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Hugh Fisher – Winning as a way of life

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“There are no stars on a dragon boat team. But then there are no passengers either…”

– Hugh Fisher

With the Summer Olympics in Beijing just over the horizon, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Sea to Sky corridor and those individuals living here who have been successful in past Games. Alas, the list is quite short. Whistler resident Shannon Smith won a bronze medal in swimming at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and Steve Podborski followed with another bronze in Lake Placid four years later. In 1992, current Squamish resident Hillary Lindh won the silver medal in downhill as a member of the US Ski Team. But beyond these three, the pickings get mighty slim…

Fortunately, there is Pemberton resident Dr. Hugh Fisher. A double-medal winner in Los Angeles in flatwater kayaking (gold and bronze), the blond-headed Fisher and his Mohawk partner Alwyn Morris provided Canada with one of the most powerful images of the 1984 Games. Indeed, few who witnessed the medal ceremony in LA will ever forget Morris proudly lifting an eagle feather high in the air as the two teammates were awarded their gold medal for the K-2 1000m sprint.

While Fisher is better known locally for having coached the Laoyam Eagles to their 10 th victory in a row in the junior division at Vancouver’s International Dragon Boat Festival — an outstanding feat given Pemberton Secondary’s 200 students — the understated physician has a remarkable athletic resume. He was a member of four Olympic Teams (from 1976 to 1988), a double medallist at the ’83 World Championships and still today at 52, is one of the fastest Master’s paddlers on the planet.

Given all the talk about the “stuff” Whistler will get in return for being an Olympic host, it’s interesting to note that Fisher credits much of his international success to a Games legacy. But in his case, it didn’t come from the Olympics. “The Canada Summer Games held in Burnaby in 1973 was hugely important,” he explains. “The event itself was sort of forgettable for me, tipping as I did on the start line... but the construction of a world class flatwater racing and training venue on Burnaby Lake, about a mile from my house, was like an unbelievable $1.2 million personal gift to me. I trained there for the next decade with many world-class paddlers — including my future partner, Alwyn Morris.”

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