Lucile Wheeler

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Lucile Wheeler
— Alpine skier  —
Disciplines Downhill, Giant Slalom,
Slalom, Combined
Born (1935-01-14) January 14, 1935 (age 79)
Sainte-Jovite, Quebec, Canada
Olympics
Teams 2 – (1952, 1956)
Medals 1 (0 gold)
World Championships
Teams 5 – (1950, '52, '54, '56, '58)
    includes two Olympics
Medals 4 (2 gold)

Lucile Wheeler, CM (born January 14, 1935) is a former alpine ski racer from Canada. She was a double world champion in 1958, the first North American to win a world title in the downhill event.[1][2][3][4]

Early years[edit]

Wheeler was born in Quebec and grew up in the village of Sainte-Jovite in the Laurentian mountains. Her family was instrumental in promoting the sport of skiing and her grandfather George Wheeler built the famous Gray Rocks ski center at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. He had moved to Quebec from Chazy, New York in the late nineteenth century, hoping to make it rich in the lumber business, but was wiped out by a forest fire.[5]

Taught to ski at the age of two, Wheeler's skills were such that she was soon competing against older ski racers. At age 10, she finished seventh in a downhill event at Mont Tremblant in a race that was open to participants of all ages. She won the Canadian junior ski championship in 1947 at age 12 and at 14 was selected to compete for Canada at the World Championships in 1950 in Aspen, Colorado, the first major alpine event held outside of Europe. However, her parents felt she was too young at age 15 to miss school and did not allow her to go.[6]

Racing career[edit]

The early 1950s was still a time when resources for Canadian skiers were extremely limited.[5] There was very little in the way of government funding to cover expenses for skiers wishing to compete on the world stage or to pay for professional training. Recognizing their daughter's gifts, her parents bore the expense for her to spend several winters training in Kitzbühel, Austria. It paid off when she became the first North American Olympic medalist in the downhill in alpine skiing, winning the bronze in 1956 at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.[6] She followed this with a spectacular performance at the 1958 World Championships in Bad Gastein, Austria, where she won both the downhill and the giant slalom and took silver in the combined.[6] Upon her return to Canada a month later, she received tumultuous receptions.[7][8]

Wheeler's breakthrough performance resulted in an increase in government funding that enabled other Canadian skiers to compete at the international level. Her achievements were also instrumental in increasing the popularity of the sport both nationwide and in her native Quebec where what was once a remote destination in the Laurentian mountains for only a limited few became a thriving ski area with an abundance of quality facilities that attracts hundreds of thousands of skiers every winter.

After racing[edit]

Following her retirement from competitive racing in 1959,[6] Wheeler, along with Réal Charette, was a ski instructor in a film made at the Banff ski resort that won the American Library Association's award as the best educational sports film of 1960. Wheeler married CFL Hall of Fame player Kaye Vaughan of Kansas in June 1960,[9] and the couple lived for a time in Ottawa, but in 1967 they moved to the village of Knowlton in the heart of a Quebec ski area known as the Eastern Townships. The mother of two children, she organized a ski program at Knowlton High School for children aged 14 and under.

Honours[edit]

Wheeler was voted the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's most outstanding athlete of 1958 and was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.[6] In 1976, she was made a member of the Order of Canada, her country's highest civilian honor, and was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. South of the border, Wheeler was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1976.

Glen Mountain, a small Quebec ski hill in West Bolton, honoured her with a trail named "The Wheeler."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Canada's Lucile Wheeler wins skiing title". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. February 6, 1958. p. 1. 
  2. ^ "Canadian takes downhill title". Spokane Daily Chronicle. United Press. February 6, 1958. p. 35. 
  3. ^ "Lucile Wheeler first again, wins world's giant slalom". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. February 8, 1958. p. 1. 
  4. ^ "Lucile and Anne give Canada ski prominence". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. February 10, 1958. p. 11. 
  5. ^ a b Christie, James (April 20, 2009). "Lucile Wheeler". Globe and Mail. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Lucille Wheeler". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  7. ^ Chisholm, Lauchie (March 13, 1958). "Lucile welcomed as champ, takes celebrity role in stride". Montreal Gazette. p. 3. 
  8. ^ "Home town residents honor Lucile Wheeler". Montreal Gazette. April 14, 1958. p. 28. 
  9. ^ "Kaye Vaughan weds skier Lucile Wheeler". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. June 27, 1960. p. 7. 

External links[edit]


Awards
Preceded by
Maurice Richard
Lou Marsh Trophy winner
1958
Succeeded by
Barbara Wagner & Bob Paul