Sporting Inspiration

Sport can provide the ultimate inspiration for many facets of our lives, but who inspires our everyday sportsmen and women? IMPACT asked prominent people involved in sport to tell us who inspired them to choose their life and career paths. We share their inspiration and hope that you, too, are inspired.


Calgary ’88 was the foundation for building a winter sport centerpiece that would help develop dozens of Olympic and world champion winter athletes. From Eddie the Eagle and Jamaican bobsledders to figure skating’s battle of the Brians (Orser and Boitano) and Liz Manley, inspiration was everywhere.

I was in Grade 3 when the Olympics were in Calgary. Because of the Olympics and watching all the sports and athletes, especially skiing that year, it has kept me in sport for a career and a lifelong passion and lifestyle.

Aimee Johnson | Sport Director, Talisman Centre

Calgary Olympics
Photo: City of Calgary Archives


Wilson was a fictional character in the British comic book Wizard, created during the Second World War. He ran a three-minute mile, ate nuts and berries and created a health and fitness regime that would allow him to live more than 200 years.

Wilson was the first to inspire me, followed by many real, superb athletes.

Roger Davies | Masters Athlete


If you are a woman who loves competitive running, you can thank Kathrine Switzer for showing the way to the start line. Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, though she was unceremoniously accosted on course by a race official. He couldn’t stop her then and she continues as a force in modern endurance sport. Switzer started the women’s Avon Marathon program that reached 37 countries; she paved the way for women to run in the Olympic marathon in 1984. She still runs and inspires as a motivational speaker and author.

When I met her at the Victoria Marathon in 2011 she inspired me by her candour and genuine interest in me — my goals, aspirations and her belief that the marathon distance is possible for every woman who has the passion to succeed.

Louise Hodgson-Jones | Victoria Marathon

Kathrine Switzer


Lynn Jennings is one of the greatest female distance runners of all time. Jennings won nine U.S. Cross Country titles and won the world cross country championships three times. She was the 1992 Olympic bronze medallist in the 10,000 metres and won many other big time road races.

Jennings was tough, determined, talented and humble. When I was a teenager, there were not that many women in running and Jennings was an extraordinarily cool yet intense racer, dauntless and, if she had fear, she never showed it. I admired her guts and intensity and ability to win in some of the toughest conditions in running. And, like me, she had to mainly run with guys as a teenager in school.

Lucy Smith | Runner

Lynn Jennings


Molly Turner has been setting the standard for Masters runners in Canada for more than two decades. A record setting runner in distances from 800 metres to 30K, the Scarborough, Ont. athlete is a member of the Canadian and Ontario Masters Athletics halls of fame and is a well known volunteer for the sport.

Molly took me under her wing from my first race on the track at the World Masters Championships in 1995 in Buffalo N.Y. In my first race I went out like an arrow not realizing that you keep the same pace for the whole race. What I admired in her was her willingness and enthusiasm to help others. Molly was a true mentor, a true sportsperson, a very kind competitive all-round runner.

Helly Visser | Masters Runner

Molly Turner


Hurdler Perdita Felician, of Pickering, Ont., set the standard for Canadian track athletes with two world championship gold and two silver medals. Her 100-metre hurdles victory in 2003 was the first world track victory for a Canadian women.

Perdita is a person who you would want to be a leader and a role model for children and adults alike. Perdita always represented the country and sport with class and a wonderful attitude towards competitors, sport and life. Everyone should strive to be like Perdita both on and off the track!

Rachael McIntosh | Heptathlete

Patricia Felicien
Photo: Claus Andersen, Athletics Canada


Known as the Iron Nun, Sister Madonna Buder is the oldest person ever, at 84, to have completed an Ironman Triathlon. Her inspiration grows with every event she enters, almost 40 years after entering her first race at the urging of a priest. The Spokane, Wash. athlete has completed more than 325 triathlons.

As an older athlete myself, Sister Madonna has been an inspiration to me to push my limits. In 2004 I got into triathlon and completed my first Ironman, at Ironman Canada in Penticton in 2005. Sister Madonna gave a speech at the awards banquet and I was impressed with her rock solid determination and humility.

Martin Parnell | Ultra-marathoner, 250 marathons in one year


Rachel Corey, 33, is a long distance triathlete who was struck down by a car while training near her home in Boise, Idaho last fall. She met a kindred spirit during her recovery in Penticton triathlete Janelle Morrison, who almost lost her life in a car crash in 2010.

I met Rachel a few weeks ago in hospital and was blown away by her resiliency and her unselfish way of thinking. She was attentive and kind to each person who cared for her, showing genuine concern for others in a time of her own tragedy. After my experience with a near-fatal accident and returning to the sport I loved, I say this girl is going to come back. But even if she doesn’t, her attitude is far more inspiring than most who have multiple gold medals hanging from their necks.

