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Jocelyn Lovell: Rebel cyclist

The Story

Jocelyn Lovell dominated Canadian cycling in the 1960s and '70s. He won dozens of national titles as well as gold medals at the Commonwealth and Pan American games. But, in this clip from CBC Television's Sports Journal, the three-time Olympian recalls the day in 1983 when his cycling career ended under the wheels of a dump truck. Now a quadriplegic, his fiery temperament survives. He accuses the medical establishment of not doing enough to cure paralysis. 

Medium: Television
Program: Sports Journal
Broadcast Date: Oct. 24, 2002
Guests: Jocelyn Lovell, Martin Vellend
Reporter: Lynn Keane
Duration: 7:32

Did You know?

• Jocelyn Lovell was born July 19, 1950, in Norwich, England. His family immigrated to the Toronto area when he was a child. Lovell said his first boyhood adventure on a bicycle ended badly because he didn't know how to steer. He hit a brick wall. Later, though, his older brother started racing and Jocelyn caught the bug. "I just took to it like a duck to water," he said of cycling in a 1993 interview.

• Lovell's legendary focus and competitive drive soon propelled him to the top of what was then a little-recognized sport in Canada. He won the first of his 36 Canadian championship gold medals in 1966, in a junior road race. Lovell turned the 1974 national championship into a one-man show, winning five gold medals in events ranging from his signature one-kilometre race to the 200-kilometre event. In 1975, sports journalists voted him Canadian athlete of the year.

• Lovell also became an international cycling star. In 1970 in Edinburgh, Scotland, he won Commonwealth gold - Canada's first in 34 years - in the 10-mile race. He also struck gold at the Pan American Games, winning the one-kilometre event in both 1971 and 1975. He came second in the same event at the 1978 world championships. The same year, Lovell was a Canadian hero at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, winning three gold medals; in the one-kilometre, tandem sprint and 10-mile races.

• Lovell raced in three Olympic Games -1968, 1972 and 1976. His best finish was sixth in in 1968. He had hoped for bronze in Montreal in 1976 but came 13th. His hopes to ride his 1978 Commonwealth triumph to Olympic glory in 1980 were dashed by the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games. However, Lovell was a vocal supporter of the boycott as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. His crash ended any hopes of racing at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

• Lovell's solitary nature, cutthroat riding style and willingness to criticize Canadian cycling officials earned him the unofficial title, "the bad boy of Canadian racing." Long before tattoos were fashionable, he sported a sun on one ankle and a moon on the other. He wore an earring, a CBC Television profile of him in 1982 noted, until it became fashionable. Then, he threw it away.

• Lovell's pranks included trying to drive off with an army bus in Czechoslovakia and riding a tricycle on the track at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. In 1973, he swiped a 50-cent box of cookies from a hotel storeroom in Brittany, France, and shared them with his Canadian teammates. One of them alerted Canadian cycling officials. As a penalty, Lovell was barred from competition for six months. As a result, he sat out the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

• Lovell collided with a dump truck while training for a race on a road near Milton, Ont., about 30 kilometres northwest of Toronto. Police investigators said he pulled alongside or in front of the truck and braked, something Lovell - who does not remember the crash - says he would not have done. In 1987, a court ordered two truck drivers and an excavation company to pay Lovell $500,000 plus periodic lump sums and monthly payments of $4,166.

• As of June 2004, Lovell was Canadian coordinator for the Spinal Cord Society, an international advocacy group that promotes research aimed at curing paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. Lovell has, over the years, criticized those who say the disabled should focus on what they can achieve in a wheelchair. His targets have included wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen. "The paralyzed have been brainwashed into believing they must accept their situation," Lovell said in a 1996 interview. "It's sick."


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