Catch You On The Rebound
There have been countless unique sports personalities in our community over the years. Their stories jump out and captivate. Here are just three.
The name Arthur Taylor is rarely mentioned in local sports, yet he may be one of our greatest athletes ever.
Taylor resided here briefly in the 1970s’ and during his stay, he set not one, not two but five world records in middle and long distance running.
He was a runaholic with up to 240 kilometers training a week around town.
One of his world records, fastest marathon for a 50-year-old, with a clocking of 2:27:25, stood for 25 years!
In an article from “Athletics Illustrated”, former University of Victoria runner Mark Nelson recalls Taylor talking about his time in Fort McMurray: “One workout he told me about was almost his last. It happened in the spring of 1978. Taylor was living in Fort McMurray and he went out for a training run in the woods on the rise of the Athabasca River. Unfortunately, what could have been a nice run, turned into a disaster when a snow storm hit and he lost his way.
“After he remembered that the wind always blew down the streets of Fort McMurray, he decided to run with the wind. Luckily his memory served him well and he soon found his way home. I don’t know which workout would have been harder, this one or Zatopek’s legendary 100 x 400 m in one session.”
Taylor would later move to Edmonton and then Victoria, British Columbia.
Also a legendary coach with several runners going to the Olympics, Taylor is one of the greatest master runners in Canadian history with 21 Canadian titles, four North American and Pan American titles and nine World titles.
Taylor passed away in 2005.
For anyone who spent an evening of playing sports at
Gregoire Recreation Centre during the 1980s’, Jim Parris was a well-known figure.
A long-time resident of Fort McMurray, he was the evening janitor at the facility.
Wearing large framed glasses, he was small of stature but big in enforcement of his No. 1 rule.
Everyone was to take off their outdoor shoes and place them on the shoe rack before they could enter the gymnasium.
If you broke the rule?
Look out. He stood his ground, no matter how big you were.
Jim passed away 20 years ago, May 29th, 1997 to be precise, at the age of 91.
A year after his passing, Jim’s son-in-law showed me newspaper clippings from the 1920s’ and 1930s’ depicting the athletic prowess of Parris.
Parris had been a world-class multi-sport athlete!
Hailing from the West Indies, he had represented Barbados in a number of sports including cricket and soccer.
If my memory serves me right, he was also an excellent marksman in shooting.
In fact, the great Sir Garfield Sobers, considered one of the greatest cricket players of all-time, credits Parris on teaching him how to bowl.
What was truly amazing, is that few in our community, aside from his family, knew of the past heroics of the little janitor at Gregoire Rec Centre.
Last on the list is mountaineer Al Hancock.
I first met Hancock during his bodybuilding career in the 1980s.
Looking for new challenges, he took on the challenge of mountain climbing and in 2003 climbed Mount Denali in Alaska.
Five years later 2008, he became only the 13th Canadian to have climbed the Seven Summits; the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
According to Wikipedia, as of January 2010, approximately 275 climbers have faced and met the challenge.
Hancock is now focused on the Big 14 Challenge, better known as the 8-Thousanders, which is reaching the top of the world’s 14 highest peaks above 8,000 meters.
They are all located in Asia in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges.
French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal were the first to accomplish the feat on June 3, 1950.
A total of 38 individuals have completed such since.
Ed Viesturs from the state of Washington, is the only North American, achieving such in 2005. That same year he was named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year.
May 20, 2017, at 5:53 am Nepal time, Hancock checked off his list Lhotse, reaching the summit of the Nepal mountain at 8,516 meters.
Catch you on the rebound!
Hancock photo courtesy Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Arthur Taylor montage image courtesy of Canadian Road Running Hall of Fame.