Achievements:Canadian Olympic highlights and moments
The Winter Olympic Games movement picked up steam in the 1960s, with increased global interest and continued expansion and diversification of sports and related disciplines. The Canadian Olympic performances also continued to develop, as the support and funding increased.
But it’s the moments that truly tell the Olympic story. The triumphs and victories and also the defeats, setbacks and heartaches. In this story, we cover a lot of ground from 1960 to the recently Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games where Canada claimed 26 medals. The Canadian’s have become a formidable force in nearly every sport. Here are some of those stories.
1960 Squaw Valley, California | Feb. 18-28
Squaw Valley’s bid to host the Olympics was a surprise, outvoting Innsbruck by the slimmest of margins 32 votes to 30. With only one hotel and an absence of sport venues, Squaw Valley became the first Olympic host site to have a purpose-built ski centre. Days before the events began, the site received 10cm of rain but heavy snowfalls soon followed to save the Opening Ceremonies which were presided over by then Vice-President Richard Nixon.
Interesting fact: Anne Heggtveit’s performance in the women’s slalom gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal in alpine. She finished an astonishing 3.3 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor. Her achievements also resulted in the world slalom and alpine combined titles.
Canadian Anne Heggveit during her gold medal run in Squaw Valley, 1960. Photo: CSHFM Collection.
Nancy Greene race to a 7th place finish in the 1964 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Photo: CSHFM Collection.
1964: Innsbruck, Austria | Jan. 29-Feb. 9
Innsbruck had suffered one of its worst winter seasons in 1964. International Olympic Committee officials were confronted by the seemingly insurmountable task of bringing in more snow to the Olympic venues if the Games were to be saved. A massive effort by the Austrian army saw 20,000 ice blocks transported from a local mountain top using the luge and bobsleigh tracks, with roughly 40,000 cubic meters of snow used for the alpine courses and flattened by hand and foot.
Interesting fact: Even though the Canadian alpine teams weren’t considered much of a threat heading into the Olympics Nancy Greene Raine surprised some with a 7th place finish in the downhill. Peter Duncan finished a strong 19th in the slalom, helping Canada earn the respect and recognition of all the nations present.
1968: Grenoble, France | Feb. 6-18
Controversy plagued the Olympics once again, as ski teams rebelled against the IOC President Avery Brundage’s continuing proclamation that the display of trade names on skis and other equipment would not be allowed. Despite the fact that ski industries’ financial commitment allowed for high levels of international competition, the Brundage’s judgment continued to prevail. The Canadian men’s alpine team was represented by Peter Duncan,Scott Henderson, Keith Shepherd, Bob Swan, Bill McKay, Keith Shepherd, Rod Hebron, Gerri Rinaldi, and coach, John Platt. On the nordic team were Rolf Pettersen, Nils Skulbru, Dave Rees, with coach Sture Grahn.
Interesting fact: Now the reigning World Cup champion, Nancy Greene Raine added an Olympic medal to her incredible achievements. To the delight of the large crowds, she won two medals; a gold in the giant slalom by an impressive 2.6 seconds and a silver in the slalom. She became the first Canadian to win two Olympic alpine medals, stating that her gold medal run in the GS was “… perhaps… my greatest race ever”.
Canadian men’s team at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France [L to R]: Scott Henderson, Peter Duncan, Bob Swan, Bill McKay, Dr. Harold Kreiner, Gerry Rinaldi, Rod Hebron, John Platt (missing is Keith Shepard). Photo: International Press Service.
Canadian Olympic women’s ski team [L to R]: Peter Franzen (coach), Judy Crawford, Laurie Kreiner, Dianne Pratte, Kathy Kreiner, [absent]: Carolyn Oughton. Photo: CSHFM Collection #78.10.1.
