EN | FR
Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

JEAN WILSON

Inducted in 1955

Member Details

Date of Birth: July 19, 1910
Place of Birth: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of Passing: September 3, 1933
Sport: Speed Skating
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1931

North American Women's Speed Skating Champion

1934

Jean Wilson Trophy established by Toronto Telegram in her memory

Honoured Member JEAN WILSON
Inspire

Story

Though she passed away at the premature age of 23, Jean Wilson was able to achieve more than most athletes hope for in a full lifetime. Over the course of her brief speed skating career, Wilson climbed the rungs of world speed skating competition, from city, to North American, to Olympic championships. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Wilson was brought to Canada as a baby. She didn't learn to skate until the age of 15, but Toronto Speed Skating Club coach Harry Cody was impressed by her rapid progress, describing her as "the strongest and most natural skater I have ever handled." Wilson first entered senior competition in 1928 at the age of 18. At this time, Canadian women's speed skating was dominated by world champion Lela Brooks. It was widely held that no one could wrest the crown from this long-standing "Queen of Blades," but Wilson proved that she was up to the challenge. In 1931, she shocked the nation when she beat Brooks in the quarter-mile dash. Later that year, she won the 440yd. and the one-mile event to claim the Toronto indoor championship title. Wilson advanced to the North American championships where she proceeded to beat out the best skaters on the continent. She emerged victorious in every event she entered--the 220 yard, quarter-mile, half-mile, and the three-quarter-mile events--and came away as the North American champion. Naturally, after these brilliant performances, Wilson was sent to the 1932 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, where women's speed skating was being featured as a "demonstration" sport. Though there were no medals awarded for these events, the competition still attracted the finest speed skaters from around the world. Wilson got off to an excellent start, claiming first place in the 500m race in a record time of 58 seconds. In the preliminary heat for the 1,500m event, she broke the existing Olympic record with a time of 2:54.2. Brooks, however, further reduced it by two-tenths of a second in the next round. In the final race, Wilson simultaneously broke the tape with American skater Kit Klein. After much debate, judges awarded first place to the American, while Wilson settled for a respectful second. In the 1,000m race, Wilson took the lead but fell just before the finish line. With characteristic good humour, she brushed off the spill, saying: "Falling before the tape will be done again and by others beside myself." Her victory in the 500m race stood as the only individual victory to be claimed by a Canadian at the Lake Placid Games. Unfortunately, this was to be Wilson's last major competition. A few months after the Olympics, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a debilitating disease that brings about the rapid deterioration of all muscles, and she died shortly thereafter. In honour of her tremendous accomplishments, the Toronto Telegram created the Jean Wilson Trophy to be awarded to the fastest female indoor speed skater each year.


Our Address

169 Canada Olympic Road SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
T3B 6B7