OTTAWA - For most, Barbara Ann Scott was Canada’s sweetheart.
Scott, the only Canadian to win the Olympic women’s figure skating gold medal, died Sunday at the age of 84.
She passed away at her Amelia Island, Fla., home, her husband Tom King by her side.
She was loved by all Canadians, but to some, the relationship with the gold medal Olympian went much deeper.
For Olympic silver medallist Liz Manley, Scott was a personal idol.
“Obviously being from Ottawa, she was everything I ever wanted to be. I was a little girl, and she was the figure skater I wanted to be,” Manley said on Monday.
Manley’s story will give you pleasant chills, as she talks about the day she unexpectedly met her idol.
“It was in Calgary, it was just minutes before I went on. I was still in my warm-up clothes and was told someone wanted to meet me.
“I literally fell back on my heels when I saw her walk in the room. I was just so star-struck, so in awe that she wanted to meet me, and she said she was a fan of mine.
“There I was looking at my childhood idol, hearing that she was a fan of mine; it motivated me so much.
“I’ll always remember it. The one thing I remember most is her saying she was my fan. She just encouraged me to go and enjoy the moment. She said it would be one of my greatest moments, so just enjoy it. Enjoy the Games, she said, remember where you are and enjoy the moment,” Manley said.
At the time, someone took a picture of the meeting, and Manley put the photo in a ziplock bag. She pinned it to a good-luck stuffed koala bear and brought it to the Worlds with her several months later after her Calgary Olympic silver win.
“The best part was over the last 20 years, I had personally become a very close friend of hers. That meant so much to me, right from start to end,” Manley said.
Hearing the news Scott has passed was incredibly difficult.
“Her passing is heartbreaking. A part of me has left with her. I really did grow up with her. She was always there for me. She’s about what my life is about. She was so true to Ottawa, to the sport, to her country, and that is something to look up to.
“She was so classy, so tiny, such a sweetheart, but she was made of steel,” Manley said.
To former Sun columnist Pat MacAdam, Scott was like his “little sister, and I was the big brother she never had.”
It was about 20 years ago when “an inquisitive columnist” wondered whatever happened to Barbara Ann Scott.
He contacted Skate Canada, got her number, and a close friendship was quickly formed.
“I phoned her, we started to talk, and then she said, ‘Pardon me a second, I’m just baking some brownies in the kitchen and an armadillo just walked in the house. I’ll put it outside, and then we can talk. And we were talking just about every day for 20 years.”
Scott was born in Ottawa in 1928 and began skating at age seven at the Minto Club.
She was only 12 when she won the national junior championship.
Sun columnist Earl McRae, before his sudden passing last year, spearheaded a campaign to get Scott’s vast collection of figure skating memorabilia to a permanent home in Ottawa.
“C’mon Jim Watson, it’s a no-brainer,” wrote the Sun’s own legend in May 2011.
He was right. And Scott’s collection can now be enjoyed by all at Ottawa City Hall.
When McRae passed away, Scott and her husband sent flowers.
“In memory of a dear and wonderful friend,” the attached note read.