The first Canadian woman to medal at the Games was figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, who won gold in 1948. Her success was followed by gold medals in such sports as alpine skiing (e.g., Anne Heggtveit in 1960 and Nancy Greene in 1968), speed skating (e.g., Catriona Le May Doan in 1998 and 2002 and Cindy Klassen in 2006), biathlon (Myriam Bédard 1994), and hockey (2002, 2006, and 2010). Canadian women have also excelled in Olympic sports such as bobsled, snowboarding, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, and curling. Since the 1948 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Canadian women have won 75 Olympic medals, including 27 gold medals.

Early Years

The first Olympic Winter Games took place in 1924 in Chamonix, France. Canada’s first female Winter Olympian was 15-year-old Cecil Smith, who finished sixth in the women’s figure skating competition and seventh in the pairs competition with Melville Rogers. The first Olympic Winter Games figure skating competition and seventh in the pairs competition with Melville Rogers. Cecil Smith, her sister Maude “Jim” Smith, and Constance Wilson competed for Canada in figure skating at the 1928 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz; all three finished in the top ten. The Canadian Olympic Association also sent figure skaters to the 1932 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, USA, and, for the first time, sent female alpine skiers to the 1936 Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Canada’s First Female Olympic Winter Gold Medalist

The Olympic Winter Games did not take place for 12 years because of the Second World War. When they re-convened in 1948, Canada’s Barbara Ann Scott was poised to make history. Scott won the ladies’ singles figure skating competition at the 1947 World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, becoming the first North American (male or female) to win a world figure skating title. She came back to Canada a heroine and was presented with a car from the city of Ottawa. (Unfortunately, Scott had to return the car to keep her amateur status.) At the 1948 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz, Scott skated flawlessly, and became Canada’s first female Olympic Winter gold medalist. According to the CBC, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King recognized Scott for giving “Canadians courage to get through the darkness of the post-war gloom.” She thus earned the title “Canada’s Sweetheart”.

Excellence In Alpine Skiing

At the 1956 Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Lucile Wheeler became the first Canadian (male or female) to medal in alpine skiing when she won bronze in the women’s downhill.

Wheeler would be the first of many Canadian skiers to excel at the Olympic Winter Games. Four years later, at the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley,Anne Heggtveit won gold in the women’s slalom. At the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, Nancy Greene became the first Canadian woman to win two medals at an Olympic Winter Games when she won gold in the giant slalom and silver in the slalom. In 1999, Greene was named Canada’s top female athlete of the 20th century.

At the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Australia, 18-year-old Kathy Kreiner won the gold medal in the women’s giant slalom. Two more Canadians would achieve alpine skiing stardom — Karen Percy won two bronze at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary (women’s downhill and super giant slalom), and Kerrin Lee-Gartner won gold in the women’s downhill at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville.

Legacy Of The 1988 Olympic Winter Games

Since the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, Canadian women have won an impressive 54 medals. A major reason for this success was the legacy of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, particularly the new facilities built for the Olympics, including a speed skating oval at the University of Calgary. Access to such facilities significantly benefited Canadian athletes, and from 1994 to 2010, Canadian women won an unprecedented 18 medals in speed skating. Catriona Le May Doan won back-to-back Olympic titles in the women’s 500m in 1998 and 2002; Cindy Klassen won five medals (a Canadian record) at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy; and Christine Nesbitt won the women’s 1000m at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Gender Equality At The Olympic Games

A second major reason for Canadian success over the last 20 years is the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) commitment to gender equality in Olympic winter sports. The IOC’s commitment has provided more opportunities for Canadian women as it opened up more sports for women generally at the Games. In 1994, Myriam Bédard won two gold medals at the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, in women’s biathlon, a sport which debuted in 1992. At the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, women’s hockey was included for the first time, and since then Canada has won three gold medals (2002, 2006, and 2010). At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canadian women finished first and second in women’s bobsled, an event which only made its Olympic debut in 2002 (despite the fact men’s bobsled has been in the Olympic Winter Games since 1924). Meanwhile, Beckie Scott and Chandra Crawford have won gold medals in cross-country skiing events that have been added to the Olympic program since 1992.

