Looking Back: Win or lose at the Olympics, sportsmanship is alive

This year at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Canada had many victories, and losses, but the spirit of sportsmanship was always apparent.

Marge Saunders

By Alison White

There’s a buzz in the air whenever it’s an Olympic year, a sense of pride, and community in watching the world’s best athletes compete for their respective countries.

This year at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Canada had many victories, and losses, but the spirit of sportsmanship was always apparent.

That spirit, the sense of camaraderie among athletes and peers is what the modern Olympics are all about. That tradition is what drew one of Maple Ridge’s most extraordinary citizens to the 1972 Games in Munich.

Marge Saunders was always a bit of an adventure seeker.

In 1937, she became a local hero when she rode her one-speed bicycle to Vancouver and entered a race around Stanley Park, which she won, and then rode back to Maple Ridge that same day.

Her cycling trips were just the start of her athletic adventures. She would travel all over B.C. on her motorcycle, being her own mechanic the entire trip.

In 1938, she took up marksmanship.  By 1942, she won a Dominion Marksman Expert Shield with a score of 5,933 out of 6,000 in competition.

She was only the third woman in Canada to win that award and the second in B.C. In 1942, she joined the RCAF and spent the remainder of the war as a wireless operator in Prince Rupert and other West Coast locations.

After the war, Saunders returned to Maple Ridge and became involved in the sport which would lead the remainder of her life: archery. She helped to create the Maple Ridge Archery Club, and held a connection, coaching, until the age of 92.

Archery first debuted at the Olympics in 1900. Between its debut and 1920, it was contested four times, not appearing again until 1972.

Since the 1992 Summer Olympics, head-to-head matches have been the method used for competition.

Saunders was part of the Canadian team at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

At 59, she was the oldest participant, yet achieved a personal best score and qualified for a FITA star, of which only 15 were given in Canada at the time.

When Saunders passed away in 2010, the Maple Ridge Historical Society was given various items, as well as photographs from her estate, including her bows, pins, awards and Olympic competition number, which are all on display at the Haney House Museum.

They form the personal story which connects us to sport and creates part of the thrill of rooting for our athletes on a stage such as the Olympics.

The exhibit will run until mid-September. On Sunday, Sept. 9 during Port Haney Day, Haney House Museum will be hosting an open house and free tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Allison White is curator of the Maple Ridge Museum.

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