On Monday, November 22, 1999, Nancy Catherine Greene was declared Canada's female athlete of the 20th century. The newspaper editors and broadcasters surveyed by Canadian Press and Broadcast News cited her outstanding record of two Olympic medals and two World Cup titles in placing her at the head of a tough field with 40 first-place votes.
Born in 1943, in Ottawa, Ontario, Nancy Greene was the second of six children of Robert Kenneth Wollaston Greene and Helen Catherine Sutherland. The family returned to British Columbia after the war, settling in Rossland. Nancy recalls that her parents loved skiing and passed their enthusiasm on to all the children, although until her teenage years Nancy did not show an interest in competitive skiing. "I just skied for fun" she noted in her autobiography. She underwent a change of heart in 1958 when injuries to two members of British Columbia's junior ski team afforded her the opportunity to compete in the Canadian Junior Championships that were held in Rossland that year. Despite her lack of experience in racing, she finished third in the slalom and second in the downhill, behind her sister Liz, who finished first in both events. From that time on, Nancy Greene was a racing skier in earnest!
In 1960, Nancy Greene made her first trip to the Olympics in Squaw Valley where she witnessed fellow Canadian Anne Heggveit win a gold medal in the slalom. Nancy vowed that one day she would do the same herself. Her disappointment was great at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck when she had mediocre finishes in all events. Nicknamed "the tiger" because of her aggressive skiing style, Greene's results were erratic until she learned an important lesson in control: "I learned that I could come up with better results and more consistent finishes if I held myself slightly in check, if I really concentrated on a course instead of almost blindly assaulting it." (Nancy Greene: An Autobiography, p. 31)
Greene also developed a new mental attitude to skiing in the knowledge that "skiing didn't define and enclose [her] entire world." (Nancy Greene: An Autobiography, p. 28) This relaxed approach resulted in victory in the slalom at Jackson Hole and the over-all title in the first World Cup in 1967 as she won seven of 16 events.
In 1968, her dream of Olympic success came true as she won a gold medal in the giant slalom and a silver medal in the slalom in Grenoble, France. She also defended her World Cup title, winning ten races in a row. With a deep sense of satisfaction, she retired later that year.
Because of these remarkable achievements, Nancy Greene has received numerous awards and honours including, the Lou Marsh Trophy for athlete of the year in 1967 and 1968; B'nai B'rith woman of 1968; Officer of the Order of Canada, 1968; British Columbia female athlete of the half century. She is also a member of the British Columbia and Canadian Sports Halls of Fame.
In 1969, Nancy Greene married respected ski coach Al Raine with whom she has twin sons Charles and William. Nancy and Al were instrumental in the early development of Whistler Resort and now make their home in Sun Peaks Resort. They are well known for the assistance which they give to young skiers. She has given her name and support to the Nancy Greene Ski League, an entry-level race program for young children which has existed for over 30 years. Nancy is also credited with inspiring many other Canadian female alpine skiers including Laurie Graham, Kerrin Lee-Gartner and Gerry Sorensen.
Off the slopes, Nancy Greene has continued to contribute to the development of amateur sport in Canada. In 1968, she was appointed as a member of the Task Force on Sport to investigate the means by which the federal government could support amateur sport for improved performance among Canada's athletes.
After being named top female athlete of the century, Nancy Greene reflected on her success in this way: "I think what it takes remains the same. You have to have a real love of your sport to carry you through all the bad times, you still want to ski even when things aren't working. You must have a commitment to work hard and to never give up." (Vancouver Sun, November 23, 1999)
Nancy Greene added politics to her résumé when she accepted an appointment to the Canadian Senate in January 2009.
Davidson, Neil. - "Skier's legacy lives on : Greene female athlete of century". - Globe and mail. - (November 23, 1999). - P. S1. - Also reprinted at: www.caaws.ca/Whats_New/nov99/greene_nov23.htm
Greene, Nancy. - Nancy Greene : an autobiography. - With Jack Batten. - Don Mills, Ont. : Pagurian Press Ltd., c1971. - vii, 180 p. - Also published in French: Nancy Greene : autobiographie d'une championne
Greene, Nancy ; Raine, Al. - Alpine skiing. - Scarborough, Ont. : Prentice-Hall of Canada Ltd., c1975. - 128 p.
Long, Wendy. - "Greene named top female athlete of the century". - Vancouver sun. - (November 23, 1999). - P. F1. - Also reprinted at: www.caaws.ca/Whats_New/nov99/greene2_nov23.htm
Morrow, Don et al. - A concise history of sport in Canada. - Toronto : Oxford University Press, 1989. - P. 253-255
"Nancy Greene : a tiger on the slopes". - Canadian sports tribune [online]. - The CRB Foundation Heritage Project. - [Cited June 13, 2000]. - Access: www.heritageproject.ca/learning/lessons/sports/ski.htm
Nancy Greene official web site. www.nancygreene.com (accessed November 6, 2009)
"Nancy Greene : Olympic skier". - Sports illustrated kids [online]. - [Cited June 13, 2000]. - Access: www.sikids.com/locker/canada/greatest/greene.html
"She won the hardest way". - Canadian skier. - No. 5 (March 1967). - P. 8-12