Canadian Success In New Sports

In the last two decades, Canadian women have excelled in the new Olympic sports of freestyle skiing, curling, short-track speed skating, and snowboarding. In short-track speed skating, Canadian women have won ten medals since 1992. At the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, skip Sandra Schmirler and her team won the gold medal in women’s curling. (Sadly, just over two years later Schmirler died of cancer.) Canadian women have also medalled in curling at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Jennifer Heil became the third Canadian woman in four years to medal in freestyle skiing when she won gold in women’s moguls (she won silver in the same event in 2010). At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Ashleigh McIvor won an Olympic gold medal in the debut of women’s ski cross. In snowboarding, which made its Olympic debut in 1998, Maëlle Ricker became Canada’s first female champion in the sport when she won the women’s snowboard cross at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Looking Ahead To Sochi 2014

Heading into the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, many Canadian athletes are preparing to defend their Olympic gold medals. The list includes Ricker, Nesbitt, the Canadian women’s hockey team, ice dancer Tessa Virtue (with partner Scott Moir), and bobsledder Kaillie Humphries. Canada will also send strong contenders in short-track speed skating, curling, luge, moguls, and snowboarding, and in the newly added sports of halfpipe skiing and slopestyle skiing. Expectations for Canadian athletes are high because of Canada’s success at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver: 26 medals (including 15 for female athletes).

Canadian Female Medalists at the Olympic Winter Games

Year

Location

Athlete

Sport

Event

Medal

1948

St. Moritz

Barbara Ann Scott

Figure Skating

Singles

Gold

1948

St. Moritz

Suzanne Morrow

Figure Skating

Pairs

Bronze

1956

Cortina D'ampezzo

Frances Dafoe

Figure Skating

Pairs

Silver

1956

Cortina D'ampezzo

Lucile Wheeler

Alpine Skiing

Downhill

Bronze

1960

Squaw Valley

Anne Heggtveit

Alpine Skiing

Slalom

Gold

1960

Squaw Valley

Barbara Wagner

Figure Skating

Pairs

Gold

1964

Innsbruck

Petra Burka

Figure Skating

Singles

Bronze

1964

Innsbruck

Debbi Wilkes

Figure Skating

Pairs

Bronze (Later Awarded Silver)

1968

Grenoble

Nancy Greene

Alpine Skiing

Giant Slalom

Gold

1968

Grenoble

Nancy Greene

Alpine Skiing

Slalom

Silver

1972

Sapporo

Karen Magnussen

Figure Skating

Singles

Silver

1976

Innsbruck

Kathy Kreiner

Alpine Skiing

Giant Slalom

Gold

1976

Innsbruck

Cathy Preistner

Speed Skating

500m

Silver

1988

Calgary

Elizabeth Manley

Figure Skating

Singles

Silver

1988

Calgary

Karen Percy

Alpine Skiing

Downhill

Bronze

1988

Calgary

Karen Percy

Alpine Skiing

Super Giant Slalom

Bronze

1988

Calgary

Tracy Wilson

Figure Skating

Ice Dancing

Bronze

1992

Albertville

Kerrin Lee-Gartner

Alpine Skiing

Downhill

Gold

1992

Albertville

Team:

