For many people, Barbara Ann Scott was just a name, albeit a famous one. For me, she embodied many of the qualities I admire -- tenacity, intelligence, excellence, charm, humility, eloquence and a killer sense of humour.
And so many accomplishments at such a young age: Olympic champion in 1948; four-time Canadian champion; and two-time North American, European and world champion.
The accolades off the ice followed, from the Lou Marsh Trophy to membership in the Olympic Hall of Fame to our national Sports Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada among many others.
The crazy thing is, if you ever got the chance to speak with Barbara Ann, she made you feel as if you were doing her the favour by showing an interest in her.
I will never forget the hour-long phone call I had with Barbara Ann and her husband Tommy King when I last spoke with her a little over two years ago to interview her for my book.
She was genuinely pleased to think that anybody cared about her story. Are you kidding?
I was thrilled to be speaking with an honest-to-goodness legend.
I loved the pride in Tommy's voice when he shared with me a comment from Wayne Gretzky. Barbara Ann was one of the eight Olympic flag bearers at Vancouver in 2010 and they were all assembled in a secret location when Wayne Gretzky walked in and said: "My, my, the two greatest skaters of all-time -- Bobby Orr and Barbara Ann Scott."
Barbara Ann shared with me a story of writing letters to Santa Claus via a radio station when she was a very little girl to ask for two things: skates and a horse. She got white skates for Christmas as a six-year old but, with an ear infection, could only wear them in bed until she recovered. She admitted to me, with a chuckle, that she did have a first pair of skates, but she wouldn't wear them. They were black with double runners and clearly all wrong.
Once she hit the ice in earnest, she was a force to be reckoned with. I am often asked if I thought, if Barbara Ann could have competed today, would she have been as successful?
She was an extraordinary talent, to be sure. But beyond that, she had the heart of a champion. She possessed the courage a person needs to, unapologetically, be the best.
I asked her in the spring of 2010 to finish the statement, "I am..."
Barbara Ann said: "I feel now like one of the most fortunate people in the whole world. I had the opportunity to do what I wanted and what I wanted to do was skate."
I, somehow, think we were the fortunate ones.
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