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Flashback:Barbara Ann Scott was idolized after her sensational 1948 Olympic win


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Barbara Ann Scott was, and remains, one of a kind. She was Canada's Sweetheart for her figure skating achievements in her teens and she's a charming ambassador for the sport today at age 81. In 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Scott became the first Canadian to win an Olympic Winter Games figure skating singles title and, all these years later, nobody has duplicated the feat. Thousands of children were named after her and most of them collected the Barbara Ann doll that was so popular after the blue-eyed blond's biggest triumph on ice. Scott worked hard to get gold. She trained for endless hours at Ottawa's Minto Skating Club and the commitment paid off in 1947 in Stockholm when she became the first competitor outside Europe to win the women's world championship. She was presented with a convertible when she got back to Ottawa but she returned it to retain her amateur status for the 1948 Winter Games. The Second World War had forced cancellation of the Olympics in 1944 and 1940, so St. Moritz was the first winter quadrennial since 1936, and it was still a mainly male affair. Of 669 competitors, only 77 were women. Canada's team hoped Scott could provide a figure skating breakthrough. The only Canadian to have won a figure skating medal previously was Montgomery Wilson with bronze in 1932. The women's figure skating competition opened with compulsory figures after a one-day delay because of soft ice. Scott was good at compulsories, which was vital since they counted for 60 per cent of the total mark. She was dressed in white, wore a multicoloured cap and donned sunglasses when the sun broke through the clouds. There was a distraction when a plane flew over while she was doing a loop-change-loop figure and cast a shadow on the outdoor rink. Her concentration was so intense that when she was asked about it afterwards she said did not hear the plane. When she took first place, she was well on her way to the top of the podium. Overnight rink flooding as temperatures rose made for slushy ice on the day of the free skating. Scott and coach Sheldon Galbraith studied where ruts and holes had been left after the hockey games and when her turn among the 25 entrants from 11 countries arrived she knew exactly what she had to do. Her graceful style, fast spins and double Lutz wowed the 5,000 spectators and the judges. "I've never been so tired in my life," she said after her routine. "It's a combination of high altitude and mushy ice." The result was splashed across newspaper front pages back home. "Barbara Ann An Easy Victor" was the Toronto Star banner. Nearly 200 photographers surrounded the 19-year-old Scott when she left the ice. She asked reporters to "give my love to Canada and thank them for pulling for me." Her coach dived into the crowd and helped her get to her dressing room. Later, she returned to the ice to perform jumps at the request of the photographers. Players on Canada's hockey team shouted their congratulations and one of them, Reg Schroeder, offered her a chocolate bar. Schroeder and teammate Ab Renaud then hoisted her onto their shoulders and more photographs were taken. "When they presented the medals, they had three platforms by the Olympic rings," Scott recalled during an interview with The Canadian Press last year. "There was a blinding snowstorm. "I'll never forget turning to see the flag go up with the snow falling and hearing 'O Canada' so far from home." The four-time Canadian champ and new Olympic figure skating queen was named a few days later the winner for a third time of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year. Scott went to Davos, Switzerland, and won a second straight world title and she skated in exhibitions in Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Bern, Vienna, Budapest and London, before returning to Canada in early March to receive a heroine's welcome. There were 70,000 crowded into Ottawa's Confederation Square when she arrived seated between her mother and the mayor in a convertible decorated with daffodils. Prime Minister Mackenzie King congratulated her for giving the country the courage to persevere through post-war gloom. They gave her a car, one she could keep this time, with licence plate 48 U 1. Another large crowd waved and yelled congratulations during a Toronto parade from the ferry docks to city hall. The entire country was in love with Barbara Ann Scott. That generation of Canadians is still in love with her. She often returns from her U.S. home with husband Tom King - they were married in 1955, the year she was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame - to watch the new generation of skaters and to attend Skate Canada functions. There have been many other awards, including the Order of Canada in 1991, and arenas and buildings have been named after her, and all of it has been deserving. "I like to take each day as it comes and not worry about the past although I've been very fortunate in my life," said Scott, who winters with her husband in Florida. "I'm hanging in there - for an old lady. "We're enjoying life."

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