Angela Cutrone

Sylvie Daigle

Nathalie Lambert

Annie Perreault

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Gold

1992

Albertville

Myriam Bédard

Biathlon

15km Individual

Bronze

1992

Albertville

Isabelle Brasseur

Figure Skating

Pairs

Bronze

1994

Lillehammer

Myriam Bédard

Biathlon

7.5 Km Sprint

Gold

1994

Lillehammer

Myriam Bédard

Biathlon

15km Individual

Gold

1994

Lillehammer

Nathalie Lambert

Short Track Speed Skating

1000m

Silver

1994

Lillehammer

Team

Christine Boudrias

Isabelle Charest

Angela Cutrone

Sylvie Daigle

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Silver

1994

Lillehammer

Susan Auch

Speed Skating

500m

Silver

1994

Lillehammer

Isabelle Brasseur

Figure Skating

Pairs

Bronze

1998

Nagano

Team

Sandra Schmirler

Jan Betker

Joan Mccusker

Marcia Gudereit

Atina Ford

Curling

Gold

1998

Nagano

Annie Perreault

Short Track Speed Skating

500m

Gold

1998

Nagano

Catriona Le May Doan

Speed Skating

500m

Gold

1998

Nagano

Team

Hockey

Silver

1998

Nagano

Susan Auch

Speed Skating

500m

Silver

1998

Nagano

Team

Christine Boudrias

Isabelle Charest

Annie Perreault

Tania Vicent

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Bronze

1998

Nagano

Catriona Le May Doan

Speed Skating

1000m

Bronze

2002

Salt Lake

Beckie Scott

Cross Country Skiing

10km Pursuit

Gold

2002

Salt Lake

Jamie Salé

Figure Skating

Pairs

Gold

2002

Salt Lake

Team

Hockey

Gold

2002

Salt Lake

Catriona Le May Doan

Speed Skating

500m

Gold

2002

Salt Lake

Veronica Brenner

Freestyle Skiing

Aerials

Silver

2002

Salt Lake

Deidra Dionne

Freestyle Skiing

Aerials

Bronze

2002

Salt Lake

Team

Kelley Law

Julie Skinner

Georgina Wheatcroft

Diane Nelson

Cheryl Noble

Curling

Bronze

2002

Salt Lake

Team

Isabelle Charest

Marie-Eve Drolet

Amélie Goulet-Nadon

Alanna Kraus

Tania Vicent

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Bronze

2002

Salt Lake

Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating

3000m

Bronze

2002

Salt Lake

Clara Hughes

Speed Skating

5000m

Bronze

2006

Torino

Chandra Crawford

Cross Country Skiing

1.1 Km Sprint

Gold

2006

Torino

Jennifer Heil

Freestyle Skiing

Moguls

Gold

2006

Torino

Team

Hockey

Gold

2006

Torino

Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating

1500m

Gold

2006

Torino

Clara Hughes

Speed Skating

5000m

Gold

2006

Torino

Team

Beckie Scott

Sara Renner

Cross Country Skiing

Sprint

Silver

2006

Torino

Team

Alanna Kraus

Anouk Leblanc-Boucher

Amanda Overland

Kalyna Roberge

Tania Vicent

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Silver

2006

Torino

Team

Kristina Groves

Clara Hughes

Cindy Klassen

Christine Nesbitt

Shannon Rempel

Speed Skating

Team Pursuit

Silver

2006

Torino

Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating

1000m

Silver

2006

Torino

Kristina Groves

Speed Skating

1500m

Silver

2006

Torino

Team

Shannon Kleibrink

Amy Nixon

Glenys Bakker

Christine Keshen

Sandra Jenkins

Curling

Bronze

2006

Torino

Anouk Leblanc-Boucher

Short Track Speed Skating

500m

Bronze

2006

Torino

Mellisa Hollingsworth

Skeleton

Bronze

2006

Torino

Dominique Maltais

Snowboarding

Snowboard Cross

Bronze

2006

Torino

Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating

3000m

Bronze

2006

Torino

Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating

5000m

Bronze

2010

Vancouver

Team

Hockey

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Maëlle Ricker

Snowboarding

Snowboard Cross

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Ashleigh Mcivor

Freestyle Skiing

Ski Cross

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Tessa Virtue

Figure Skating

Ice Dancing

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Christine Nesbitt

Speed Skating

1000m

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Team

Kaillie Humphries

Heather Moyse

Bobsled

Two-Woman

Gold

2010

Vancouver

Jennifer Heil

Freestyle Skiing

Moguls

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Marianne St-Gelais

Short Track Speed Skating

500m

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Kristina Groves

Speed Skating

1500m

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Team

Cheryl Bernard

Susan O’connor

Carolyn Darbyshire

Cori Bartel

Kristie Moore

Curling

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Team

Helen Upperton

Shelley-Ann Brown

Bobsled

Two-Woman

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Team

Jessica Gregg

Kalyna Roberge

Marianne St-Gelais

Tania Vicent

Short Track Speed Skating

3000m Relay

Silver

2010

Vancouver

Kristina Groves

Speed Skating

3000m

Bronze

2010

Vancouver

Clara Hughes

Speed Skating

5000m

Bronze

2010

Vancouver

Joannie Rochette

Figure Skating

Singles

Bronze