1972: Sapporo, Japan | Feb. 3-13
These were the first Winter Games held outside Europe or the United States. Politics dominated the storylines as the issue of professionalism in sport continued. The Canadian men’s alpine team consisted of Reto Barrington, “Jungle Jim” Hunter, Derek Robbins, coach Gilbert Mollard, and manager Alan Raine. Of the eight cross country skiers, a record six were from Inuvik, NWT, including 18-year old twins, Sharon Firth and Shirley Firth who became the first First Nations women to qualify for a Canadian Olympic team.
Interesting fact: Highly touted skier Betsy Clifford suffered a leg injury after a fall during training prior to the Games, keeping her out of the competition. However, the women’s alpine team scored solid results in the slalom event with Judy Crawford in 4th, Laurie Kreiner in 12th and Kathy Kreiner in 14th, while in the GS, Laurie Kreiner placed 4th and Diane Pratte 15th.
1976: Innsbruck, Austria | Feb. 4-15
Originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, the city withdrew its bid for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games when its citizens voted against the use of public funds to host the event, the result of a referendum held on November 15, 1972. Facilities from the 1964 Winter Games, however, remained in good condition prompting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on February 4, 1973, to return the Winter Games to Innsbruck for the second time in 12 years.
Interesting fact: This was the year that all Canadian eyes would be glued to television sets as the Crazy Canucks downhill team emerged as a real threat to challenge the dominance of the Europeans. Although they didn’t win a medal, Ken Read, Dave Irwin, Jim Hunter and Dave Murray placed 5th, 8th, 10th, and 18th respectively in the downhill event, an outstanding result for the team. Dave Irwin’s was still recovering from two broken ribs and a concussion sustained in a crash at over 120km/hr, three weeks earlier in Wengen, Switzerland. But it was Kathy Kreiner who stole the show winning the women’s giant slalom event from the first starting position.
Canadian Olympic ski team [L to R]: Jim Hunter, Jane Helder (physiotherapist), Kathy Kreiner, Andrzej Kozbial (alpine program director), Laurie Kreiner, Ken Read, Betsy Clifford, Dave Murray, Scott Henderson (head coach-men), Wayne Gruden (coach), Luc Dubois (manager), Robert Safrata, Lynden McIntosh (coach), Dr. Bernie Lalonde (head coach-women). Photo: CSHFM Collection # x2004.15.1
Steve Podborski (white) celebrates his bronze medal win in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games. Photo: CP PHOTO/COA.
1980: Lake Placid, New York | February 14-23
Canadian ski jumper Steve Collins, who at 15, became the youngest ski jumper in Olympic Winter Games history, finished a surprising 9th in the 90-metre event. In women’s cross country, the Firth sisters were participating in their 3rd consecutive Olympic Games. Due to a lack of top-16 finishes in international cross country competitions, no Canadian males met the Canadian Olympic Association’s required Olympic criteria.
Steve Podborski became the first Canadian male skier to win an Olympic medal in an alpine event by winning bronze in downhill, while Dave Murray and Dave Irwin finished 10th and 11th respectively. Medal favourite Ken Read fell just seconds into his run. The women’s downhill results were equally impressive with Kathy Kreiner finishing 5th and Laurie Graham in 11th. Kathy Kreiner placed 9th in the giant slalom, and 15th in the slalom.
1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia | Feb. 7-19
Sarajevo’s selection as the host city for the Olympics prompted scepticism from those who suggested that it lacked the infrastructure and experience … but the critics were proven wrong. The organizing committee and the local citizens pulled off a spectacular event. Although no medals were won in women’s alpine events, Canadian downhillers performed well as Gerry Sorensen and Laurie Graham placed 6th and 11th respectively, with Liisa Savijarvi (18th) and Karen Stemmle (22nd). In giant slalom, Liisa Savijarvi was 8th and Diana Haight (17th).