Janelle Morrison | Triathlete 


Born and raised in Calgary, Ellen Pennock had a breakout first half of the season in 2014, standing on the podium a handful of times. Injury threatened to derail her training after she broke her collarbone at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. But the 22-year old is back running, has been cleared to ride and has been in the pool for drills and some one arm swimming.

Ellen is a true warrior and someone who exemplifies Canadian spirit and perseverance. I suspect that this year will be a springboard to even greater success in 2015.

Reed Ferber | Professor, University of Calgary


Tillman was a member of the NFL Arizona Cardinals who left professional football to serve in the U.S. military in Iraq. He was killed in action, the victim of so-called friendly fire.

Pat Tillman left the riches and fame amidst a burgeoning NFL career to fight for what he believed in on behalf of his country. His leadership, character and morals are of the highest standard. What an incredible role model.

Sean Kelso | Calgary Flames, Director Media Relations

Pat Tillman


An Olympic silver medallist in the team sprint with Beckie Scott, Sara Renner also had four World Cup podiums in her career. The Canmore, Alta, racer represented Canada in three Olympic Winter Games.

Sara was a true leader on our team and inspired me to pursue my Olympic dream. She had great sayings like, ‘You can’t hoot with the owls and soar with the eagles,’ and ‘I eat to be strong, not to be skinny,’ to help us make recovery decisions.

Chandra Crawford | 2006 Olympic Cross Country Ski Champion


Larry Nelles was a national ski coach who ran summer camps at B.C.’s Kokanee Glacier. Teenage Jim Hunter continually asked the coach how far he had to run and bike; how many push-ups, sit-ups, bench hops he needed to do to make the national ski team. Nelles took his young charge and pushed Hunter’s physical training to the limit. He invited him back to work at the camp in subsequent summers, chopping wood, serving meals and washing dishes while his training continued.

Larry was so inspiring that no matter how hard he pushed me I would be back the next day for more and he kept raising the bar and I thrived on his challenges. Larry inspired me to train.

Jungle Jim Hunter | Retired Crazy Canuck Alpine Racer


Norwegian Vegard Ulvang was like the Indiana Jones of XC skiing. He was a phenomenal skier who won six Olympic medals and 34 World Cup podiums, and a real adventurer, travelling Outer Mongolia on horseback, crossing Greenland on skis and braving avalanches while scaling the highest mountains on three continents. He even dodged bullets in Sarajevo when he brought financial aid to the war-ravaged former Olympic city.

I was an aspiring XC skier when Ulvang was at his peak and what stood out for me was what he did in the off-season. He was very well rounded. Ulvang was the real deal and the full package!

Blaine Penny | Marathoner, President and CEO MitoCanada


A three-time Olympic champion rower, Vancouver native Marnie McBean was the first woman to win world championship medals in every boat class — single, double, pair, four, quad and eight. After retiring from competition McBean has helped prepare summer and winter Canadian Olympic athletes for the Games in Torino, Beijing, Vancouver, London and Sochi. She is member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. She is an Officer to the Order of Canada.

Marnie has always walked the talk. Her unwavering focus and determination to excellence resulted in three Olympic gold medals and her mentorship of Canadian athletes has delivered many more. She is a role model for living up to your potential and remembering to give back.

Natalie Cook | Vice-president Sales and Brand Partnerships, TSN


Calgarian Mark Tewksbury won the 100-metre backstroke gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was Canada’s chef de mission for the 2012 London Games, is a leader in the LGBT community and has been a champion for athletes’ rights. He is an author, professional speaker and leadership consultant.

I remember watching Mark race from my aunt and uncle’s place in Minnedosa, Man. while on summer vacation. I can still feel goose bumps when I imagine him touching the wall, seeing his name on top of the scoreboard. He inspired me to believe that a Calgarian could be the best in the world and stand on top of the Olympic podium. Mark’s message that the pursuit of excellence is the key to success still resonates with me today.

Kyle Shewfelt | 2004 Olympic Gymnastics Gold Medallist 

Mark Tewksbury


Australian Grant Hackett is renowned as one of the greatest distance swimmers of all time, continuously topping the podium, undefeated in the 1,500 metres from 1996 to 2007, continually lowering world record times.

I find it impressive that without major competition, Grant was able to constantly better himself and push the 1,500m to a time that no one believed was possible. By never believing ‘great’ was enough, he continues to inspire me to be the best athlete I can be.

Ryan Cochrane | Olympic 1,500 metre silver medallist

Grant Hackett
Photo: Sarah Ewart

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