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They don't have medals to show for it, but Sandy (Newsham) Maskiw and her younger sister Heather (Newsham) Ruby put on medal-deserving performances at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The sisters, who grew up playing softball in their family's yard in Charleswood, were two of only three pitchers on the Canadian women's softball team at the 2000 Olympics. The Newshams, the first pair of sisters to play on the national team together, proved that the young girls from Charleswood belonged on the big stage.
Heather, 23 at the time, allowed three runs in her four games on the mound, while Sandy, who was 27 at the Games, pitched 30 innings for Canada. Sandy led the team to their lone win of the tournament, a 7-1 victory over Italy, and did everything she could to get wins in her other two starts, as she pitched well in a 3-2 10 inning-loss to New Zealand and in a tough 1-0 defeat to China. Canada's inability to score runs at the tournament held them back, and the team finished the event 1-6.
"We consider ourselves the most unlucky team. We lost five games by one run," said Heather, who spent five years on the national team. "Overall pitching performance, we couldn't be happier. We just struggled, hitting-wise. A part of that was international experience, playing at that level, seeing that kind of pitching, I think our team struggled with that."
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Despite not getting as many wins as they had hoped, Sandy and Heather, who both work as school teachers in Winnipeg now, say representing Canada at the Olympics is easily the highlight of their careers. The fact that they were able to share that moment with each other made it even more special.
"It was amazing. We stayed in the same room together and everything," said Sandy, who won a silver medal for Canada at the 1999 Pan Am Games. "It's one of those things where, when things are going great, it doesn't necessarily matter who your teammates are, but when you have a little bit of adversity and things don't go well, it's really good to have someone who totally understands you and knows the right things to say all the time. And just looking out there from the dugout and seeing my sister out there, it was pretty amazing."
Heather, four years younger and less experienced at the international level, found it incredibly helpful to have her sister, who was one year removed from throwing a perfect game and a one-hitter at the '99 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, at her side.
"I think for me, being the younger sister, it really helped having a big sister there who could look out for you and do your laundry," Heather said with a laugh. "I didn't know how to do laundry, so Sandy did my laundry, so things like that. It really helped me out along the way... someone who had experience at the international level and could provide advice. It was really instrumental to me."
The Olympics wasn't the last time the sisters made history, however. When Heather was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, two years after Sandy, they became the first sisters to be inducted into the hall as individuals.
"For us, having the opportunity to play ball together was a really big deal," said Sandy. "We had a lot of success. We pushed each other a lot to get to the level that we did because there was a lot of sibling rivalry and competition between the two of us."
Taylor Allen Reporter
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...
Hall Call is a weekly podcast series hosted by Taylor Allen that shares the stories of local sport icons by interviewing members of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
Taylor will talk to a new member every week, with a story featured in the Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press and an hour-long podcast interview. The series can be found online at wfp.to/hallcall. You can also visit the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inside the Sport for Life Centre building located at 145 Pacific Ave.
To hear more about Sandy and Heather's careers, including how they found out they made the Olympic team, their favourite Olympic memories, meeting Venus and Serena Williams, which future MLB All-Star complimented Sandy at the Olympics, the Smitty's Terminators dynasty, and much more — listen to the podcast.