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The Olympic Games

A Montreal policeman, Étienne DESMARTEAU, was one of the first Canadians to distinguish himself at the Olympic Games:

“Desmarteau went down in history because of his physical strength. In 1902 he ranked first in the world junior and heavyweight hammer-throwing championships. But he is remembered for his victory at the 1904 Olympics in St Louis, Mo., when he managed a throw of 34 feet 4 inches in the 56-pound weight contest. He was long regarded as the first Canadian to have earned a gold medal, although not all experts agree. Some claim the honour belongs to George Orton, who had won the 2,500-metre steeplechase in Paris four years earlier. Orton, a Canadian by birth, was, however, wearing the colours of the United States, where he was studying. Others maintain that Desmarteau should be considered the first since George Seymour Lyon’s victory in the golf competition at St Louis in 1904 ought to be disregarded, golf having been included in the Olympic Games only that one time. In any case Étienne Desmarteau certainly was the first French Canadian to receive an Olympic gold medal.”


The performances and dramas that were a hallmark of the first modern Olympic Games had a significant impact on the popularity of certain sports, one of which is described in the biography of porter and marathon runner James DUFFY:

“In 1911 [Duffy] joined the migration of young, single Scots and Irish-Scots to Canada. He may well have been lured by the revival of professional distance running in North America that followed the dramatic 1908 Olympic marathon in London, England. In this race front-running Dorando Pietri of Italy collapsed just yards from the finish. One of the stars of the circuit was Onondaga runner Tom Longboat* of Toronto. Duffy settled there, taking a job as a porter with T. Eaton Company and joining the Central Young Men’s Christian Association.

“Duffy quickly made a name for himself among the sporting fraternity by placing second in the 1911 running of the Ward Marathon.… The following spring, in the colours of the Eaton’s Athletic Association, he placed second to Harry Jenson of New York in the Hamilton Spectator Marathon. Run over the famous 19-mile 186-yard ‘Around-the-Bay’ course, it served as the Canadian trial for the upcoming Olympic games. Despite his accent and brief residence, he was readily accepted as the top Canadian and was named to the Stockholm-bound team.”

The biographies in the following lists feature athletes who participated in the Olympic Games and people who were involved with national Olympic organizations and took responsibility for preparing athletes for these contests:


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