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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

IRENE MACDONALD

Inducted in 1981

Member Details

Date of Birth: November 22, 1933
Place of Birth: Hamilton, Ontario
Date of Passing: June 20, 2002
Sport: Diving
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1951-52, 1954-56 & 1957-58

Canadian national diving champion - women’s 3m springboard

1956

Olympic Games, bronze medal - women’s 3m springboard diving

1959-60

Canadian national diving champion - women’s 3m springboard & women’s tower

1961

Canadian national diving champion - women’s 3m springboard

Honoured Member IRENE MACDONALD
Inspire

Story

Few athletes can claim to have influenced their sport through performances on the field, promotion of the sport off of it, and use of the media to share it with the rest of the country. But then, few athletes can match the dedication that Irene MacDonald brought to diving. She began diving at the Hamilton Aquatic Club and won the Ontario junior championship in 1948, the first of many provincial titles. MacDonald broke onto the national diving scene in 1951 with her victory in the 3m springboard competition at the national championships, a victory she repeated a year later. While she was named to the 1952 Olympic team, MacDonald never competed in Helsinki after being dropped from the team by the Canadian Olympic Committee due to a lack of funds. It was in 1954, however, that she began to make her mark internationally. MacDonald competed that year in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver where she won a bronze medal in the women's 3m springboard competition. Continued success at the national level followed, including her first championship in the 10m platform (tower), before MacDonald travelled to Melbourne for the 1956 Olympics. She finished the 3m competition just ahead of American Barbara Gilders to win the bronze medal, Canada's first ever Olympic diving medal. In 1958, in Cardiff, Wales, MacDonald improved on her British Empire and Commonwealth Games performance of 1954 by capturing a silver medal in the 3m springboard and finished just out of the medals in fourth place in the 10m platform competition. Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s, she continued to dominate domestic diving competitions and won events in the United States and Mexico as well. MacDonald also competed in both the 1955 and 1959 Pan-American Games, recording three fourth-place finishes. She travelled to Rome in 1960 as a member of the Canadian Olympic team, but could not duplicate her Melbourne success, finishing sixth in the 3m springboard and ninth in the 10m platform. MacDonald won her final Canadian championship in 1961, before an eye injury ended her competitive career. She was, however, far from finished with diving. MacDonald spent the next 30 years coaching athletes who captured medals at a variety of national and international competitions. Additionally, MacDonald was an advocate for the sport of diving, pushing for it to have a national association, independent from the larger aquatics community. She organized the first national diving clinic in 1964 and aided in subsequent provincial and national clinics. She was the chairman of Diving for Canada from 1962-66, the technical director of the Canadian Amateur Diving Association from 1967-69, and the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Diving Coaches Association from 1970-72. MacDonald also used her position as a commentator on diving telecasts to further raise the profile of her sport. She was the voice Canadians heard on Olympic diving events from the 1976 Montreal Games to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. For all her contributions, MacDonald is also a member of the Canadian Aquatic and Olympic Halls of Fame.


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