In 1948, 19 year-old Barbara Ann Scott won Canada’s first-ever gold medal in singles figure skating at the Olympics in St Moritz (Switzerland). Scott received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year in 1945, 1947 and 1948, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 and a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008. She was inducted in the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
For 12 years (from 1931 to 1943 or 44), Scott lived at 648 Rideau St. in a house that no longer exists.
Scott began skating at age 7 at the Minto Skating Club (then at 155 Waller, just south of Laurier Ave. where the University of Ottawa’s Simard Building now stands). Later, Scott would recall the unheated rink as “dear old Minto. When it was 20 below outside, it was 20 below inside. I remember my icy hands.” (Uren, 2003) When training, Scott followed a strict discipline, involving piano lessons first thing in the morning, skating for most of the day and private tutoring and homework in the late afternoon and evening. Scott reckons she had practiced for 20,000 hours before the 1948 Olympics. Fortunately, her parents were very supportive, encouraging her in all sports. Her mother would accompany her to the rink where she knitted while Barbara Ann skated.
Her parents, however, were not wealthy. After her father died in 1941, a group of friends raised enough money to pay for Scott to go to Europe in 1947 to compete in the European and World championships. Enthusiastic throngs of supporters welcomed her back after she won both championships and she was presented with a new car, an offer that she had to decline because it compromised her amateur status. She was, however, able to accept it the following year after winning the Olympics and turning professional.
Known as “Canada’s Sweetheart,” she is the only Canadian to have won the Olympic ladies’ singles gold medal, the first North American to have won three major titles in one year and the only Canadian to have won the European Championship (1947–1948). After giving up competitive skating, she took up horse riding and, in her forties, became one of the top equestrians in North America.