Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories celebrating some of Canada’s top sports heroes and moments as the country marks its 150th birthday in 2017. We’ve also revisited the lives of baseball hall of famer Ferguson Jenkins, speed skater Gaetan Boucher and skier Nancy Greene, and looked back at the Richard Riot.
When you met Barbara Ann Scott, Canada’s first Olympic skating champion, your first reaction was to take the offered hand, bow deeply, and place a soft kiss of supplication to true skating royalty.
She had that kind of aura — one appropriate for the country’s first modern international athletic superstar, but also something earned through decades of seemingly letter-perfect public appearances, endless generosity to young skaters and love for Canadian sport.
From the time Scott won the first of two world championships, in 1947, through the Olympic gold medal in 1948 at St. Moritz, the Ottawa skater dominated and dazzled headline writers who fell for her grace, charm and (heavens, we can’t say that about a young woman) athleticism.
“She was certainly the queen, and the king, and the whole royal family around skating, being the first Canadian to win Olympic and world gold medals,” says Debbi Wilkes, herself a Canadian legend on the ice, having won a 1964 pairs silver with partner Guy Revell, at the Innsbruck Games.
“When I first met her, I guess it was 1963 … at the Olympic trials in [Toronto’s] Maple Leaf Gardens … it was like meeting the Queen — she was so lovely, so graceful, so supportive, warm, and authentic in her praise and congratulations. It’s still a highlight of my skating career.”
Born to be a star
Scott was the antithesis of so many Canadian heroes on the…