Three legendary pioneers in Canadian female sports earn stamp treatment

Three Canadian domestic postage stamps to be released on February 3, 2014 honor a trio of women that made their mark in winter sports. In advance of the Sochi Winter Games, these remarkable stamp releases, valued at $0.63 (Canada’s current rate for domestic male), are poised to stir national pride while motivating the modern-day competitors.

Perhaps the only disappointment in the stamp releases is that none of the honored athletes are alive to see this crowning achievement. Figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, curler Sandra Schmirler and skier Sarah Burke comprise the groundbreaking female athletes earning the postage stamp treatment.

Born in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario, Barbara Ann Scott was one of the first Canadian legends in women’s figure skating. Having claimed her first national title at only 11 years old, she would claim two world titles in 1947 and 1948. Of note, 1947 was a memorable year as she was not only named Canada’s newsmaker of the year, she also gained the European title and Canadian president William Lyon Mackenzie King personally congratulated her.

Adorned in a white skating dress and skates, golden light surrounds Scott in the postage stamp. Illustrated by Louis Hebert (who illustrated all three postage stamps), his work is based from a photo taken by Bill Newton during the magical year of 1948 when Scott claimed the gold medal at the St. Moritz Winter Games in Switzerland. The booklet of 10 postage stamps is equally unique as the front features another image from Newton while the back is an image from 1946, taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh.

Sarah Burke’s extraordinary life and contributions to women’s sport are being recognized by Canada Post in a new series of stamps that was released on Thursday (Oct. 31) to recognize the coming Olympic Winter Games.

A tragic accident claimed Burke’s life far too soon. Raised in the Ontario communities of Barrie and Midland, she would relocate to Squamish, British Columbia to pursue her dreams of skiing glory. One of the world’s most renowned female freeskiers, she was also a four-time X Games gold medallist. Her lobbying efforts were essential towards the acceptance of freeskiing in the Winter Games. Sadly, she will not get to witness this historic first at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Inspiring many young girls to become skiers, Burke’s greatest legacy may have been the fact that she was responsible for the first-ever 720, 900 and 1080 spins by a woman. The half-pipe world champion in 2005, her contributions as a coach and mentor were also part of an inspiring legacy in sport.

Burke is portrayed in the postage stamp with a snowy mountain serving on a blue and white backdrop. Hebert’s illustration was based from a photograph by Spencer Kovats. His photo captured Burke in Whistler, British Columbia during the World Skiing Invitational Half-pipe Qualifications from April, 2010. The backcover of the postage stamp booklet features a photo by Nathan Bilow. His photo immortalizes Burke in one of her finest performances; the January 2009 Winter X-Games in Aspen, Colorado. The event would see Burke claim the third Winter X-Games gold medal in a career that would see her grab four golds.

After the heartbreaking performance of the Canadian hockey teams at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, Sandra Schmirler would brighten the morale of dejected Canadians with a memorable performance. Of note, it was also the first year that curling was an official sport in the Winter Games. As the skip for the Canadian curling team, the native of Biggar, Saskatchewan would capture the first gold medal in women’s curling at the Winter Games.

Merely two years after capturing the hearts and minds of Canadian sports fans, she lost a battle with cancer during 2000. Since 2001, her memory lives on with the Sandra Schmirler Foundation. Raising funds for critically ill children, it preserves the athletic legacy of a prairie sporting legend.

A photo by Michael Burns serves as the source of Hebert’s illustration. Donning the Canadian colors of red and white, Schmirler is depicted about to release a curling stone down the ice. On the reverse of the stamp booklet, a second photo by Burns is featured. Capturing the emotion of Schmirler’s third world championship at Bern, Switzerland in April 1997, Burns photo is a fitting tribute to a curling legend.

For Canadian sports fans, these postage stamps are a fitting tribute to remembering the contributions of three female sports pioneers in Canada. While there are many more women worthy of such consideration in the future, these ephemeral images serve to educate and inspire.