First Pan American Games in Canada in 1967: Spotlight on Canadian Athletes

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In 1967, Canada welcomed the world to its 100th anniversary.

While everyone gathered in Montréal for the international and universal exposition Expo 67, Winnipeg hosted the first Pan American Games held in Canada.

From July 23 to August 6, thousands of athletes from across the Americas competed in approximately 20 sport disciplines. Prince Philip opened the most important international competition to ever take place in Canada’s history until that time.

Canadian athletes took advantage of the event to write their names in the history books. The young swimmer Elaine Tanner set two new world records and collected no less than five medals, including two gold medals. Harry Jerome beat everyone in the 100 metres, while Andy Boychuk was the first to cross the marathon finish line.

Using documents from its collection and a June 2015 interview with Elaine “Mighty Mouse” Tanner, Library and Archives Canada is reliving the highlights of these Canadian performances by profiling six athletes who shone at the 1967 games in Manitoba’s capital.

Canadian athletes who shone in Winnipeg

  1. Andy Boychuk
  2. Pierre St-Jean
  3. Doug Rogers
  4. Harry Jerome
  5. Elaine Tanner
  6. Abigail “Abby” Hoffman

1. Andy Boychuk

Andy Boychuk, biography

Born in Orono, Ontario, in 1941, Andy Boychuk won the marathon at the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, the first Canadian to do so in the history of the games. National champion in 1966 and 1967, Boychuk also placed 9th at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica and 10th at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games and the 1970 British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. He retired from competitive running in 1976.

Andy Boychuk, photographs

2. Pierre St-Jean

Pierre St-Jean, biography

Pierre St-Jean, a Montréal native, had an illustrious career competing as a weightlifter in many international competitions. He climbed on the medal podium at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962 (silver), 1966 (gold) and 1970 (bronze). St-Jean also won bronze medals at the 1963 and 1967 Pan Am Games. He took the oath on behalf of all athletes at the opening ceremonies of the 1976 Montréal Olympic Games.

Pierre St-Jean, photographs

3. Doug Rogers

Doug Rogers, biography

Considered the first great Canadian judoka, Doug Rogers moved to Japan in 1960 to dedicate himself to full-time training in judo for the next five years. He won a silver medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where judo was making its first appearance as an Olympic discipline. Rogers would go on to win a bronze at the 1965 World Championships and gold and silver medals at the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. He was given the honour of being Canada’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, which marked the end of his illustrious international career.

Doug Rogers, photographs

Doug Rogers, additional information

4. Harry Jerome

Harry Jerome, biography

Canadian sprinter Harry Jerome was one of the world’s best sprinters during the 1960s, winning the bronze medal at the 100 metres at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He also won the gold medal in the same event at the 1967 Pan Am Games and in the 100-yard race at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. He retired at the end of the 1968 running season, having broken several world records during his career.

Harry Jerome, photographs

Harry Jerome, additional information

  • Other photographs of Harry Jerome can be found through Collection Search.
  • Publications on Harry Jerome or written by him in LAC’s collection (see Aurora).
  • Short documentary on Harry Jerome produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) can be viewed on the NFB website.
  • His grandfather, John Armstrong Howard, also an outstanding sprinter, was in 1912 the first Black athlete to represent Canada at an Olympic Games. He also served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (see John Armstrong Howard's CEF file).

5. Elaine Tanner

Elaine Tanner, biography

Known as “Mighty Mouse,” Elaine Tanner was one of the best swimmers Canada has ever produced. In 1966 at the age of 15, she won four gold medals and three silver medals to become the first woman to be a quadruple winner at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. In recognition of her performances, she was named Canadian athlete of the year for 1966. At the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Tanner won two gold medals and three silver medals, while breaking two world records. She retired in 1968 at the age of 18, after winning two silver medals and a bronze at the Mexico City Olympic Games.

Elaine Tanner, photographs

Elaine Tanner, additional information

  • Photographs of Elaine Tanner can be found in Collection Search.
  • Publications about Elaine Tanner can be found in LAC’s collection (see Aurora).

Elaine Tanner, interview

Listen now to an interview done by LAC with Elaine Tanner in June 2015. She talked about the following six themes:

Listen to 1. Elaine Tanner reflecting on the Pan American Games held in 1967
  • Transcript 1

    “It meant a lot to me because in ’67 it was Canada’s Centennial year and so having the Pan Am Games kind of in your home country was really exciting for me. I just really looked forward to the home crowd and Winnipeg was really the first host of the Pan American Games in Canada. The facilities they put up and the people in Winnipeg were just so gracious. It was such a great memory. The pool itself was actually the first indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool in Canada at the time. And the facility itself was what we call a really fast pool. Technically it was one of the fastest pools in the world and, I won’t get into all the technicalities, but because of that the swimmers were really up for the meet and our practice times were really fast and in the end, actually the whole swimming, after the swimming was over there was 11 world records broken at the Pan Am Games that year and that’s never been broken. It’s going to be a hard one to break, so that is a testament just to the pool itself.”

