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Elizabeth Manley humbled that people still remember her

May 14, 2014


Elizabeth Manley’s thoughts of Kingston are bittersweet.

Happy are her memories of coming to town as a teenager, when her brother, Tom, played hockey at Queen’s University and she would do skating exhibitions between periods of Golden Gaels games.

“I had such a crush on Johnny Hawitt,” Manley said with a laugh Wednesday, recalling one of her brother’s teammates. “I never came down to see Tom. I came down to watch him.”

Sad is the recollection of her time spent in Kingston in 2008, as her mother was dying of cancer in Kingston General Hospital. “A lot of people don’t know that I slept on a cot for two months in the hospital here,” she said. “Never left her side.”

Manley was in Kingston again Wednesday as part of the news conference revealing that the city will host the 2015 national figure skating championships next January. The three-time Canadian champion, and 1988 Olympic and world championship silver medalist, Manley spoke of the significance of the Skate Canada meet to young athletes.

In an interview later, she spoke of her mother’s role in the success she had, fighting through mental illness and depression to win a medal at seven consecutive Canadian championships. The epiphany occurred in the cancer ward at KGH.

“I never really understood how I got through that,” she said. “I never really knew where my strength came from. It was when my mom was losing her fight with cancer, that was a moment where I realized where I got my strength, and what made me the person I am today.

“Her legacy is me, and I want to make her proud. That is why I’m so highly involved in working with charities and helping youth and trying to get them a healthier lifestyle. I really believe it’s my mom in me. She was such a kind-hearted and caring, take-the-shirt-off-her-back-for-anybody kind of person.”

Legacy is important to Manley, who will be part of the group being inducted this year into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, an honour that, she said, “means a lot to me.”

“It makes me reflect back to (believing) everything that happens, happens for a reason. It gives me light and happiness that many years after I’m gone that there’s going to be an area where people can see my artifacts and have that memory of Calgary.”

Manley is humbled by the fact that, indeed, people still remember her stirring silver-medal performance in the 1988 Olympics. She says didn’t fathom it while she was living in the U.S. and skating professionally for many years after her competitive career, but she now appreciates the magnitude of that event.

“I’ve been back now for eight years,” she said, “and I’m just in complete awe that people still remember it. People still walk up to me in grocery stores and Mac’s Milk and it’s so rewarding and it means so much to me.

“As an athlete you go ‘I won an Olympic medal,’ but then you really feel like you won it for a country when things like that happen, when people remember it like it was yesterday.”

Though she says being inducted to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame “means the world to me,” for Manley, now 48, it in some respects will close the chapter on that part of her life.

“I want my legacy to not only be Elizabeth Manley the figure skater,” she said, “but more in what I do, working with my charities and raising money (for them). Now I’m in the (hall), my skating legacy is in there. I’m working on bigger things now and I want people to remember me for more than just being a figure skater.”

From → Amateur sport

One Comment
  1. Outstanding article! Enjoyed reading it very much!

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