Born: May 26, 1936 (Montréal)
Died: May 1, 2015
Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1955)
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2015)
Beth Whittall, a swimmer, won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete in 1955.
The Montreal athlete won two gold and two silver medals at the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City. Incredibly, three of those medals were won in a 30-minute span in a driving rain storm at the outdoor University City Swimming Pool.
She also competed at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, where she finished seventh in the 100-metre butterfly.
At age 17, Beth Whittall won a silver medal as a relay swimmer at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954. She claimed the medal as part of Canada’s 4-by-100-yard freestyle relay team with Gladys Priestly of Montreal, Helen Stewart (later Hunt) of Vancouver, and Virginia Grant (later Ridpath) of Toronto. The quartet finished in 4:37, three seconds behind South Africa’s winning time of 4:33.9 time in the pool on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver.
At the Pan Am games, she won gold in the 100m butterfly and the 400m freestyle. She was part of silver-winning relay teams in the 4-by-100m freestyle and the 4-by-100m medley.
Whittall took time from her studies in pharmacology at Purdue University to compete in Mexico City.
Whittall set several Canadian swimming records in her career, including the 110-yard butterfly and the one-mile swim.
After retiring from elite competition, Whittall became a swimming coach in Montreal. In 1973, she started the St. Laurent Masters Club, as well as the Quebec masters committee. She served as co-host of Quebec’s first masters competition the following year.
After moving to Ontario, she founded the Georgian Bay Masters in 1997. The club is known for one- and three-kilometre open-water swims. She wrote and published Wavelengths, a quarterly magazine for masters swimmers.
In 2008, she won the Hud Stewart Award for her contributions to masters swimming.
Whittall was informed of her pending induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame just days before her death. Her posthumous induction will take place as part of a ceremony to be held in Calgary on June 17.