Honoured Members John Short & the Smith family on Olympic Success
Article from Edmonton Sun: Dinner with family of swimming greats showed importance of personal best performances
The only thing — well, the biggest thing — missing from Canada's remarkable run of medal and near-medal Olympic performances at Rio is some legitimate recognition that, finally, we are maturing as a sports nation.
For the first time in this old media wretch's long memory, we have begun to accept that the only way to build long-term success in any endeavour is to seek and achieve consistency.
Which means, to me, that an individual's personal best — which this nation has a long history of overlooking or pooh-poohing — may be as important, long-term, as any individual visit to a post-event celebration on the podium.
For years, it was common for media and fans to denigrate athletes who wore national colours, including the flag, but failed to get past the early stages of competition. To miss in the heats or fail in a quarter- or semifinal was to be labelled a serious failure. We aren't doing that any more.
True sports fans owe a debt of thanks to the enlightened builders and observers who have led the way in the great steps towards serious recognition of progress at a high level.
Several times in the last 10 days, a long-ago meal at the home of the late Don and Gwen Smith and their eight kids has been brought to happy memory. In case you didn't know, Edmonton's downtown pool is named in Don's honour and Gwen, once named top athlete at the University of Toronto, includes membership in Alberta's Sports Hall of Fame among her numerous accolades.
Of the Smith kids, George, Graham, Sandra, Susan and Becky all swam for Canada.
During the relaxed meal, one of the daughters mentioned winning a medal or two at a significant event. Plenty of detail was requested by proud family members, nothing more or less than the praise every winner expects.
But the lesson that stuck with me came moments later: either Graham or George mentioned achieving his personal best. He seemed apologetic that he did not win, but the other family members took the briefest of moments to quell his self-doubt.
Don, an outstanding coach during his time at the University of Alberta, explained to this curious reporter that the impossible quest of every athlete is to seek personal perfection.
Ever since that dinner, I have agreed with his assessment.
As a result, the sheer joy of Penny Oleksiak's medals and the triumphs and near-triumphs of Canadians at all levels of every event is made even greater because a large number of Canadian athletes may be on the cusp of wonderful things to come.
All these personal bests tell that wonderful story.
Honoured Member Ashley Steacy wins Bronze Medal!
Article from Lethbridge Herald: Steacy wins bronze at Rio Olympics
Ashley Steacy is an Olympic bronze medallist.
Steacy, the LCI grad and former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns rugby star, was part of Canada's rugby sevens team which defeated Great Britain 33-10 on Monday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro.
With many family members and friends in the crowd, Steacy wept as the final buzzer sounded on the bronze-medal match. The commitment to Rugby Canada pulled Steacy away from her life in Lethbridge, but it all came to a thrilling, emotional finish for the Canadian women and their incipient Olympic sport.
Steacy competed with another former Pronghorn in Kayla Moleschi, who arrived after Steacy left the program. She's become a star in sevens rugby with her standout play internationally in the Rugby Sevens Series and become a spokesman for the sport thanks to her ability on the field, but also her shinning personality off the field.
"Patzer, I mean, she's not just an incredible player," said former Pronghorns head coach Neil Langevin, who still occasionally calls Steacy by her maiden name. "She has transformed the whole sport by being a great ambassador, a great role model for the game and the kind of athlete you want to be."
Langevin coached Steacy — as Patzer — to three Canadian University championships. He also coached Moleschi to a Canada West conference title after that. Steacy's arrival to the program saw them become a powerhouse and they attracted more star players. All the while, led by the Lethbridge product with no ego and a Ram tough presence on the field.
"I've known a lot of high-level athletes and the one thing they all have in common, to a degree, is selfishness," said Lethbridge Rugby Club president Rory McKeown. "But Ashley, for whatever reason, has none of that."
Steacy has also represented Canada in rugby 15s, and was a stalwart of the Lethbridge Rugby Club before national duty called. She spent last season recovering from a knee surgery which saw an artificial ligament made from woven kevlar installed in her knee.
McKeown said he watched the game with his parents, and took nothing for granted until Canada scored its final try and he could celebrate Steacy's win.
"It is certainly quite a feeling to say not only do I know an Olympian, but I know an Olympic medallist," he said.
Langevin said Moleschi may have been Canada's best player, by his estimation, in the tournament. A smart and tough runner, Moleschi can also tackle well and is adept at the little things. Langevin said that may be because while Patzer was out with a knee injury, Moleschi had to fill many of her roles.
"While Ashley was out, they asked Kayla to do a lot of the things they relied on Ashley to do, and it made her a much better player for it," he said. "I think it showed, during the tournament, and she was very good for Canada."
The University of Lethbridge's athletic department staff gathered in The Zoo at the U of L for the morning's 17-5 semifinal loss to eventual gold medallist Australia. Another group of fans gathered in the university's fitness centre to watch the bronze-medal game and afterward, the outpouring of congratulations on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter from friends and former teammates of Steacy's seemed endless.
Steacy is Lethbridge's first Olympic medallist since Bob Kasting, also an LCI graduate, won bronze in the men's 4×100 medley relay at Munich in 1972.
