CANOE Network SLAM!Sports


March 18, 2016

Barbara Ann Scott: Canada's Greatest Golden Girl
By MICHAEL CHO -- For SLAM! Sports

  There have been many prizes won on the world championship circuit in women's figure skating, but no Canadian woman has ever reached its pinnacle like Barbara Ann Scott.

Surprisingly for a country where skating almost comes naturally, Scott is the only Canadian woman who has captured the gold medal in the women's singles event in Olympic history.

  Born in 1929 , the Ottawa native began skating at the age of six. Determined to be a champion, she spent eight hours a day training at Ottawa's Minto Club, a training regimen that required a tutor for the classes she missed.

  At age ten, Scott was one of the youngest to pass the gold figures test, and she won the national junior title in 1940. By 1944 she was the Canadian ladies senior champion, a title she successfully defended until 1948.

  1947 was the year when Scott accomplished the unbelievable. She was the first North American to win the European title and the World Championships in the same year. But in 1948, Barbara Ann Scott was unstoppable. Not only did she successfully defend her European and World titles, she went on to win the Olympic gold medal in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

  Scott won her gold medal on an outdoor rink, which was uneven and dented by the men's gold medal hockey game between Canada and the Czechs the night before, which Canada won.

  Apparently the temperature was just above freezing, and someone had tried to flood the ice. By the time the sun rose, the ice was a slushy mess. But Scott was unruffled. "When you have to skate outside in the elements, you tend not to worry about the small stuff," she said at the time.

  She went on to take the gold that day beating Austrian skater, Eva Pawlik, and Jeanette Altwegg from Great Britain, who won the silver and bronze respectively.

  The only other Canadian figure skaters to have won Olympic gold are Bob Paul and Barbara Wagner, who won the pairs competition in 1960.

  With that gold medal, "Canada's sweetheart" became a national hero, winning the admiration of Canadians all over with her beauty and grace, on and off the ice.

  At the time of her career, figure skating was about poise, grace and figures. Scott is in awe of the athleticism of today's skaters, but she has repeatedly said she dislikes the decision to eliminate figures judging. "Those edges and turns teach control and discipline, just like finger exercises on the piano," she once said.

  Scott was an accomplished free skater, but her specialty was in figures. The difficult precision figures demanded made up 60 per cent of the final judge's marks.

  Now with the world-wide coverage figure skating receives, the sport has emphasized the importance of high-flying jumps and acrobatics to increase television ratings.

  But in a way, Scott is partly to blame. She set a figure skating precedent herself in 1942 at only 13 by landing the first double lutz in competition by any woman.

  Not a grand feat by today's standards, but it raised the bar for future skaters. Today, skaters at the very least need to land triples and sometimes quadruple jumps to be competitive on a world class level.

  When Scott won the World Championships in 1947, the city of Ottawa gave her a brand new convertible, but she declined the offering, opting instead to retain her amateur status to compete in St. Moritz the next year.

  Another testament to her popularity, upon her return from the Olympics, Reliable Toy Company created a Barbara Ann Scott doll simply because she was so adored by the public.

  A year after her victory in St. Moritz, Scott pursued a professional career, and skated with a number of ice revues. She eventually got tired of living out of a suitcase, and gave up her career to marry American, Thomas King.

  The marriage in 1955 was a major media event. Scott and King moved to Chicago, where they still live today. Canadians still recognize her achievements by having her return as a honored guest at countless charity functions and sports events. In November 1987, she shared the honour of being the first Canadians to carry the Olympic torch on its way to Calgary with Fred Hayward.

  Scott was also inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. She was also inducted into the American Hall of Fame in recognition of her reign as North American Champion in 1980 and the International Hall of Fame in 1997.


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