Induction more than Whitfield imagined
Olympic triathlon champion among elite company as he is enshrined in hall
Simon Whitfield’s love affair with sports began around a pothole on Couper Street in Kingston, Ont.
The hole in the road near his childhood home became centre ice, and Whitfield and his friends would gather there after school for a game of road hockey.
“All my sporting dreams were born there, all the camaraderie I enjoyed in sport, and this love of sport began at that pothole,” Whitfield said. “I remember it was during the Edmonton Oilers’ heyday, so you were allowed to be anybody but Wayne Gretzky.
“Just your imagination and how it works, and you’re imagining yourself in this position, and then years later you’re one of those athletes. And I think it all begins there. Think of that game you played as kids — ‘How about?’ and ‘Imagine if.’ That brought me right back to that. I don’t think I ever said ‘Imagine if I was in the hall of fame.’ ”
The Olympic triathlon champion was one of nine individuals inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, and like his hall of fame classmates, the occasion had Whitfield reflecting on his “humble beginnings,” and his journey to become one of the country’s greatest athletes.
“You don’t prepare as an athlete for this,” Whitfield said. “You’re preparing for these (competitions) where you want to express your gift, and then someone calls you and says ‘You’re in the hall of fame . . . It’s also a nice end to the chapter, it was a big part of my life, and to be recognized for those sporting accomplishments and then move on to the next thing.”
Whitfield joined Stanley Cup champion Lanny McDonald, Olympians Carol Huynh and Cindy Klassen, golfer Mike Weir, lacrosse standout Gaylord Powless and the Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team. Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator and Canadian Paralympic founder Dr. Robert W. Jackson were named in the builder’s category. Powless and Jackson were both honoured posthumously.
The 42-year-old Whitfield won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where triathlon made its debut. McDonald, 64, amassed 500 goals and 506 assists in 1,111 career games with Toronto, Colorado and Calgary from 1973 to ‘89. He scored the winning goal to lead the Flames to their 1989 Stanley Cup, and then retired.
The highlight of Thursday’s news conference came when Kay MacBeth, who at 95 is the only surviving member of the Edmonton Grads, asked McDonald for a kiss. “How about that?” McDonald grinned through his still-bushy moustache.
His outgoing demeanour and his The 38-year-old Klassen, from Winnipeg, is Canada’s most decorated Winter Olympian with six medals (gold, two silver, three bronze). Five came at the 2006 Turin Games (gold, two silver, two bronze).
Weir, 47, became the first Canadian to capture the Masters in 2003. The native of Brights Grove, Ont., has registered 15 pro wins and in 2000 became the first Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup.
The 36-year-old Huynh, who recently gave birth to her second child and so wasn’t at Thursday’s event, became the first Canadian to win Olympic gold in women’s wrestling in Beijing in 2008. Four years later in London, the native of Hazelton, B.C., claimed bronze. The Edmonton Grads amassed a stunning 502-20 record from 1915 to 1940.
From left, Mike Weir, Simon Whitfield, Dr. Charles Tator, Cindy Klassen, Lanny McDonald and Kay MacBeth (front) were inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday.