their Olympic title, female hockey players also became recognizable public figures for the first time in the history of Canadian sport.

[Footage of 1992 Olympic Winter Games women's hockey game with announcer describing - A red letter day in Salt Lake city, image of Cassie Campbell with gold medal and footage of Cassie Campbell on the ice]

Cassie Campbell helped win Olympic gold in 2002 and 2006 as Team Captain before retiring from competition. Celebrated for her leadership and versatility on the ice, she continued to give female athletes a voice as a television sports reporter after retiring from competition.

[Images behind Angela James of female track athletes, rowers, speed skaters, receiving medals, trapshooting, Joannie Rochette holding Canadian flag at closing ceremonies with teammates, images of Sandra Schmirler rink, Elizabeth Manley and Clara Hughes.]

Spearheading a movement towards greater gender equality in sport since World War II, female athletes in Canada have achieved unprecedented levels of recognition and respect. Just like the first athletes to break through gender barriers in the late nineteenth century, Canadian women in the modern era have demonstrated tremendous courage and confidence in their own abilities. Their efforts continue to transform social attitudes, refusing limitations and heralding a bright future for Canadian women in sport in the twenty-first century.

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