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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)
Dick Ager, baseball
Sports are essentially happy times — but even games have on the old occasion spilled a tear or two, but without embarrassment. Such an occasion came up at the ACT sports banquet in 1970 when Little League Baseball’s press relations man Dick Ager was presented with the Bob Maki Trophy as sportsman of the year.
He couldn’t understand why he should have received the award but those who had close contact with him didn’t dispute the honor. He knew his job and served it with a smile.
Few knew at the banquet that Ager was making his last public appearance as he was fighting a losing battle with cancer. However one of the last things he wanted done was a letter of thanks to the ACT.
Equestrian — Peter Stoeckl
Football — Paul Paddon
Gymnastics — Bruce Medd
Hockey — Guy Lafleur
Judo — Phil Takahashi
Paddling — Claudia Hunt
Rowing — John Weinstein
Speed Skating — Gerry Cassan
Skiing — Betsy Clifford
Softball — Ted Hoy
Swimming — Barb Jacyzyn
Shooting — Linda Malcolm
Sailing — Herb Staneland
Tennis — Marinus Wins
Track and Field — Penny Werthner
Wrestling — Claude Pilon
Water Skiing — Helene Grégoire
Weightlifting — Russ Prior
Linda Malcolm was among the 1970 athletes to catch the eye of ACT dinner selectors and the pistol shooter was to recall “that we all sat at the head table” 14 years later when she came back from Los Angeles with her gold medal… There were 60 athletes at the 1984 celebrations… partly due to five teams who went as far as they could go… Tennis had Marinus Wins set up top credentials… He was Carleton’s athlete of the year after dominating the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Conference and he was tops in city senior tennis as well… Russ Prior picked up a heavyweight gold medal and wrestler Claude Pilon a silver at Commonwealth wrestling at Edinburgh, Scotland… Runner Penny Werthner was both an 800 metre and 1,500 metre finalist… In sailing Herb Staneland with help from crew Dave Waddell was the first Canadian to post a victory in CORK sailing at Kingston.