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The 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, marked the 100th anniversary of women's participation in the Games. To celebrate this occasion, Library and Archives Canada has prepared biographies of 16 Canadian women athletes who have excelled in a wide range of sports and overcome personal, physical and societal challenges in doing so.
That women were fragile both physically and psychologically was the traditional view held by doctors, educators, sports leaders and legislators into the twentieth century. However, in 1928 at the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Canadian women athletes became world renowned and challenged these conservative views. Dubbed the "Matchless Six", the Canadian track-and-field team finished with the highest standing, ahead of teams from the United States and Germany. Myrtle Cook and Bobbie Rosenfeld were members of the 4 X 100 relay team whose world record gold medal performance made them national heroes.
Canadian women have dominated in other sports including basketball, golf and swimming. The Edmonton Grads entertained fans for 25 years with an extraordinary winning record based on skill, dedication and fair play. Ada Mackenzie, Canada's "first lady of golf", who was many times a Canadian champion, encouraged women's participation in golf by opening a club for women in 1924. Marilyn Bell, the marathon swimmer of Lake Ontario, demonstrated that women could succeed in sports requiring strength and stamina. Canadian women have also shown themselves as champions in situations of great adversity. Silken Laumann and Myriam Bédard have competed despite injury and illness and Chantal Petitclerc became a champion wheelchair athlete after an accident left her with paraplegia.
At the Sydney Olympics, women competed in a number of sports for the first time including triathlon, pole vault and weightlifting. There is no doubt that Canadian women will continue to excel in all sports and new champions will be added to our Web site over time.