Remembering Honoured Member Frances Gordon
Another Summer Olympics is well underway. Like past Olympics, there are sure to be wonderful performances by outstanding world athletes, amazing victories, crushing defeats and a great deal of controversy.
One tremendous Alberta sports success story involves a team that competed at three different Summer Olympics, won all the games they played and yet were never awarded an Olympic gold medal.
That is the story of the Edmonton Grads women's basketball team.
The origins of this truly remarkable sports powerhouse go back to the time of the First World War. The provincial championship senior girls' basketball team from McDougall Commercial High School asked their coach, Percy Page, if he would continue to coach them after graduation.
He agreed. The Commercial Graduates Basketball Club, nicknamed 'The Grads', was born.
As a side note, Page had previously been a teacher at the Hillsdown one-room country school, east of Red Deer.
In 1922, the Edmonton Grads defeated the London Ontario Shamrocks to claim their first Canadian women's basketball championship.
The next year, the Grads won the Underwood Trophy to become the North American champions. Until they disbanded in 1940, the Grads never ceased to be both the Canadian and American championship team.
In 1924, the Grads played six games during the Paris Olympics.
They won all the games. Because women's basketball was not yet considered an Olympic sport, they did not win gold medals. However, they were designated the world women's basketball champions by the International Basketball Federation.
In 1928, the Grads played nine games in conjunction with the Amsterdam Olympics and won every single match.
Again, they were not awarded any Olympic medals, but did win the right to call themselves both the French and World champions because of the European teams they beat.
In 1932, the Grads attended the Los Angeles Olympic Games as spectators. However, no formal women's basketball games were played.
In 1936, the Grads went to the Berlin Olympics. This time there were women's basketball games again. The Grads were also allowed to both wear official Canadian team uniforms and sit in the Canadian athletes' section. They won all nine of their games. They crushed the team from London, England by a score of 100 to 2.
Because of the outbreak of the Second World War, there were no 1940 Summer Olympics. The Edmonton Grads also decided to disband in 1940.
Over the lifetime of the team (i.e. 1915 to 1940), they won 502 games (400 official contests) and lost only 20. In 1983, all 38 players with the Grads were inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
There was one Red Deer player with the Grads.
She was Frances Gordon (later Mills). Frances was born in Red Deer on Jan. 19th, 1915.
After excelling in academics and sports in school in Red Deer, she went to Edmonton to train as a teacher.
She was scouted by Page, and began playing for the Gradettes, the feeder team for the Grads.
She left Edmonton and the Gradettes for a couple of years while she taught in a one-room country school. After returning to Edmonton to attend McDougall Commercial School, she joined the Grads in the spring of 1937.
After a year, Gordon returned to the Gradettes. She continued to play with them until the team disbanded in 1940.
After the end of the Second World War, she returned to Red Deer where she got a job with the City Utilities office. In 1948, she married Oswin 'Ozzie' Mills, who later became the head of the City's Electric Light and Power Department.
Frances was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Halls of Fame. She passed away in Red Deer on April 14th, 2004 at the age of 89. She and Ozzie are survived by two sons, Brian and Gerry, and their families.
Congrats from Barb Clark to 4x100m Freestyle Relay Winners!
"Congratulations Girls! We know that you put in your best effort and are proud to have another Bronze Medal in the Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay. Way to go Gals!"
- Barb Clark Parolin
ASHFM Honoured Member Barb Clark Parolin won the Bronze at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 4x100M Freestyle Relay.
It's been 40 Years since Canada placed in the medals for the 4x100m Freestyle Relay.
Great job Sandrine Mainville, Chantale Van Landeham, Taylor Ruck, Penny Oleksiak, and Michelle Williams!
Lawrence Lemieux's Heart of Gold
Article from Free Press Journal: Heart of Gold
"I just had to go. If I went to them and they didn't really need help, c'est la vie. If I didn't go, it would be something you would regret for the rest of your life."
The 1988 Seoul Olympics, where one of the best in the sports of sailing Lawrence Lemieux entered the books of Olympic history for not setting a record, or grabbing Gold medal, but was for the sportsmanship which he showed.
Lawrence Lemieux grew up sailing on the lakes of western Canada. So adept was he that, throughout his teens and twenties, Lemieux won many competitions throughout North America. Skilled and self-assured, the 32-year-old Lemieux easily earned a place on his country's sailing team in the 1988 Olympic Games, held in South Korea.
On the morning of September 24, the waters off Pusan were calm, the wind blowing at 10 to 15 knots—nearly ideal sailing conditions. The first four races went smoothly, with José Luis Doreste of Spain and Peter Holmberg of the Virgin Islands earning comfortable leads. Lemieux's turn came with the fifth race, when the wind picked up to a dangerous 35 knots.
Lemieux was in second place while sailing in a Finn class (individual) race in the 1988 Olympics sailing at a speed which could easily get him a Gold medal but instead went on to save his two fellow sailors.
While sailing, when saw them sailing, he had two options. Either save them, or sail to the finish point to grab the Gold medal. The wind had become very rough during the race with waves reaching the height of almost four meters. While sailing, Lemieux came across two sailors in another race capsize, one holding on to the boat, the other was being swept away by the heavy wind.
