Sports hall of fame adds worthy inductees

The Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame held a special induction ceremony last month at the Nanaimo Museum.

Sports memories Meghan McDonald and Kyle Young view a display case honouring their grandmother Mary Thomasson

Sports memories Meghan McDonald and Kyle Young view a display case honouring their grandmother Mary Thomasson

The Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame added four more worthy members last Saturday, with a special induction ceremony held at the Nanaimo Museum.

The first induction was of well-known local sportsman Jim Gold. Gold, who passed away in 1990, was honoured in the builder category. Via PowerPoint production, the audience heard of Gold’s athletic prowess in many sports, including soccer and lacrosse. Perhaps even more significant was his commitment to youth and sports in our community over several decades. A well-respected P.E. teacher and vice-principal for many years, he taught skills to hundreds of students and coached and organized many sports. He was chairman of the Centennial Committee in 1958 and led the project to develop Departure Bay Centennial Field. He was president of Coast Little League in the 1960s and helped with the construction and maintenance of the ball diamond at Robins Park. From 1971-75, Gold was president of Nanaimo minor baseball. During this time he spearheaded obtaining land and securing government grant money to build Serauxmen Stadium.

On behalf of the family, Jim’s son Bob Gold accepted the induction plaque from Hall of Fame committee member Eleanor Whyte.

Next came induction of famous Nanaimo skier Allison Forsyth, with Tom Harris making the presentation. Forsyth learned to ski at Mount Washington when she was just two. By the age of 16 she made the B.C. ski team and two years later in 1997 she was named to the national team. Forsyth began racing World Cup events in 1997 and was an eight-time Canadian national champion for skiing. She had five World Cup podium finishes, placed seventh when she represented Canada at the Winter Olympics in Utah in 2002 and earned a bronze medal at the world championships in Switzerland in 2003.

A serious knee injury suffered while training for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy ended Forsyth’s racing career and led to her retirement from racing two years later. She now makes her home in Vancouver, but remains a great ambassador for her sport and an inspiration to many.

Third honouree was the late Mary Thomasson (née Frizzell) who was born in Nanaimo in 1933. She became one of the top female track and field athletes in the country. At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, her Canadian 4×100-metre relay team tied the American team in 47 seconds flat, both teams bettering the existing world record. The result made Frizzell and teammate Lillian Palmer not only B.C.’s first female Olympians, but also this province’s first female Olympic medalists. In 1933 Thomasson won the 60m and 100m titles at the Canadian championships. Following her competitive career, she was also a coach for 20 years. Thomasson passed away in 1972 and was inducted posthumously into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. On Saturday, her grandchildren were on hand to accept her induction into the local hall of fame in the pioneer category from Tyler Heisterman, president of the Nanaimo Track and Field Club.

Mayor John Ruttan made the final presentation of the afternoon to Nanaimo lacrosse legend Don Ashbee, who was inducted in the athlete category. Ashbee was a talented athlete who saw a promising professional hockey career ended by injury. He then turned to lacrosse and played on national Mann Cup championship teams from Peterborough from 1951-54. Ashbee then moved west and became a leader on the Nanaimo Timbermen senior A team which won the Mann Cup in 1956. “Ash” played six years in Nanaimo. He was a strong and rugged player, a fierce competitor and a dangerous scorer. Ashbee was recognized for his talents in 1960 when he was named the Western Lacrosse League’s most valuable player. That same year he was also voted MVP in the playoffs, as Nanaimo again advanced to the national championships. During this time, he also played with the Nanaimo Clippers hockey team that was twice runners-up for the Coy Cup in Canadian senior hockey.

During his 17-year lacrosse career he scored 880 goals and added 380 assists. A true team leader and extremely gifted athlete, he was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1974.

Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.

Ian Thorpe writes about sports Saturdays.