Listen to 2. Elaine Tanner competing against the powerhouse American and Australian swimmers before a home crowd
  • Transcript 2

    “I found out that before the Americans actually came out there was a quote in the Sporting News magazine that the Americans said that they were going to sweep all of the events, so I only heard about that after, but we proved them wrong and I think possibly because of the home crowd I remember particularly in the 200 metre backstroke, which is four lengths of the pool, that I was on my third length and I was ahead of world record time and I was starting to get a little tired and I remember the roar of the crowd. It just brought me right up, like it just made me almost airborne and I remember picking up my speed and because of that, of the roar of the crowd, and the support of the crowd, I broke that world record in the 200 backstroke and this is a wonderful memory for me because being Centennial Year, there was a song that they brought out and it was called “Canada” by Bobby Gimbey, which was kind of the theme song that year. And what happened was when I went to receive my medal I remember walking down the pool deck flanked by two American girls and I was in the middle and we were walking towards the podium, along the pool deck, and all of a sudden the crowd just spontaneously broke out into this Canadian theme song “Canada” and they all started singing it. And to this day, as I speak, I’m getting Goosebumps. Because when I walked to that podium, the crowd was just cheering me on and singing “Canada”, so it was a very very proud moment for me. It was just a wonderful, wonderful memory. One of the best.”

Listen to 3. Elaine Tanner becoming a world-class swimmer despite her small size
  • Transcript 3

    “I never let my size, because my nickname was Mighty Mouse because I was so much shorter than all the other girls and I was really small, but in my mind set its like I set myself out a goal. I knew what I could do and nothing could stop me. It didn’t matter where I was from, what the conditions were, I just knew within me, I just focused that desire and the strength and the confidence I had in my ability to just kind of spur me on to, you know, greater heights. Like when I started first of all when I was a little girl swimming in California, it was the perfect environment because everybody swam down there. There were pools in every corner and then we lived near the Santa Clara Swim Club where all the world champions trained and I just went ‘that’s really cool. I can do that’. So I was just driven right from the get go and it didn’t matter. Actually when I came back to Vancouver when I was nine, we moved back to Vancouver where I was born, and I joined the Dolphin Swim Club and I was so fortunate in the fact that I had one of the best technical coaches in the world whose name was Howard Furby, and Howard and I just clicked. We were like a symphony together. We just knew each other without even having to speak. It was just the perfect combination and I just kind of, I just took things in stride. I wasn’t overwhelmed by anything and I just focussed on what I wanted to do, and it’s just, I don’t know, there were just no limits to my dreams.”

Listen to 4. Elaine Tanner losing her two gold medals from the Pan American Games… they got stolen!
  • Transcript 4

    “Well, first of all I was kind of shocked because that’s kind of not the normal kind of thing you think about, but you know to be honest, my medals, once I had won my medals, I wasn’t the kind of person to dote over them. I just wanted to kind of get on to the next goal, so I didn’t need to see the medals to know that it was an accomplishment. I think the way that I look at trophies and medals are really that they’re a symbol of the achievement, but they’re not the achievement themselves, that the things I did are in the record books. They’re Canadian sporting history and I take pride in that, so really the medals are just more of a reflection of it, a symbol of it, but they’re not the event themselves and I carry that pride within me.”

Listen to 5. Elaine Tanner being recognized as one of Canada’s greatest swimmers of all time and a trailblazer
  • Transcript 5

    “Well, I’m very proud of it. I guess I was kind of a pioneer, kind of setting a trail hopefully for other Canadians to follow. I just knew that if you are driven and you work hard and you’re focused and you believe in yourself, that those dreams, just follow those dreams, and the joy will come, that the rewards will come if you work hard and that if I could show others, like young kids that don’t worry about where you come from, or you know, what your background is, or what the colour of your skin is, or your hair. Just believe in yourself and if you set that dream, just go for it and no matter how far you get, when you just follow that dream, that there’s so much joy that comes from following that. And if I could blaze a trail for that, then I’m so proud of that legacy for others to follow.”

Listen to 6. Elaine Tanner talking about the difference between today’s games in Toronto and the 1967 Games in Winnipeg
  • Transcript 6

    “Things have changed a lot in sport and back then the Pan Am Games were kind of an entity to themselves. They were really important. I think that now things have kind of watered down, like, um watered down, that’s kind of a play of words, that the Pan American Games are kind of almost like a kind of warm up now for athletes and they’re not, um like now that there are world championships, before the Pan Am Games were something very special. But now they have like in some of the different events, swimming particularly, there is world championship and I think that athletes now choose to go to the worlds and peak because remember it’s not so much that if you have a world’s right after the Pan American Games, it’s not that they’re particularly tired, but they need when you are tapering and peaking for certain events, that they choose to go to the worlds so that unfortunately a lot of athletes, some of the big guns are not coming to the Pan American Games this year because of that, because they’re focusing on worlds. So it’s kind of a different thing. Technically, things have changed. I think back then things were a little more organic. That we just kind of swam because we loved doing it. There weren’t other things that we were focused on other than just the joy of competing. Now there's so many other distractions. There's commercialism, there's endorsements, there's this and that. So really in a way it's comparing apples to oranges. Things have changed greatly.”

6. Abigail “Abby” Hoffman

Abigail “Abby” Hoffman, biography

An outstanding middle-distance runner, Abby Hoffman participated in four Olympic Games, four Pan Am Games and two Commonwealth Games during her long, brilliant career. She was a multiple medal winner at the Pan Am Games, with two gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals, including the one she won in the 800 metres at the 1967 Winnipeg Games. After her retirement in 1976, she became the first woman Director General of Sport Canada, a position she held from 1981 to 1991.

Abigail “Abby” Hoffman, photographs

Abigail “Abby” Hoffman, additional information

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