He tried to call to see if they needed help, but simply could not hear their replies. Giving up his chance to medal, Lemieux decided he needed to help save the two from the team for Singapore. "I just had to go. If I went to them and they didn't really need help, c'est la vie. If I didn't go, it would be something you would regret for the rest of your life."
It wasn't an easy rescue. The waves were high and breaking, causing Lemieux's boat to take on water, but he was able to rescue the sailors, Chan and Shaw Her Siew, and get them into his small boat. Had he not come to their aid, Chan would likely have been lost at sea.
"I could have won gold. But, in the same circumstances, I would do what I did again," said Lemieux, years later, even though he never had another chance for an Olympic medal. He was given a medal for sportsmanship and awarded honorary second-place.
Though he is not remembered by many, Lawrence Lemieux epitomizes the best of the Olympic spirit.
Lawrence Lemieux showed the whole world what the Olympics was all about. The Olympics is not all about winning. Yes, people from hundreds of countries come to the Olympics to win a medal but that isn't what the Olympics is about. It is about courage, it is about self sacrifice and sportsmanship. Mr. Lemieux embodied what the Olympics is all about.
He went on to compete in many other competitions and to work as a sailing coach and race organizer in Canada, and he was recently inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
Calgary Stampede named the "Dwayne Erickson Media Suite"
It wasn't even noon, but we drank rum and Cokes to toast to an old friend anyway.
Not quite the way he drank them, mind you. His were a little stronger.
But it was an appropriate tribute to honour someone who gave so much to the sport of rodeo, touched the lives of so many cowboys and cowgirls, mentored so many journalists, and became a larger than life figure at the Calgary Stampede for decades.
Year after year, Dwayne Erickson sat in a chair — his chair — in the South Media Press Box. He wasn't always easy to deal with. Cantankerous, ornery, impatient, and downright grouchy, Dwayne could intimidate the greenest of interns and the city's most veteran scribes. Yet, if he gave you a small smile or a gentle compliment about your story of the day, there was no better feeling in the world.
Regardless of your relationship with Dwayne, when you truly understood what he was about, you couldn't help but admire his passion and gift.
"Right from the first time I did any good in the pros, he was the first one to give you a call," said Rod Hay, a four-time Calgary Stampede saddle bronc champion and a 20-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. "He covered my entire professional career. You knew darn well you did something good if Dwayne called you.
"If you saw Dwayne was calling, you knew you must have done something good somewhere. It was always nice to hear from Dwayne, for sure . . . he had our sport's best interest in mind at all times."
Dwayne passed away at the age of 75 in the spring of 2013.
On Saturday, at the suggestion of the Calgary media eager to pay tribute to an old friend, the Calgary Stampede board renamed the South Media Press Box the "Dwayne Erickson Media Suite."
Hay, among others, raised a glass of rum and Coke in his honour.
"With Dwayne, everybody he knew he loved rodeo," Hay said. "All he wanted to do was to show rodeo the way it really is and show people what rodeo was about. All of the cowboys trusted him and loved him.
"He was one of the best things that ever happened to our sport, I believe."
Saddle bronc rider Dustin Flundra agreed.
"I had him on speed dial, I'm pretty sure he had me on speed dial," chuckled the Pincher Creek native. "If he didn't know what we'd done already, he'd call to see how we did. You knew as soon as you got the call that you'd either won something somewhere or something didn't go the way it should.
"Dwayne was going to get the stories both ways. I don't know if you can find a person that has done more for sport than him . . . he thought we were rock stars and wanted us to have the same attention that other professionals got."
Dwayne covered his first Calgary Stampede in 1982 and every National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas since 1985, working not only for the Herald and the Journal, but both the Edmonton and Calgary Suns, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC-TV and the Canadian Rodeo News.
"If Dwayne trusted you, then you could be trusted," wrote George Jonhson in a written tribute after his passing in 2013.
In 2000, he left the Calgary Sun to write for the Calgary Herald. I met him seven years later when I first started covering the rodeo. And I had no clue what I was doing.
But, gradually, after getting past his tough-as-leather exterior, I started to learn the importance of listening and watching, instead of talking.
Writing stories about good people and building good relationships, you see, was almost more important than the sport itself.
"He's definitely missed among the cowboys," Flundra said."Especially the ones that got to know him as a person, not just as a reporter. He developed relationships with quite a few of us, beyond rodeos.
"Just before he passed away, he'd come to the Twin Butte Store because he'd heard all of us cowboys talk about what we'd do after Calgary. He wanted to come check it out . . . he was really interested in our lives outside of rodeo too."
Dwayne — Dwayne-O or Cowboy, as he was known to the media covering the Calgary Stampede — said it best himself.
"What I have tried to do is explain that cowboys are not million-dollar hockey players or football players," Dwayne had said when he was inducted in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame, a quote which will now be hung in the Dwayne Erickson Media Suite next to his photo. "They are good, everyday people who have the greatest sense of community that I have ever seen.
"It makes me so proud of this sport, because there isn't a moment when they wouldn't stick out their hand and help, in competition and in life.
"Rodeo is a life teacher."