The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Lucile Wheeler

Downhill Skiing

1958


Photo of Lucile Wheeler skiing at the World Championships in Austria

Photo of Lucile Wheeler skiing at the World Championships in Austria

Date
1958
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Canada's Alpine Skiing Pioneer

Graukogel Downhill: Bad Gastein, Austria, February 6, 1958
50,000 festive spectators descend on the beautiful resort town of Bad Gastein, Austria, for the 1958 World Ski Championships. Ski races to Europeans are like the Stanley Cup or Super Bowl to North Americans and with little exception the Europeans have maintained a stranglehold on the sport. However, this championship presents a twist. Canadian Lucile Wheeler is a serious contender. In the absence of a national team program at home, she spent the 1957 season in Austria training with private Austrian coach, Pepi Salvenmoser. It has paid off. Last year she placed second here and won the fabled Hahnenkamm downhill event in Kitzbühel, Austria, one of the most demanding ski races in the world.

Visibility is less than ideal with an overcast sky and light falling snow. There are several icy sections on the 1½ mile course that drops almost 2,000 feet in elevation. Lucile passes the halfway timing interval in the third best time so far. Time can still be made up in a long bumpy section that demands superb conditioning. As she turns into the final steep pitch called the "Schmelzweise" with a speed of 60mph, she suddenly faces a huge dark wall of spectators and loses sight of the tiny blue flags that mark the course. There's a moment of panic and confusion. She trusts her line and her skis carry her through the finish line. She has the best time. History is made. Lucile Wheeler is the first Canadian to win a World Ski Championship. She has trumped forty-two girls from fourteen countries. She credits her coach and a brilliant wax selection for the win. With another big race to go she keeps the wax a secret.

Giant Slalom:February 8, 1958.
Lucile's poles are missing. At the last minute she settles for her coach's longer poles. She attacks the steep 55-gate, one-mile course. She is having a wonderful fast run on the soft mushy snow but midway her makeshift poles almost cause her to skid off the course losing her grip in the process. She makes a grab for it and recovers. She has clipped the field by half a second. She adds a second World Championship in the Giant Slalom.

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Highlights

1947
National Junior Downhill and Combined Titles
1956
Bronze medal, Canada's first Olympic skiing medal, Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympic Games
1958
First North American to win World Championship title (Downhill and Combined)
1958
Lou Marsh Memorial Award