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Scott does double duty with Olympic Torch

Canada's only ladies figure skating Olympic champion returns to Ottawa

Barbara Ann Scott King and VANOC CEO John Furlong entering the House of Commons.
Barbara Ann Scott King and VANOC CEO John Furlong entering the House of Commons. (Greg Teckles)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(12/30/2009) - "She was magnificent," said Tom King of his wife of 54 years, Barbara Ann Scott King, the first and only Canadian woman to earn Olympic gold in figure skating. "When she yelled, 'Go Canada Go,' everybody was just thrilled. It was a wonderful moment."

King was speaking of the moment on Dec. 10 when Scott King, 1948 Olympic ladies gold medalist and the first North American woman to win an Olympic title, carried the Olympic Torch into the House of Commons in her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, and onto the floor of Parliament.

"They didn't know I was coming," Scott King said. "I was taken up a back elevator and hidden away until the time. So it was complete surprise to the politicians when they saw this female coming in with a blazing torch.

"When they realized what had happened, they started to chant, 'Go Canada Go.' I waved the torch in time with the rhythm. It was a very great honor to be chosen to do that."

Scott King has some experience with making history at the House of Commons. "Mother and I were the first females ever to be taken down to the floor when they were in session. That was in '48," she recalled.

Because the Olympic Torch cannot be lit in two places simultaneously, she noticed that escorts with her notified the official Torch Relay, which was in Montreal at the time, to extinguish the Torch until she left the House of Commons. Once she was done, the Torch Relay resumed.

She'd had prior experience being a torchbearer. She and the late Ferd Hayward were the first runners to carry the 1988 Olympic Torch en route to the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.

This time, Scott King pulled double duty. In addition to her appearance at Parliament, she ran the official 300 meters of the Torch Relay at 7:43 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, from 2343 Baseline Road to the Baseline Road/Rockway Crescent intersection. At 81, she is quite fit, but before traveling from her home in Florida to Ottawa, she decided to practice running with the Torch.

"They sent me the statistics and the Torch weighs about 3½ pounds. I couldn't find anything except my big long garden sheers that weighed 3½ pounds," she said.

"The neighborhood wondered who she was chasing," King joked.

"I warned them. I hadn't lost my mind," Scott King added.

She said due to the crowds and media that greeted her on the chilly Sunday morning, she walked the 300 meters rather than ran. It gave her the opportunity to interact with those there to cheer her on.

"The whole thing was such a complete part of Canada. That was special," she said. "The Torch Relay ties the country together.

"It makes me feel very humble and very fortunate that these people are still so kind and remember who I am," she added. "I'm a little old lady now. It was one of the greatest honors I've ever received to carry that Torch into the Parliament building.

Scott King's coach, Sheldon Galbraith (who also coached the Canadian pair team of Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul to Olympic gold), is still alive. She loved sharing her excitement about the Torch Relay with him. VANOC has had 12,000 Olympic Torches made (one for each torch bearer) so each can purchase their Torch if they wish. Scott King is giving hers to Skate Canada.

She looks forward to seeing the Canadian team compete in Vancouver in February and offers simple words of advice.

"If you're going to do a sport, whether it's skating, skiing, whatever, be dedicated," she said. "If you want to do the best you can, train and train and train."

Scott King also reminds all Olympians, "You have the honor and privilege to represent your country." And she has the fond wish to see her run as Canada's only Olympic ladies gold medalist come to an end. "I am hoping I live long enough to see a Canadian girl win an Olympic gold medal and that I might be there."