Interesting fact: Steve Podborski was unable to repeat his bronze medal winning performance from the 1980 Games, finishing in 8th place, with Todd Brooker in 9th. In cross country, Angela Schmidt-Foster, and sisters Sharon Firth and Shirley Firth competed in all women’s cross country events (5km, 10km, 20km.) Pierre Harvey competed in all men’s cross country events (15km, 30km, 50km) with consistent finishes of 21st, 21st, and 20th respectively. In ski jumping Horst Bulau finished an unexpected 10th place finish in the 90-metre event, Canada’s best result.
Sharon and Shirley Firth competed in all cross country events at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo. Photo: Canadian Ski Association.
Karen Percy, bronze medalist in downhill and super G at 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta. Photo: Canadian Olympic Association.
1988: Calgary, Canada | February 13-28
Calgary, Alberta, was the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Winter Games. With 16 days of competition, it was also the longest running, welcoming record numbers of participants with the introduction of freestyle skiing demonstration sports, and Paralympic skiing exhibition events. Weather was always a concern especially the potential for an appearance of a “Chinook”, an unwelcome phenomenon accompanied by very high winds and soaring, snow-melting temperatures. While fluctuating temperatures and high winds caused delays, the Chinook, fortunately, never materialized.
Interesting fact: Karen Percy Lowe provided the brightest moments claiming bronze medals in both the women’s downhill and super G. Other Canadian highlights: Laurie Graham, 5th in downhill, Josee Lacasse, 11th in GS, Mike Carney, 14th in men’s downhill), Jim Read’s 13th place in super G, and Alain Villiard’s 14th in slalom.
1992: Albertville, France | Feb. 8-23
These Olympic Games will be most remembered for Kerrin Lee-Gartner’s golden run, as she conquered the technically difficult ‘Roc de Fer’ downhill course with an all-or-nothing determination. It was a first for Canada in women’s downhill. In addition, freestyle mogul skiing and women’s biathlon both made their debut as official medal disciplines. In women’s biathlon Myriam Bédard exceeded the nordic team’s modest goals by winning a bronze medal in the women’s 15km biathlon race, along with a 12th place in the 7.5km event.
Interesting fact: Canada’s men’s alpine team experienced a frustrating stretch. Bad luck plagued the men’s team as four of the six skiers, Rob Crossan, Cary Mullen, Edi Podivinsky and Brian Stemmle, fell in training. Podivinsky’s injuries forced him to abandon his medal quest.
Kerrin Lee-Gartner, gold medal winner at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Photo: CSHFM Collection.
Edi Podivinsky, bronze medalist in downhill at 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Canadian Sport Images / Claus Andersen.
1994: Lillehammer, Norway | Feb. 12-27
Canada’s alpine team started strong when Edi Podivinsky won a bronze medal in downhill on the first day of competition. The Canadian men’s freestyle team competed brilliantly, with Jean-Luc Brassard executing a near-perfect run which earned him the gold medal in men’s moguls. The aerial team dazzled as well with Philippe LaRoche (silver), Lloyd Langlois (bronze), Andy Capicik (4th) and Nicolas Fontaine (6th). In the women’s 15km biathlon event, Myriam Bédard skied smoothly and missed just two targets on the firing range, taking the gold medal. Five days later, even with one of her skis waxed incorrectly, she won her second Olympic gold medal in the 7.5km biathlon race.
Interesting fact: Lillehammer was labelled as the “White-Green Games” to acknowledge the organization’s respect for the environment, the Lillehammer Games would be the first to be separated from the Summer Games by two years, following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to change the Olympic schedule.
1998: Nagano, Japan | Feb. 7-22
With the fastest interval time, Brian Stemmle appeared poised to win the men’s downhill but caught loose snow and was forced off the course. Edi Podivinsky, in this his last Olympic Games, raced to a strong 5th place finish. In freestyle moguls, Jean-Luc Brassard finished 4th, while Ann-Marie Pelchat’s skied into 5th place in the women’s event. Ross Rebagliati won Canada’s only snowboarding medal, a gold in the parallel slalom event. Canada’s joy quickly turned to dismay when Rebagliati was stripped of the medal for testing positive for marijuana. But since no formal agreement existed between the IOC and FIS to confirm marijuana as a banned substance, the medal was subsequently returned to him.
