At first glance there might not be a lot of similarities between Paris and Yellowknife. One thing the two cities do have in common is Shirley Firth Larsson, the Olympic skier. After 23 years in France, Ms. Firth Larsson recently returned to her hometown to begin a new chapter in a very exciting and rewarding life.
Inducted into the Canadian Ski Museum and the Skiing Hall of Fame in 1990, Ms. Firth Larsson competed in four Winter Olympics, four World Ski Championships and numerous Canadian and North American Championships as well as being voted by the Canadian Women’s Nordic Skier of the Year six times by Ski Racing Magazine. She and her sister Sharon – the equally successful 2005 NAAA recipient – were the first Aboriginal women to form a national ski team representing the Northwest Territories. The two were also the subjects of an inspiring CBC Documentary entitled The Olympians: The Firth Sisters.
Ms. Firth Larsson finds strength in her relationship with her sister. She recalls being hospitalized prior to her first trip to the Olympics. While other teammates trained, she sat in the hospital bed and focused on training her mind for the challenge ahead. “My sister would come to my hospital window and encourage me, give me hope and much needed support,” she says.
Until recently, Europe has been her home since the mid-1980s. In those first years, Ms. Firth Larsson promoted Dene and Inuit cultures through lecture tours to a variety of universities, schools and cultural centres in central Europe and Scandinavia.
Throughout her career, she has been recognized for her achievements, most notably with the Order of Canada in 1987 and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the same year she received her diploma in teaching from the University of Paris.