December 12, 2019

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Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame pays tribute to province's best, brightest female athletes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/3/2019 (279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Over the years, there's been no shortage of Manitoba women who have gone on to compete at the highest level in their sport. Some of them even went on to become Olympic and world champions.

On Friday, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame paid tribute to those women with the unveiling of its newest exhibit — Women in Sport: Celebrating Manitoba Women Past, Present and Future. Fittingly, the opening was held on International Women's Day.

<p>Susan Auch, a five-time Olympic speed skater, two-time silver medalist in the 500m and bronze medalist in the 3000m relay.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Susan Auch, a five-time Olympic speed skater, two-time silver medalist in the 500m and bronze medalist in the 3000m relay.

And more fittingly, there were more than a dozen female hall of famers in attendance who got a first look at the new exhibit.

They included Susan Auch, a three-time Olympic speedskating medallist, Wanda Guenette, a member of Canada's national volleyball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, and Connie Laliberte, a former curling world champion and three-time winner of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

<p>Olympic medals on display at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Olympic medals on display at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

"I think these exhibits are super important, for sure," said Auch, now the CEO for Speed Skating Canada. "I'm honoured to be a part of it. I get to bring my kids here and they get to look at me being something more than their mom. But I think what this exhibit does is it allows the next generation to dream. To know that someone before them, from their own town, did it too. I think these exhibits need to be inspirational and they are to me. But it's even more important for them to be inspirational to the next generation."

The exhibit includes memorabilia from Cindy Klassen's pre-Olympic days, artifacts from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 40s and 50s, Clara Hughes' entire Olympic medal collection (which is on public display for the first time), and much more. Klassen and Hughes dominated Olympic speedskating in their prime, while Hughes also won two Olympic bronze medals in cycling.

For Michelle Sawatzky-Koop, who was a part of a panel discussion on Friday with her '96 Olympic Games volleyball teammate Guenette, and Auch, the exhibit just makes sense when you look at Manitoba's sports history.

<p>Wanda Guenette (left), a member of Canada's national women’s volleyball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Wanda Guenette (left), a member of Canada's national women’s volleyball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

"You hear about the medallists in Manitoba and those that have had the big hauls at Olympics and a lot of them are women," said Sawatzky-Koop, who's also a three-time national volleyball champion with the Manitoba Bisons.

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame's new exhibit, Women in Sport: Celebrating Manitoba Women Past, Present and Future</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame's new exhibit, Women in Sport: Celebrating Manitoba Women Past, Present and Future

"The names we recognize, you hardly have to say Cindy Klassen's last name or Clara Hughes', and that kind of thing. To have this dedicated to women, and to see some of their medals again, I think it's a huge step for women and I think it's great for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame to say, 'We have this many women in Manitoba to celebrate that we need to have a special exhibit for it.'" I'm really proud of the hall of fame for doing that and I think it's super exciting."

From curling's Laliberte to Jennifer Jones, from speedskating's Doreen Botterill to Klassen, and today's generation of local athletes such as Olympic soccer medallist Desiree Scott and Olympic curling champ Kaitlyn Lawes, Manitoba has consistently had star female athletes in competition. Auch doesn't believe it's a coincidence.

"We're a province that really opens the opportunities to girls and women in sport," Auch said. "I really do believe Manitoba is far ahead in social and cultural areas compared to a lot of parts of Canada. I would say that speaks volumes to girls thinking they can do anything that anyone else can."

<p>Michelle Sawatzky-Koop (centre), a member of the national women’s volleyball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Michelle Sawatzky-Koop (centre), a member of the national women’s volleyball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

To keep the trend of great local female athletes going, Sawatzky-Koop hopes young kids check out the exhibit and realize that they can achieve those things, too.

"I hope they see that it wasn't one sport that we're good at in Manitoba," Sawatzky-Koop said.

"It's not one size of woman, it's not the really tall ones or the really small ones, or the really muscular ones, it's women of all shapes and sizes, of all backgrounds, of all races, religions, whatever it is, and they've overcome. Every athlete you're going to see in this exhibit has overcome. They've overcome and persevered, not necessarily being a woman, but whatever it is in their sport. And I hope they see that. I hope they see anything is possible no matter where you come from. It just takes an incredible amount of perseverance and determination."

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

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.

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Updated on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 7:07 PM CST: Updates headline

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