No one would have guessed Michelle Cameron Coulter, an Olympic synchronized swimmer, failed her first-level swimming class four times. Coulter is a six-time World Champion and swam on the Canadian national team for over ten years. She became the first Albertan to win a Summer Olympic gold medal and was inducted into the Canada`s Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
Coulter is one of many athletes inducted into the Canada`s Sports Hall of Fame (CSHOF) not only for great achievement in sport, but also for their inspiring character. Synchronized swimming opened many doors for Coulter. She started a foundation initiated by her children called A Gift of Love, based on their family’s belief that “if we just share what we have, there should be no one without.” As well, Coulter founded Gold Medal Inspirations, a company with the mission to inspire all to embrace their full potential. Coulter believes no matter what background we can all reach our full potential.
“We all have different backgrounds, but it’s our different gifts that inspire people around us,” says Coulter.
Sports in Canada are part of our culture. They represent our heritage and traditions. The Canadian Journey Series five-dollar bill issued in 2001, showed children playing hockey, tobogganing and skating. It was excerpt from our nation’s classic children’s book The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier. Hockey is only one of the few definitive examples of how sport is connected to Canada’s culture.
The CSHOF is dedicated to honouring athletes such as Michelle Cameron Coulter and builders (coaches, broadcasters, and administrators) who are role models for Canadians. Their stories unite our country, and are a reminder of the core values that define us. When we praise Terry Fox’s 1980 run across the country for cancer, it wasn’t just his athleticism that inspired us. Terry Fox redefined Canadian’s views of disability and inclusion, and his experience changed the face of cancer. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s mission is to share the stories and achievements of its honoured members to inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life.
In 1947, Harry Price, the chairman of the Sports Committee for the Canada National Exhibition (CNE), travelled across the country to recruit support in an effort to build a museum dedicated to Canadian athletes. In 1955, the Stanley Barracks was named the first home for the Sports Hall of Fame at the CNE grounds in Toronto.
In 2008, Calgary placed a bid to have the museum relocated to the Canadian Olympic Park. Thanks in large part to funding support from the federal government, the province of Alberta, the city of Calgary, and the Winter Sport Institute of Canada, the museum opened its doors in 2011.
The CSHOF is a national institution much like the National Art Gallery, and the Canadian War Museum, except the CSHOF is located outside of the nation’s capital. This unique location attracts more Canadians to visit one of Canada’s premier cities while celebrating Canada’s sporting culture.
President and CEO of the CSHOF Mario Siciliano emphasized that the museum is not your average “see the football under the glass” experience. “Whose foot kicked that football, and what’s their story?” said Siciliano.
The internationally-awarded CSHOF features 12 galleries with more than 50 hands-on interactive experiences, and more than 95,000 artefacts including the largest collection of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games artifacts in Canada. The CSHOF’s interactive exhibits include the Bounce, Splash, and Motion galleries. These galleries allow visitors to join in 3D interactive experiences, shadow boxes, and simulators to experience an athlete’s abilities. In the Motion gallery, visitors can get into a wheelchair, race against Paralympic Champion Chantal Petitclerc, and see how they match up against an Olympian.
The Sport Chek Hockey gallery, RBC Foundation Lock Room, and the Media Room gallery all have physical and virtual interactive experiences. They include bilingual touch screens, where visitors can asks questions to the honoured members, as well as video games, virtual avatars, and a theater.
The CSHOF is a celebration of athletic achievement, uniquely Canadian lessons and cultural transformations. Canadians are drawn to the passion and celebration of their favourite sports heroes and teams. But behind these celebrations, these heroes’ stories are filled with life lessons, which define and demonstrate the values of hard work, dedication and perseverance. These sports icons have a transformative and lasting impact on the very way we live.
“Our strategy is sharing stories, not so much of the goals and records but the values of their journey,” said Siciliano. “It’s not actually about sports. The reality is it is fundamentally about the human journey, the emotion in it. Sports make a difference in our country.”