Lois Smith’s first gymnastics judging manual came with some words of advice from the veteran judge who handed it to her: “If a routine looks difficult, it probably is.”
She carried that with her through 27 years of judging through Victoria, Island and provincial events through the B.C. Games, Canada Games, Arctic Games and a World Cup before being tapped as the director of sport administration for the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games.
Smith, a life member of Gymnastics B.C., is among five 2023 recipients of the annual Eric Whitehead Inspired Service Awards. The others are Hugh MacDonald, first executive director of SportHost Victoria which is now the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission, Roger Skillings of Victoria, former president and CEO of the B.C. Games Society and Canadian Sport Institute-Pacific, Joanna Fox of Victoria, who has had multiple leadership roles in sports media and public relations provincially and nationally, and Mike Harling of Vancouver, a leader in sport publications.
The late Eric Whitehead, former sports editor of the Province newspaper, was the founder of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and its first curator. This year’s recipients will be presented the Whitehead Awards during the 2023 B.C. Sports Hall of Fame Summit running Thursday to Saturday in Victoria at the Coast Hotel and Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“I am truly surprised and honoured by this,” said Smith.
She has seen the provincial and national sports systems evolve.
“We expected so much of our athletes back then — school or work while competing and paying for your own travel — and often having to make a decision between them or their sports careers,” Smith said.
“Governments began to realize the true value of sports and began providing livable funding.”
Time-off from paying gigs is also an issue for those involved in sports in coaching, managing, officiating or administrating on a volunteer basis.
“I was very fortunate to have an understanding boss in [noted Victoria sports builder] Keith Dagg, who was also heavily involved in sports himself, and understood all the time off needed,” said Smith, who was an advertising account director.
Gerald McGavin of Vancouver and Doug Mason of West Vancouver, both former chairs of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, will be presented with lifetime leadership and achievement awards during the Summit at the Coast Victoria Hotel.
“The individuals who are being honoured for longstanding contributions to B.C.’s sport community are inspiring, admirable and deserving of this recognition,” Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, said in a statement.
“They are role models for B.C.’s next generation of athletes, coaches and sport builders.”
It was earlier announced that the 1925 Victoria Cougars’ Stanley Cup championship, Steve Nash’s back-to-back NBA MVP awards, rower Silken Laumann’s lauded comeback Olympic bronze medal at Barcelona 1992, triathlete Simon Whitfield’s Olympic gold medal at Sydney 2000 and Michelle Stilwell’s gold medals over three consecutive Paralympics will be celebrated this weekend at the Summit and will be joining the Defining Moments Gallery in the B.C. Sports Hall located in B.C. Place Stadium.
Keynote speaker for the Summit is former broadcaster Tim Ryan, who retired to Victoria four years ago, and who covered 10 Olympic Games and many of the great NHL and tennis players and boxers during his legendary career with CBS, NBC and Fox.