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.

Roz Groenewoud earns celebrity status as newest face on General Mills food products

As one of Canada’s gold medal hopefuls at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Rosalind (Roz) Groenewoud is rapidly becoming a role model to a generation of young female skiers. Of note, the former gymnast and basketball player may also become part of their breakfast routines. With her image gracing the cover of Chocolate Cheerios boxes in Canada, her celebrity status is on the rise.

In addition to Chocolate Cheerios, her image also graces boxes of Oatmeal Crisp cereal and Nature Valley Granola Bars. She is one of a handful of Canadian athletes continuing in the tradition of being features on General Mills Canada food products prior to an Olympic games.

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With General Mills Canada having enjoyed a partnership with the Canadian Olympic Team that has spanned more than a decade, the firm has renewed its sponsorship agreement. With the agreement extended until the 2016 Rio Summer Games, other female athletes will proudly follow in Groenewoud’s footsteps.

Another chapter in her exciting sojourns to Sochi involved mega-retailer Target. Having recently expanded to Canada, their sponsorship of Groenewoud signifies a breakthrough. Of note, she is the first Canadian athlete, male or female, to have earned their sponsorship. This adds to a list of sponsors which also includes Kombi and Spyder.

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Hailing from British Columbia, the 23 year-old has competed in all four corners of the globe claiming two gold medals in the 2012 X-Games Super Pipe (Aspen, Colorado and Tignes, France), the 2012 AFP Halfpipe Overall ranking and a second place finish during the 2012 Winter Dew Tour.

In addition, she would also claim gold in the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. Like many athletes, superstitions are also compose an aspect in her competitions. Whether it be the use of Moulin Rouge lipstick or purple undergarments, once she graces the hill, she is known affectionately as Roz G. She has also garnered media attention from Teen Vogue and Fitness.

When she is not competing, she can be found in the classroom. In the same spirit as other female snow-sports athletes, such as fellow Canadian Kelsey Serwa, she is managing competition and academics. Studying math and physics at Quest University in Squamish, British Columbia, her academic ambitions include completing a Liberal Arts Degree in Science

Heading into Sochi, emotions will certainly be high for Groenewoud. Appreciating the jubilation of being a half pipe world champion, she has also had to cope with the desolation of losing her close friend Sarah Burke. Competing at the X-Games a week after her untimely loss exemplified the courage and character that Groenewoud possesses. She would dedicate her gold medal victories in her memory. To this day, Burke’s name is carried on her helmet.

With halfpipe being introduced in Sochi, it would be a tremendous part of her legacy to be the first competitor to grab the gold medal in the event. Also an athlete ambassador for Right to Play, she is a strong woman looking to set a positive example for young women who want to chase their dreams. Proving that women can be athletic yet feminine, Groenewoud’s positive messages already make her a champion in the hearts of her fans. Having the opportunity to now be part of Canadian breakfast tables, a new legion of fans is likely to follow.