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Canadian figure skating great Barbara Ann Scott dies

Cool and collected as if she were still on the ice at St. Moritz, world champion figure skater for the second year in a row, Miss Barbara Ann Scott, poses for photographers, today in her Montreal hotel, March 8, 1948, after her arrival back by air from London. Canada's welcome home and acclaim for her overseas triumphs will be extended to her today in Ottawa.

The Globe and Mail

Barbara Ann Scott, who captured world and Olympic figure skating titles and the hearts of a country, died Sunday at the age of 84.

The cause of death is not known, but an official from Skate Canada confirmed Ms. Scott's passing to The Canadian Press.

Ms. Scott, known as "Canada's sweetheart" skated to an Olympic gold medal in 1948 on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland and took two world titles in 1947 and 1948.

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At a time when the country was recovering from the devastation of the Second World War, Ms. Scott became a national hero and won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete in 1945, 1947 and 1948.

Following her Olympic victory, then Prime Minister Mackenzie King sent her a telegram that praised her for giving Canadians "courage to get through the darkness of the post-war gloom."

She became a familiar figure on the cover of magazines and newspapers and inspired a popular doll.

More recently the gold medalist captured the attention of the nation once again when she walked the Olympic torch into the House of Commons in December 2009, just  weeks before the Vancouver Olympics.

The appearance of the legendary skater wowed MPs and after the event Ms. Scott told reporters she was excited to return to her hometown of Ottawa from her U.S. home.

"I can't tell you what a thrill this has been," she said at the time. "Imagine an 81-year-old gal being invited to carry the torch into the Parliament buildings."

Born in Ottawa in 1928, Ms Scott began skating at age seven at the Minto Club. She was 12 when she won the national junior championship. By 15, she was the national senior champion - a title she held three more times.

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With the help of friends, Ms. Scott travelled to Europe with her mother and coach and won the 1947 European championships in Davos, Switzerland, and the world championships in Stockholm. She won the European title again in 1948 in Prague. The rules were then changed to allow only Europeans to enter.

Her best-known victory came on Jan 31, 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she revised her final program to avoid the rough patches on the outdoor ice surface, damaged by hockey players.

"When you have to skate outside in the elements, you tend not to worry about the small stuff," she said at the time.

Two forwards from the Ottawa RCAF Flyers team, who had won the hockey gold medals, hoisted her on their shoulders and the photo was distributed around the world.

She went on to Davos to win another world championship.

After she stopped competing, Ms. Scott skated in ice shows for the next five years. Her contract stipulated that a percentage of all her earnings go to aid crippled children.  She stopped performing and married Thomas King in 1955, who was the publicity agent for her touring show. They settled in Chicago.

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Ms. Scott turned her attention to raising show horses, but remained involved in figure skating as a judge at competitions and often returned to Canada as an honoured guest at sport and charity events. She was one of the first Canadians to carry the Olympic torch on its way to Calgary for the 1988 Winter Games.

An Ottawa arena is named in her honour.

With files from The Canadian Press

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