By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Oh, do we have a dandy story for you!
A spectacle held every four years, the Olympics bring together the best amateur and professional athletes from around the world to compete for the glory and rarity that is the Olympic gold.
Many athletes train their whole lives for this opportunity and understand that it cannot be taken for granted, as so many never get the chance to compete.
Just participating in the Olympics is an accomplishment in itself. There is no shame in losing, but you can believe the competition level of every athlete is still fierce, never giving an inch.
You truly have to be at your best to win.
Olympics Through the Ages
Modern Olympics date back to 1896 in Athens, Greece, and have only grown since, but not without a fair share of incidents that could have derailed it all.
For example, there was the 1904 debacle, where the majority of the 580 athletes competing were American. Then, there was World War I and World War II, where the games were suspended until after the wars ended.
In 1948, the Olympics were held in London, England, a city that was ravaged during World War II and was searching desperately for anything to bring it back together.
If there was ever a rallying cry for the world to move past those hostile events, it was the Olympics, an event that truly unifies people and embodies the human spirit.
Cue the Olympic Games
London was rebuilt with strengthened bonds after the war, and many attribute this to the impact that sports and these games had on the community.
Friendly Manitoba had three athletes compete that year: Eric Coy (Athletics), Eddie Haddad (boxing) and Vivian Thompson (Swimming).
Although none of them medaled, they all left their mark in their respective sports.
Eric placed 23rd in the discus throw event, but prior to then and the war, he was one of Canada’s top athletes.
He dominated field events in our country from 1935 until the mid 50s, winning Canadian championships in the javelin, discus, and shot-put events. He was also runner-up for the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1938, which is awarded to Canada’s top athlete.
Like many men around this time, Eric joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, but that did not stop him from following his passion for sport. He went on to win several track and field events during the armed services competition.
Eddie Haddad worked tirelessly in the gym to become a champion boxer. It led him to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent his country at the 1948 Olympics.
He had a really good showing, winning his round of 32 match and his round of 16 match before losing on points in the quarterfinals to silver medallist Joseph Vissers.
This loss was not without controversy. Many thought he had won that match as he had Joseph almost out at the end of the third round. It was one of only two matches Eddie lost in his 50 bouts, winning 27 by KO.
Prior to the Olympics, Eddie was the Manitoba lightweight champion in 1946, he won the B.C Golden Gloves title and the Seattle Pacific Northwest Golden Gloves title. His swan song came in 1950, when he won a bronze medal at the British Empire Games in New Zealand. Shortly after that, he retired.
Vivian Thompson competed in two swimming events at the 1948 Olympics. She lost out in the semifinal heat in the 400m freestyle event, and bowed out in round one in the 4x100m freestyle event.
Although she never medalled, she had a very successful swimming career. She won many provincial titles and went on to win the 1947 National Open 100 yard freestyle, and the 1948 Canadian 400m freestyle title.
Smaller distances were not her only endeavour in the water. She swam long distance races, too. She competed in the 26 mile Atlantic City swim meet, going up against men, and finished in a very respectable fourth place.
These three Manitoba athletes made our province proud on national and international stages.
Their stories will be remembered forever as they represent what it means to be an elite athlete who spends countless hours honing their craft.
It is an extremely tough feat to win an Olympic medal. All one can do is their best and on that day, hope it is enough.
These athletes are a part of an esteemed list of Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Members that have made their mark on our provinces’ sport history.
To our future inductees who are and will be competing at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, you have already made us proud!