I was very honoured to represent Canada at two Olympic Games in Speed Skating – in 1964 in Innsbruck, Austria, and in 1968 in Grenoble, France.
My skating career started on figure skates skating with family and friends at a small outdoor rink in my community. Once a year, the Winnipeg School Division held skating races indoor at the Winnipeg Arena. I started participating in these when I was in Grade 4. When I was in Grade 6, the principal of my elementary
school suggested to my parents and me that I should contact the Winnipeg Speed Skating Club (WSSC). I got my first pair of speed skates that year and participated in the Club’s races every Sunday. But during the week I still skated on my figure skates at the local rink because at that time speed skates were not allowed on the community rinks.
Although during the first year with the WSSC I was no where near winning any races, I enjoyed the challenge and decided I would like to pursue this sport. I gave up my figure skates! 2 years later I won my first age group Canadian Championship.
The Olympic Trials for the 1964 Team were scheduled for Winnipeg in December 1963. Only two men and two women would make the team. I was not considered to be a candidate, but I decided I would train to the best of my ability and see what could happen. Part of my training involved cycling (at a time when it was not “cool” for teenage girls to cycle). I did lots of running, including running the hill at the old garbage dump (Winnipeg does not have a lot of hills). In the Fall I looked for a slough or pond that had frozen, so I could get on my skates. I was surprised and truly excited to earn a spot on my first Olympic Team! Our team included two men ages 30 and 36, and two women — one age 32 and me at 16.
At 16 years of age I was the youngest speed skater competing in Innsbruck. At that time women skated four distances: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, and 3000m. The 5000m is included today, but originally it was thought that 5000m was much too strenuous a race for women! Because Canada did not have the luxury of having specialists at different distances, I competed in all 4 distances. I was extremely proud to place eighth in the 3000m.
The Olympic Trials for the 1968 Team were scheduled for December 1967 again in Winnipeg during the week between Christmas and New Year. Unfortunately the temperature dipped to -40 at night that week, but the trials went on. This time there were four men and three women named to the team, plus a coach. At the previous Olympics we did not have a coach, but the President of the Canadian Speed Skating Association accompanied us as a manager. I was very fortunate that the older skaters were extremely helpful to me.
I competed at time when we did not have the supports such as physiotherapist, nutritionist, or sport psychologist. It was the “Bank of Mom and Dad” which financed most of my travel and competitions. I chose to retire at the age of 21. I was looking forward to completing my university degree and starting a
teaching career. At that stage athletes didn’t have the kind of sponsorship support they have today, so it was difficult to continue athletic careers as long!
I encourage young people to participate in a variety of different sports because the skill and fitness required in each sport enhances the skill and fitness required in other sports. Our kids, Jason & Jennifer, participated in many sports and enjoyed support and opportunity in University and National team programs.
Belief is important, so “Dream big dreams!” Somebody will make the Olympic Team – why not you?!