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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

LUCILE WHEELER

Inducted in 1958

Member Details

Date of Birth: January 14, 1935
Place of Birth: Montreal, Quebec
Sport: Alpine Skiing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1947

National Junior Downhill and Combined Titles

1956

Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympic Games - Bronze medal, Canada's first Olympic skiing medal

1958

Lou Marsh Trophy

1982

Inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame

1976

Named to the Order of Canada

Honoured Member LUCILE WHEELER
Inspire

Story

International skiing was dominated by Europeans up until the late 1940s and early '50s when American skiers began to leave their mark on the Olympic podium. It was not until the mid-1950s that Lucile Wheeler, dubbed the "Ste. Jovite bon-bombe" by sportswriter Ted Reeve, stormed the Alps and became the first Canadian to race to victory at the Olympics, and the first North American to capture World Championship skiing titles. Growing up in St. Jovite, Quebec, not far from the great Mont Tremblant, Wheeler took to skiing naturally. Her family ran the Gray Rocks Inn, a popular winter ski resort, and young Lucile was on the slopes by the age of two. At ten, she competed in her first downhill race, finishing seventh amongst 21 senior competitors. In 1947, at the age of 12, she won the national junior downhill and combined championship, earning herself a place on the Canadian women's ski team soon after. After witnessing Andrea Mead Lawrence of the United States capture two gold medals at the 1952 Olympic Games, Wheeler decided that she too could reach the podium; all she needed was the proper training. Realizing that the only way to raise her skill to the level of European skiers was to train on their mountains, Wheeler spent the next five seasons training and competing overseas. She was one of the first North Americans to do so, and her hard work soon paid off. At the 1954 World Championships in Sweden, she placed seventh in the downhill event and, in 1956, ran second at Kitzbuhel. She made history at the 1956 Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, when she won a bronze medal in the downhill event, establishing herself as Canada's first Olympic skiing medalist. Wheeler's success continued in 1957 when she claimed downhill and combined titles at Hahnenkammen and Kitzbuhel, Austria, but her greatest feats were yet to come. At the 1958 World Championships in Bad Gastein, Austria, she captured first place in both the downhill and giant slalom events, becoming the first North American to win a World Championship ski title. That same year, she was awarded the Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy as Canada's top female athlete as well as the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's most outstanding athlete, the first skier to receive these honours. In ascending to the highest ranks of the sport, Wheeler helped put Canada on the international skiing map, paving the way for future Canadian champions such as Anne Heggtveit, Nancy Greene, and the Crazy Canucks. For her pioneering performance, she was inducted into the Canadian Skiing Hall of Fame in 1982, and named to the Order of Canada in 1976.


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