Jean Wilson and David Gilday were announced today as this year’s inductees into the Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame. The Toronto raised Wilson, who competed during the 1920s and 1930s and represented Canada at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, was posthumously inducted as an athlete. Meanwhile, Yellowknife’s Gilday, a long-time coach and volunteer in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, enters as a builder.
The Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame was established in 1965 to honour and recognize athletes and volunteers who have made extraordinary contributions to speed skating in Canada and to ensure that these contributions will be remembered for generations to come.
In addition to the Hall of Fame class, Speed Skating Canada has also announced this year’s award winners in the coaching, officiating and volunteering categories, while also recognizing the longstanding contributions of the Shields Family and City of Sherbrooke. Winners in the remaining award categories will be unveiled on our website and social media channels in the coming weeks.
Hall of Fame (Athlete): Jean Wilson
This year’s Hall of Fame inductee in the Athlete category is Toronto raised Jean Wilson, an iconic Canadian female skater who excelled on both the national and international stages when women’s speed skating was still in its infancy.
Born in 1910 in Glasgow, Scotland, Wilson grew up in Toronto where she skated for the Toronto Speed Skating Club and Old Orchard Speed Skating Club. She learned to skate at age 15, and although awkward at first, quickly impressed her coaches and climbed the ranks on the regional and national levels.
Wilson first entered senior competition in 1928 at the age of 18 and soon after began to challenge fellow Canadian and reigning world champion Lela Brooks. Wilson claimed the Toronto Indoor Championship title in 1929 and was runner-up at the Canadian and North American Championships in 1930. She was later crowned 1931 Canadian and North American Champion, after finishing first in all five distances.
Naturally, after these brilliant performances, Wilson was one of five Canadian women selected to participate in the 1932 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, where women’s speed skating was being featured as a demonstration sport. Wilson earned a first-place finish in the 500m, along with second in the 1500m and sixth in the 1000m. Although her results are unofficial, Wilson is one of only four Canadian women to reach the podium multiple times at the same Olympics, joining Catriona Le May Doan (1998), Cindy Klassen (2006) and Kristina Groves (2010).
Though she passed away at the premature age of 23 – shortly after representing Canada at the 1932 Olympics – Wilson was able to achieve more over the course of her brief speed skating career than most athletes hope for in a full lifetime. She was among the first 53 athletes and builders, and one of only two speed skaters, inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1955.
Hall of Fame (Builder): David Gilday
This year’s Hall of Fame inductee in the Builder category is Yellowknife’s David Gilday, a man who has dedicated over 30 years of his life to help grow the sport in Alberta and throughout the Canadian North. Gilday initially got involved in speed skating as the parent of skaters – daughter Jill and son Michael, a short track Olympian in 2014 – but developed a lifelong love for it and has remained involved ever since.
He has coached at various levels in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, working with countless club, provincial and Artic Winter Games skaters throughout the years. He has also been involved as an official, primarily with the Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club and Yellowknife Speed Skating Club.
Away from the rink, Gilday served on the Speed Skating Canada Board of Directors from 2013 to 2015 and was later involved with the creation and management of the organization’s Youth Development Fund, a donation program that helped support the future of speed skating across the country. He also volunteered with the organizing committee for the 2008 Arctic Winter Games, as well as with the Alberta World Cup Society.
The Gilday Family was honoured with Speed Skating Canada’s Gagné Family Award in 2007, which is bestowed upon a family whose members have made an outstanding contribution to the development of speed skating in Canada. David was also the recipient of a Coaching Award of Excellence in 2010.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunities speed skating has provided me, especially in NWT and Alberta but also nationally through committees and the Board. Collectively we’re successful at providing such positive opportunities for kids to grow in a healthy, friendly, and safe environment. Recognition for volunteer effort is always gratifying, but the greatest rewards have been the friendships across the country and seeing so many of our kids turning into healthy, productive, and positive young adults. And as a latter year’s bonus, while coaching in Canmore I get to feel like a grandfather to a dozen enthusiastic and happy learn to speed skate kids several times a week. Volunteer opportunities don’t get much better than that.” – David Gilday
A passionate and well respected individual, David Gilday has impacted countless skaters from Banff, Canmore, Yellowknife, Inuvik, Iqaluit, Fort Simpson, Hay River and beyond.
“David Gilday is one of the most passionate people in the sport of speed skating. He has dedicated so many years to the sport, not only for his own kids but for so many others. I am surprised he has not been nominated in the past! He is very deserving of this award and I am happy that he has been selected.” – Tanya Flood, Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club (Nominator)