Canada's Sports Hall of Fame's new class reflects vastness, diversity of country

CBC

Diane Jones-Konihowski acknowledged her inclusion in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame with a humility that has become typical of those who occupy the athletic realm in this nation.

"It's nice to be remembered," she smiled.

Jones-Konihowski was twice the Pan American Games champion as well as the 1978 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the combined athletics event known as the pentathlon, which saw competitors excel in the hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and middle-distance running in the 1960's and 70's.

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She gave rise to generations of Canadian multi-event stars including decathletes Michael Smith and Damian Warner as well as heptathlon medallists Catherine Bond-Mills, Jessica Zelinka and Brianne Theisen-Eaton.

Growing up in Saskatoon, Jones-Konihowski went on to become the top ranked athlete in the world at her sport and a two-time Olympian who missed her best shot at a gold medal because of the western boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980.

WATCH | Jones-Konihowski discusses athletes as role models:

Undaunted, she persevered to be a force in the Olympic movement in Canada as well as the country's coaching association and it's fair play commission. She also served as the Chef de Mission for Canada's Olympic team at the Sydney 2000 Games.

"A lot of women come up to me and say what a tremendous role model I was for them in the 1970's," she said.  

"While you're competing, it doesn't enter your mind, you're just doing it. You've got goals. You want to be the best you can be. Later on, it's the satisfaction of knowing you did have some sort of impact on these women. I've always believed that it doesn't matter where you come from in Canada — you can be the Olympic champion."

Nash, Kane among headliners

There are 11 new members of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame as it celebrates its 65th anniversary. The Class of 2020-21 reflects a diversity of sport and a colourful mosaic of Canadian life in general.

Basketball star and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash of Victoria, B.C., is a headliner for his illustrious professional career as well as his exploits on the international stage for Canada.

WATCH | Nash on representing country, growing Canada Basketball:

The other four inductees in the athlete category include Vancouver's Sonja Gaudet, a three-time Paralympic champion in wheelchair curling who carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.

Jackie Barrett lives in Cornerbrook, N.L., and is an autistic weightlifter who, over the course of his career, won 15 medals — 13 of them gold — at the Special Olympics World Games. Not only is Barrett the first Special Olympics athlete to be included in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, he's also the first from his province to be enshrined in the institution.

Eric Lamaze, originally from Montreal, and his legendary stallion "Hickstead" are arguably the greatest partnership the world of show jumping has witnessed. They solidified their place in equestrian lore by capturing Olympic gold and silver at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Hickstead would be named the best horse at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and Lamaze is the only Canadian rider to have been ranked No. 1 in the world.

WATCH | Lamaze heaps praise on Hickstead after Hall of Fame call:

Finally, there is Charlottetown, P.E.I., golfer Lorie Kane, a four-time winner on the LPGA circuit who captured more than $7 million US in prize money while on tour. 

Kane didn't turn professional until she was 29 years old and becomes only the second athlete from her province to be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame — the first being harness racing driver Joe O'Brien who received the honour in 1965.

WATCH | Lorie Kane reacts to her induction:

"I'm not here because of just me. I've had a whole island behind me. I've had a strong family and lots of people in my corner," Kane said via Zoom from Orlando, Fla.

"We need to continue to grow sport in our communities. It's important. I come from the smallest province and we're a very strong people. I'm here now and I'm going to carry all 150 thousand of us on my back to continue to move us forward in sport."

Kennedy, Campbell enter as builders

Those inducted in the builder's category are also symbolic of the kaleidoscope of sport that Canadians traditionally celebrate.

Former pro hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness concerning sexual abuse and violence is being recognized, as is Willie O'Ree who broke down racial barriers in the NHL. Judy Kent, former president of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada, was the Chef de Mission for Team Canada at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria and remains a leader in the struggle for gender equity in sport.

Mohawk lacrosse legend, the late Ross Powless of the Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, Ont., is considered by many to be the father of modern lacrosse. He was an accomplished player, in addition to being a coach and leader credited with reviving interest in box lacrosse in the 1950's.

Finally, Duncan Campbell of Winnipeg is being recognized as an innovator in Paralympic sport. Nicknamed "The Quadfather," Campbell has provided opportunity for legions of disabled athletes for nearly 50 years.

Paralyzed below the waist by a diving accident in his teens, Campbell — in the mid-1970s — co-invented what was originally known as "Murderball" and evolved into wheelchair rugby.

WATCH | Campbell pleased by growth of wheelchair rugby:

Campbell was High Performance director for Wheelchair Rugby Canada, presided over its inclusion in the Paralympics in Sydney in 2000 and continues to attract athletes with physical impairment to this rugged sport.

"Not only are we promoting sport, we're promoting a lifestyle which includes physical activity," Campbell said via Zoom from Vancouver, where he works as a recreation therapist in a rehabilitation centre.

"Our society is part of what made this sport develop. At the time it developed, our society not only allowed it but it encouraged us to continue working on it. Our society effectively told us to go for it as a disability sport. To live in a country that is that inclusive has been fantastic."

In light of the pandemic, the athletes and builders recognized this year will comprise the Class of 2020 and 2021 and will be formally inducted when it's possible.

The President and CEO of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, Olympic silver medal winning curler, Cheryl Bernard, hastens to add that all inductees will also receive the Order of Sport which celebrates their contributions beyond the fields of play.

"We've never been prouder of our sports history, our sports champions and their community spirit," Bernard said via e-mail from the Hall of Fame.

"These are our champions for living and sharing sport's values; Canada's shared values; respect, equality, fairness and openness."

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame which was established in 1955 now has 679 honoured members and is housed at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

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