August 5, 2016
Newfoundlanders have been associated with the Olympics since 1904.
Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives 1.507.002; Robert (Bob) Fowler, The first Newfoundland-born athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
The first Newfoundland-born athlete to compete in the Olympic Games was Robert Fowler born in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, in 1882. Fowler in 1904 was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and competed in the marathon for the USA at the Olympics in St. Louis in 1904. Fowler, failed to finish either race. The marathon was the most bizarre event of the Games. It was run in brutally hot weather, over dusty roads, with horses and automobiles clearing the way and creating dust clouds. Although he was on the American team, he did not claim American citizenship until 1906. At the 1904 Olympics he carried the Dominion of Newfoundland passport.
Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: VA 37-35.1; Group of Newfoundland soldiers taking part in athletic events. L-R (Front row): Eric Robertson (Regiment # 497).
Another Newfoundland athlete to make his way into the Olympic Games was Eric Mackenzie Robertson. He was born on Maxe Street in St. John’s. Robertson would have been the first Newfoundland “born and bred athlete” to compete in the Olympic Games, in Antwerp in 1920. Robertson one of the few survivors of the great First World One battle at Beaumont Hamel (1916) was so determined to go to the Olympics that he petitioned the Newfoundland government to release his 30 pound pension that he used to pay for his Olympic fees. In Antwerp, Roberton found out that he could not represent Newfoundland, since the country of Newfoundland, had no Olympic committee and no athletic association to certify his amateur status. Even though Newfoundland was a separate Dominion at the time, he competed for Great Britain, the “Empire’s oldest and most loyal colony.”
Harry Watson, of St. John’s can lay claim to being the first Newfoundlander to have participated in the ‘Winter Olympics.’ The first winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France and Watson (known to his friends as Moose ) arrived with a Canadian Hockey team. Harry “Moose” Watson, and his team were the gold medal winners. The Canadians beat Czechoslovakia 30-0 and Sw .itzerland 33-0, a game in which Watson himself scored 13 goals.
Ferd Hayward of St. John’s had an international race walking career that included a large number of first place finishes. He was the first Newfoundlander to participate in the Olympics Games for Canada in the 1952 games in Helsinki, Finland.
An amazing five appearances in a Canadian uniform as a race walker in the Olympics places Alex Oakley (originally from St. John’s ) among the finest athletes to come out of Newfoundland and Labrador. With five Oylmpic races to his credit between 1956 and 1976, he has competed in more Olympics than any other Canadian male athlete. He made the decision on his own not to enter the 1968 Olympics. His record includes a disqualification in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, ninth in the 20 kilometer race in 1960 at Rome, 14th in the 50 kilometer event in 1964 in Tokyo, 31st in the 50 kilometer race in 1972 at Munich, Germany and, at the age of 50, 35th in the 20 kilometer event in 1976 at Montreal.
Weightlifter, Bert Squires of Grand Bank was in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina. He also qualified to compete at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, but a boycott by Canada and several other countries kept him from competing as a weightlifter.
The 1980 boycott that was spearheaded by the United States, which had taken issue with the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was devastating for another Newfoundland athlete. Paula Kelly in 1980 became the only Newfoundlander and youngest swimmer to qualify for the Canadian Olympic Swim Team. Kelly would have been the first Newfoundland swimmer to represent Canada at the Olympics in 1980 but the Canadians boycotted, she missed her opportunity to compete.
The 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea featured two Newfoundlanders, Paul McCloy and Frank Humber.
St. John’s athlete Paul McCloy enjoyed an illustrious career competing in athletics and many consider him to be the greatest middle and distance runner that Newfoundland has ever produced. Paul dominated the sport locally, winning the St. John’s Tely 10 road race five times. In 1988 he represented at the Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
Frank Humber of Corner Brook competed as a relief pitcher for Canada’s baseball team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. 1988 was an especially important year for international amateur baseball since the sport had been added – on a demonstration basis – to the roster for the Summer Olympic Games. Humber secured his spot as one of eight pitchers on Canada’s Olympic team during a July, 1988 tryout camp. Canada went 1-2 at Olympics and never made it to the medal round, but that single victory came against the Americans, who would go on to win the gold medal with a starry lineup that included a bevy of future Major Leaguers.
Carl Dwayne Norris from St. John’s is perhaps best remembered for scoring the winning goal to help Team Canada beat Czechoslovakia and win the gold medal in the 1990 Junior World Hockey Tournament in Helsinki. In 1994, he won a silver medal in Ice Hockey with Team Canada at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
Maria Maunder of Logy Bay found her way on the international stage in the sport of rowing. She was on the Canadian rowing crew in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta winning silver behind the Romanians.
Phil Graham originally from Corner Brook was a member of Canada’s fourth place eights rowing team at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He started rowing only at age 21 at Trent University.
The most celebrated Newfoundlanders at the Olympics were members of the “Brad” Gushue Curling team along with teammates Russ Howard, (Moncton, N.B) Mark Nichols, (Labrador City), Jamie Korab (Harbour Grace) and Mike Adam (Labrador City). They represented Canada in curling at the 2006 Winter Olympics, where they won the gold medal.
At the 2016 Olympics all eyes in Newfoundland and Labrador were on 18-year-old, Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown at the Sochi, Olympics in Russia. She brought home a ‘silver’ medal.
Have there been other athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador that have participated in the Olympics. If you know of any others please let me know!!
Recommended Archives: At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is a huge collection of sports related material. Take some time to explore the Frank W. Graham fonds, the Sports Hall of Fame fonds, and the SANL museum collection. Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections