In the 110-year history of our school, many students have treated us to amazing moments on the field, the court, on the stage and in the classroom. Below, we highlight great moments in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games where SMUS alumni have shared their astounding talents with the world.
Percy Williams was never meant to be an athlete. A “slight” boy diagnosed with rheumatic fever at 15 years old, Percy took up running because it was required as part of his schooling at University School in 1922. Not only did he qualify for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam despite having never ran in a competitive 100-metre race, he equalled the 10.6 second world record. He matched the Olympic record twice more during those games and easily captured the gold medal in the final. Olympic officials were so surprised that Williams won that they had to delay the medal ceremony so they could find a recording of the Canadian national anthem. Percy also captured a gold medal in the 200-metre sprint in the same Games.
In 1950, a Canadian Press poll named Percy the greatest national track and field performer of the previous 50 years and upgraded him to “Canada’s All-Time Olympic athlete” in 1972. Percy was made a member of the Order of Canada and is enshrined in the BC and Canada’s Sports Halls of Fame.
Although his greatest success may have been in basketball, a silver medal for Doug Peden ’34 in the inaugural Olympic basketball tournament is almost a footnote in an amazing sporting career. He was the British Columbia provincial under-15 doubles champion in tennis. In rugby he was the first Canadian to score against the fierce New Zealand All Blacks. Alongside his brother Torchy, he won the provincial one mile cycling title in 1934, later turning professional and winning the national sprint title in 1939. In 1940, he tried his hand at baseball and was selected by Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates the following year. He played and coached in the minor leagues throughout the 1940s.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Doug scored the most points on the Canadian basketball team (42), even though he missed the opening game against Brazil. In the final against the American team, the outdoor clay and sand tennis courts had turned to mud because of torrential rains. The players weren‘t even able to dribble the ball because of the conditions and the final score ended up 19-8 for the U.S. team. Fellow Canadian and inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, handed out the medals to both teams.
Doug was inducted into the Greater Victoria, B.C., and Canada’s Sports Halls of Fame.
A rugby player at St. Michael’s School, David took up rowing at the University of British Columbia where he was studying law. He first represented Canada at the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago, where he won silver as a member of the coxed eights crew. He earned the opportunity to travel to Rome for the 1960 Olympics as a spare on the coxed eights team, but was thrust into action after a teammate was asked to row in the coxless pairs event. The team won silver and ended up with the only Canadian medal in the Games. Among his many honours, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010 and was inducted into the Greater Victoria, BC, and University of British Columbia Sports Halls of Fame.
Described as “Canada’s beating heart” at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Steve Nash ’92 had the tournament of a lifetime. The only previous basketball medal for Canada was in 1936 (see Doug Peden ’34) and Nash was determined to change that. He had yet to win an MVP or appear in an All-Star Game, but it was generally known in the basketball world that amazing things were ahead for him. In Sydney, he put the Canadian national basketball team on his back and carried them to a 4-1 record in a tough pool. His 26-point, 8-rebound, 8-assist performance to upset defending world champion Yugoslavia 83-75 will go down in history as one of Nash’s greatest performances in international play.
A 5-point loss to France in the quarter-final was devastating and Nash left the court in tears. He expressed disappointment with the result, saying, “It hurts a lot. I feel like I let everybody down. We could have been in the championship game. We were good enough.” He has also gone on record saying that competing in the Olympics for Canada was the best experience of his career.
The improbable run and disappointing seventh-place finish was not a total loss, however, as many Canadian players have come up through the ranks since. A number of them cite watching Nash in that tournament as a turning point in their desire to play professionally.
Named one of the 10 Paralympians to watch at the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympics, Jody Barber ’82 is a testament to the Paralympic values of determination, inspiration and courage. She was a national champion for her age group at the Long Course National Triathlon Championships (half Ironman distance) in 2005. In 2006, just days before the World Championships, she was injured in a cycling accident when a car drove over her arm. A sports addict, the setback was not going to keep her from competing. In 2007, she began Nordic skiing with one pole. Though she says balancing with one pole was “a little awkward at first,” she was competing on the international stage again in 2008. She won silver in biathlon pursuit and bronze in cross-country skiing at the World Championships in Finland. She came seventh in biathlon and fourth in Para-Nordic skiing at the 2010 Paralympics, a wonderful accomplishment in a tough field.
“The 2010 Paralympic Games were an incredible experience,” she says. “The number of spectators was unprecedented. I have an enduring memory of the noise the crowds made when I shot clean in the biathlon races, and I loved having my family there.”
Jody has kept moving since, achieving third at the ITU World Championships in 2010 and second at the ParaPan Games in 2011. In the last three years, she has also completed two ultramarathons.
As a stand-up comic, Christopher Molineux ’84 has appeared across North America, the Caribbean and the UK, performing at Just for Laughs and working with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Ellen DeGeneres. Christopher was asked to audition to voice the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver/Whistler.
He didn’t receive the script until he was in the booth and it was a simple one. “I was to read the dates of the different Winter Olympics and the names of the host cities,” he says. “The director asked for a voice that had a feel of authority as well as something more loose and ‘Californian.’ I knew they either loved or hated the reading because afterwards they simply said ‘Thanks Keanu’ and ushered me out the door with broad smiles.”
He won the contract and did the voiceover in a single take a week later, but didn’t mention his role to anybody because he had no idea what part of the ceremonies it would be used for. “I imagined it would be at the fade-out into commercial #37 with Loverboy singing ‘The Boy is Hot Tonight’ in the background… nothing worth calling relatives about,” he recalls. “I was performing in Winnipeg when the opening ceremonies were first aired and wasn’t able to watch but my email and social media quickly started to pop with people asking ‘was that your voice?’” It turned out that, contrary to his expectations, the voiceover was the introduction to the entire opening ceremony.
“When I finally got to see and hear the segment and the rest of the ceremonies I was very pleased and proud to have played a part in the biggest public celebration of all things Canadian that had ever been orchestrated,” he says. “A unique and amazing show it was. I was told that it was seen by over three billion people worldwide… and I got paid $97. Ah, the joys of Canadian show business.”
A Korean living in the UK for a number of years, Seria Bag ’08 was recruited by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) for their coverage of the London Olympics in 2012. Her official title was International Public Relations Executive, but she handled so much more than just the PR part of the Olympics.
“I worked side by side with the writers on content for the broadcasts,” she says. “While brainstorming ideas, I suggested we interview foreign athletes that are well known in Korea.” Seria ended up interviewing numerous athletes from different countries and sectors, and also assisted SBS writers to turn the interview materials into transcripts of the program.
“The London Olympics was such a unique experience in that it was my first time on the media side, rather than on the audience side,” she says. “And meeting so many athletes that I had looked up to in person was something that I will never forget.”
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of School Ties.
Doug Peden photograph by the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
Steve Nash photo courtesy of Andy Lyons/AllSport
Korean Olympic Team photo courtesy of the Korean Culture and Information Service