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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

ELIZABETH CLIFFORD

Inducted in 1970

Member Details

Date of Birth: October 15, 1953
Place of Birth: Ottawa, Ontario
Sport: Alpine Skiing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1968

Grenoble Olympic Games - Youngest Canadian skier ever

1970

Youngest world championship giant slalom winner ever

1971

Inducted into the Canadian Olympic Sports Hall of Fame

1973

Overall Can-Am Team title

1974

Silver medal, World Cup downhill

1982

Inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame

Honoured Member ELIZABETH CLIFFORD
Inspire

Story

Elizabeth Clifford was born to ski. Her father, John Clifford, was a Canadian ski champion; her uncle, Harvey Clifford, was a member of the men's alpine Olympic team in 1948; and, her mother earned a degree in physical education. Elizabeth lived at the base of Camp Fortune in Quebec, home to the Ottawa Ski Club, where her father built and operated the ski lifts, literally popularizing the sport across the Ottawa region. Between 1968 and 1975 Clifford Whitehall won eight national slalom and giant slalom titles. She was the youngest Canadian skier ever to compete in the Olympics when she raced at the 1968 Games in Grenoble, at age 14. Two years later she became the youngest person ever to win the World Championships when she was victorious at Val Gardena, Italy, in the giant slalom. The next year she finished second in the World Cup slalom.   Clifford Whitehall was often compared to Canadian ski champion Nancy Greene, and it seemed her career was headed in the same winning direction. Sadly, Clifford Whitehall was beset with a series of tragic events immediately following her Val Gardena victory. Her younger brother, Stephen, was killed in a car accident. She was second overall in the World Cup slalom in 1971, but in 1972 she broke both her heels in the World Cup downhill, preventing her from competing in the Sapporo Olympics. That same year, her fiancé became paralyzed after a skiing accident. Throughout this period, she had a tumultuous and argumentative relationship with her coaches and other teammates and earning the nickname "enfant terrible" of the international ski circuit. These accumulated tragedies and harrowing personal events led her to withdraw from downhill events in 1972. She said at the time it was for good. However, she returned to the slopes for "the love of skiing" with a collaborative and winning perspective in 1973, winning the women's Can-Am team trophy. During the 1974 season, as an esteemed teammate, she won silver and bronze for Canada in World Cup downhill events, an achievement of which she's said she's most proud given the twists and turns in the journey to that summit. Two years later, she retired for good at the young age of 23.


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