Two former Olympians from Montreal are marking a milestone of their own on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games.
Twin sisters Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele broke barriers when they became the sole members of the Canadian Olympic women's alpine ski team 70 years ago, at the 1948 Olympics.
"Women were thought of as Class B," said Rhona. "We had to fight our way along."
The 96-year-old sisters shared their experience with a group of aspiring young female athletes at their alma mater, the Trafalgar School for Girls, Thursday.
Growing up in a family of seven in Westmount, neither Rhona nor Rhoda shied away from joining their brothers in sports.
While they found their love for skiing on the slopes of snowy Mount Royal, the pair was quick to try every game out there.
"Running and jumping — and we played with the kids in the street," said Rhona. "We loved football and hockey and whatever great was going on."
'It didn't matter what they said'
When it came to getting to the Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the only way to travel was by boat.
In what Rhoda describes as an "exciting trip," the two set sail for Europe aboard the RMS Queen Mary during a January blizzard.
"It took six days," said Rhoda.
"There was a terrible snowstorm when we arrived in New York, and everything was stopped. We had to walk part of the way to the ship."
Sadly, when they finally made it to Switzerland, both Wurtele sisters were injured during training.
While Rhoda's injury prevented her from competing, Rhona managed to cross the finish line — even after she broke her ankle.
"I flew up in the air, I heard this great crack," said Rhona. "My right ski hit the left ankle and broke it, and I landed down in the snow."
"You've got to get down and get out of the way. There are other kids coming down — it's the Olympics."
The two Olympians have been heralded at pioneers in skiing and have inspired generations of girls and women to compete.
They never worried about what male athletes thought of them.
"It didn't matter what they said. We did what we liked," said Rhoda.
At 96, they still hope female athletes will continue to push to find their place in the world of athletics.
"Go after your sport," said Rhoda.