Interesting fact: Although unpredictable weather inflicted countless delays and hurried rescheduling, Nagano, site of the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, emerged relatively unscathed to stage the largest Winter Games with 2302 athletes and 68 events.
Jean-Luc Brassard en route to a 4th place finish at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games. (CP Photo/ COA).
Allison Forsyth en route to a 7th place finish in the women’s giant slalom at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Canadian Sport Images
2002: Salt Lake City, Utah | Feb. 8-24
The alpine teams’ performances failed to meet their own expectations although there were several top-15 finishes. Allison Forsyth had the top alpine result of 7th in the women’s GS and Mélanie Turgeon finished 8th in downhill. Canadian freestyle aerialists Veronica Brenner (silver medal) and Deidra Dionne (bronze medal) put two women on the podium. Jeff Bean lead the Canadian aerialists with a 4th finish. In women’s moguls, Jennifer Heil missed a bronze medal by a mere 0.01 seconds to finish 4th. By edging out her nearest competitor by just 0.11 seconds of a point in the 5km freestyle pursuit event, Beckie Scott won bronze to become Canada’s first cross country Olympic medalist. During two years of appeal deliberations, her bronze medal was subsequently upgraded to silver and then to gold.
Interesting fact: In 1995, after almost three decades of trying, Salt Lake City was finally chosen to host the XVIV Olympic Winter Games achieving an overwhelming 54 votes out of 89 cast. Prior to the Games, allegations of bribery in the selection process were finally resolved with the resignation of several IOC members and the reorganization of policies and procedures for host cities.
2006: Turin, Italy | Feb. 10-26
Jennifer Heil produced a medal on the first day of competition by winning gold in the freestyle moguls event and on the men’s side, Marc-André Moreau placed fourth. Top ranked Canadian Maëlle Ricker fell but Dominque Maltais claimed the bronze. Canada’s alpine team represented itself well with Erik Guay (super G), Kelly VanderBeek (women’s super G) and François Bourque (giant slalom) all finishing in 4th place in their respective events. Sara Renner and Beckie Scott won a silver medal in the women’s team sprint, although precious time was lost on the third lap when Renner’s pole broke. Chandra Crawford, made her Olympic debut, surprising the field by leading the women’s 1.1 km sprint event from start to finish to win the gold medal.
Interesting fact: Canada’s “Own the Podium” program, designed to prepare athletes for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games through increased funding and resources, produced early encouraging results for the country’s Olympic Committee with Canadian athletes winning a record 24 medals, finishing third in the medal standings (7 gold, 10 silver, 7 bronze), and achieving an impressive total of 45 top-five finishes including 13 fourth and 8 fifth places.
Jennifer Heil won the women’s moguls gold medal on the first day of competition at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. In this photo Heil is competing at a World Cup in Tignes, France in Dec. 2005. Photo: Mike Ridewood-CFSA
Ashleigh McIvor winning gold in the women’s ski cross at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Photo Greg Kolz/ From athlete’s personal collection.
2010: Vancouver, Canada | Feb. 12-28
The highly anticipated Vancouver 2010 Games was a historical highlight for Canada in both national pride and athletic achievements. In total, six medal were claimed in the snowsports disciplines. In freestyle both Alexandre Bilodeau (gold) and Jenn Heil (silver) proved their elite status, while Ashleigh McIver claimed the first-ever gold medal awarded in ski cross when she won gold. In snowboarding, Jasey-Jay Anderson won the gold medal in men’s parallel slalom; Maëlle Ricker executed a flawless final run to win the women’s snowboard cross while men’s teammate Mike Robertson finished in with the silver medal. In the alpine events, Erik Guay came oh-so-close twice, finishing 5th in both the men’s downhill and super G. Britt Janyk, racing on her home mountain, also was close with a 6th in the women’s downhill.
Interesting fact: Although the organizing committed initially benefited from an economic boom from lucrative sponsorships, the rapidly rising construction and labour costs, as well as the late 2000s financial crisis, forced minimalistic functional venues with less aesthetic appeal, though they were well-designed for post-Games usage. This approach, as well as the fact that most of the infrastructure already existed, meant that the direct costs of the Vancouver Games were much lower than recent Olympic games.
2014: Sochi, Russia | Feb. 7-23
Canada continued its medal haul in Sochi, claiming 25 medals (10 gold), with 11 coming from the snowsports disciplines. Overall, this was the second most successful Canadian Olympic performance, one medal shy of the 2010 Vancouver output. In freestyle, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, at 19 years of age, became the youngest freestyle gold medalist with her sister Chloé right beside her in second place. The men’s moguls also had Canada dominating with Alexandre Bilodeau with the gold and Mikael Kingsbury close behind with the silver. In women’s ski cross Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa, finished with gold and silver, continuing the 1-2 trend, while Dara Howell (gold) and Kim Lamarre (bronze) also shared the podium in the women’s slopestyle. In snowboarding, Mark McMorris scored a podium finish (bronze) while Dominque Maltais took silver in the women’s snowboard cross. Jan Hudec claimed Canada’s third-ever alpine medal for the men when he finished 3rd in the men’s super G, in a tie with American star Bode Miller.
Interesting fact: Due to the depth of the Canadian freestyle team many top ranked athletes were not able to qualify and compete in Sochi; as well, Canada would not send any women in the aerials event, in which it won two medals in 2002.
Canadian Marielle Thompson took gold in the women’s ski cross at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Canadian Mikael Kingsbury took the men’s moguls gold at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
2018: Pyeongchang, South Korea | Feb. 9-25
This was Canada’s 23rd appearance at the Winter Olympics, having competed at every Games since its inception in 1924. Canada has its most successful Games to date with 29 medals (11 gold), finishing as the third nation and surpassing the 26 won at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Feestyle again dominated, claiming 7 medals (4 golds). Mikael Kingsbury rightfully claimed his first gold medal, while Justine-Dufour Lapointe followed up her gold medal performance in Sochi with a silver medal. In women’s ski cross the Canadian women placed 1-2 for a second Olympic Games, this time Kelsey Serwa with the gold and Britt Phelan in the silver medal position. Brady Leman won Canada’s first gold medal in the men’s ski cross, while Cassidy Sharpe took the gold in women’s halfpipe. The Canadian snowboard team again had a strong showing with 4 medals (one gold). Sebastien Toutant earned the gold medal in men’s big air, while slopestyle produced three medals: Laurie Blouin (women’s silver), Max Parrot (men’s silver), Mark McMorris (men’s bronze).
2022: Beijing, China | Feb. 4-20, 2022
In Beijing, the Canadian team consisted of 215 athletes competing in 14 sports. The Canadian team won 26 medals, tying the 2010 standard for the second highest Olympic total for Canada, however, the four gold medals won represented the lowest total since 1994. This meant Canada outside the top 10 of the medal table for the first time since 1988. Despite the lack of gold medals, there were strong performances. Freestyle produced Olympic hardware again with Mikael Kinsbury taking his second silver medal, in a closely contested battle with Sweden’s Walter Wallberg. When Justine Dufour-Lapointe crashed in the moguls competition on Day 2, sister Chloé (silver medalist in 2014) consoled her sister in an emotional moment. In snowboarding, an incredible effort by Max Parrot, after winning a battle against cancer, became an Olympic champion in the men’s snowboard slopestyle. Teammate Mark McMorris finished 3rd. In alpine, Jack Crawford battled throughout the week to win a bronze medal in the men’s combined. Crawford previously finished fourth in the men’s downhill and sixth in the super G.
Jack Crawford earning a bronze medal for his efforts in the men’s combined at the Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Daniel Goetzhaber