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De Grasse victory harkens back to Hamilton and the last Canadian to win the 200 yard-dash

 

De Grasse victory harkens back to Hamilton and the last Canadian to win the 200 yard-dash

The brilliant performance by Andre De Grasse in winning the 200 metre  Olympic gold medal invoked commentary about the previous Canadian gold medal in the event 93 years ago.  It was won by  Percy Williams running for Canada in the 1928 Amsterdam games.  That story actually began in Hamilton where the Canadian Olympic trials were held, thanks to the city’s prominence in track and field.  The Hamilton Olympic Club was established  in 1926 by a group of local businessmrm  committed to providing quality training opportunities to Hamilton’s youth. We often hear that Civic Stadium was built for the first British Empire Games in 1930, but two years prior to that our country’s  top athletes assembled for selection to Canada’s Olympic team in that stadium.   

Percy Williams competing at Civic Stadium 1928 with Beechwood Avenue houses in background

An indication of the strength of Hamilton’s reputation  in track and field, the 1926 winner of the Boston Marathon, Johnny Miles moved from Sydney Mines Nova Scotia to Hamilton to take advantage of the opportunity here.  That led to his second victory in Boston in 1929.  Miles’ father bought the house at the corner of Balsam and Beechwood to be right next to the Civic Stadium track.   In 1928 the elite of Canadian track athletes came to Hamilton for the Olympic trials Amazingly there is excellent film footage of the Hamilton Olympic trials from the famous Pathe Studio where you can see Percy Williams performing.   As he runs westward along the track to the finish line you can see a house on Balsam Avenue behind him that is still there, as is the former residence nearby of Johnny Miles. 

Miles’ Beechwood Avenue home

The founder of the Briitish Empire Games, M.M. Bobby Robinson  was the manager of the Canadian track and field team and went with them to  Amsterdam where he lobbied hard  to hold the first British Empire Games in Hamilton two years later. And the Hamilton Olympic Club is now in its 95th year still training athletes, many of whom have risen  to national and international prominence. 

Bob Bratina is the MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek

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