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ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Betsy Clifford-Higgins, Skiing
Betsy Clifford-Higgins reached the Winter Olympic Games at Grenoble, France, at the ancient age of 14 thanks to the Canadian Ski Association; at 16 she became the youngest to win a World Cup gold medal when she won the giant slalom at Val Gardena, Italy; survived two broken heels and in 1975 won her eighth Canadian giant slalom crown.
But there is no way her first born — daughter Carly — will follow in mother’s footsteps. If she wants to be a skier, mother will set down the guidelines. “She will be brought along slowly with me near at hand whenever possible. There is just too much pressure. They miss too much,” said Betsy, who can speak from experience.
Clifford-Higgins was Associated Canadian Travellers athlete of the year in 1969 and 1970. She was also the top skier seven times between 1967 and 1975. She lost to Sue Graves in 1968 and to a pair of broken heels in 1972.
Her major European performances in addition to the giant slalom gold were victories in a special slalom at Val d’lsere, France and a giant slalom at Schruns, Austria.
Ski experts thought the 1971-72 campaign would see the coronation of the queen, but just the reverse happened. Betsy, reacting to pressure from all sides on “poor downhill,” and two broken heels went into retirement at 18 years of age.
That lasted until the first snowfall of the 1972-73 season when she came back to the Can-Am circuit, mentally refreshed and ready to go. She dominated the Can-Am circuit winning both slalom titles and finishing second in the downhill. She also returned to the World Cup circuit and won a downhill silver at St. Moritz and a downhill bronze at Pfronten, Germany.
Her skiing exploits gained her hall of Faille recognition headed by automatic berth in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame following her World Cup gold. She is also a member of the Greater Ottawa Hall of Fame and is on the Ski Museum honour roll. She has been given U.S. recognition as well.
Betsy is a working mother employed by the Canadian Coast Guard as text producer for the Fleet News, a quarterly production intended to keep Coast Guard employees informed of the latest developments in their business. Betsy thinks the publication is doing famously and gaining in stature with every issue.
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR (BOB MAKI TROPHY)
J. J. Kinsella, hockey
Many minor sports programs have either shrunk or disappeared from the scene altogether for multi-reasons, not the last of which is money, but one exception is Silver Stick Hockey.
J. J. Kinsella, the 1969 Maki Trophy winner, spawned the idea for the program, which places the emphasis on the all-round development of the player, in a casual conversation with Arnold Fiske at a minor hockey game in Potsdam, N.Y.
A year went by as Kinsella tied up all the loose ends and Silver Stick Hockey made its debut when peewee and bantam teams from Potsdam and Richmond battled on Richmond ice.
From that start in 1957 the program exploded all over the continent, the big push coming after the program reached Port Huron, Mich. It now takes in novice to juvenile teams in 26 territorial divisions. The 26th division was the Pembroke area, something that delighted Kinsella no end.
“It’s a return to the Ottawa Valley, where it all began”, he said with a smile. Then he added: “Yes. I guess you could say the program has doubled since 1969.”
Each of the regions crown winners from novice to juvenile — the latter hockey’s lost legion, says the lifetime director, and our most popular. The winners advance to grand championships.
The sites are Sarnia and Mooretown in Ontario, Port Huron, Mich., and St. Clair Shores near Detroit. The winners go home with trophy replicas and silver stick pins.
The original Silver Stick Trophy, donated by the Ottawa Citizen, now resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “We’re the only minor group there”, the 79-year-old Kinsella says proudly.
Curling — George Cox
Figure Skating — Linda Carbonetto
Gymnastics — Sue Buchanan
Golf — Don Cordukes
Hockey — Pierre Jarry
Judo — Gilles Champagne
Paddling — Claudia Hunt
Cross-Country Skiing — Malcolm Hunter
Speed Skating — Gerry Cassan
Sailing — Rich Hewitt
Skiing — Betsy Clifford
Track and Field — Joan Hendry
Trap and Skeet — Gus Sanderson
Water Skiing — Helene Grégoire
What better way to lead off an amateur athlete who’s who than with a champion, Linda Carbonetto, the Canadian senior women’s champion… Carbonetto unseated defending champion Karen Magnussen… Hunt Club’s Don Cordukes led the golf field to nobody’s surprise… Probably the most consistent golfer in the area his ace was a Tunis victory on his home course… Pierre Jarry, still one of the few bright spots for Ottawa 67’s, headed the hockey parade a second straight year as consolation. Trap and skeet celebrated a fine performance by Marg Burdette at the world championships… She was high overall with 530-550, and hit 100 straight with the 28 gauge and 99-100 in the 20 gauge…