OG

Shirley & Sharon FIRTH

Discovering the world through sport
When competing in the Olympic Games becomes a life choice
SHIRLEY & SHARON FIRTH CAN CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING  1953-2013 & 1953-

Twin sisters Shirley and Sharon Firth, members of Canada’s First Nations, grew up in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, 200km north of the Arctic Circle.

Despite fairly rudimentary living conditions, they took up cross-country skiing in adolescence through the Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) programme, the aim of which was to offer new opportunities to indigenous peoples and to assess their sporting skills. According to Sharon: “If we joined the ski team we’d get to travel the world and that was one of my dreams.”

At the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, they were members of the very first Canadian cross-country skiing team. That same year, they moved to Banff, Alberta, to take advantage of better training conditions, taking on a variety of jobs to earn enough to support themselves. Their career also forced them to adapt to major cultural differences. “We had to learn a whole new way of life, eating habits, being introduced to fast foods (…). Sometimes we starved ourselves because we could not eat the food, and still we raced on empty.”

Shirley and Sharon competed in four consecutive editions of the Winter Games, from 1972 to 1984. Far from their kith and kin, they nevertheless retained an attachment to their roots, even though certain decisions, such as not returning for their mother’s funeral so that they could take part in qualifying events for the Lake Placid Games, created tension upon their return to Inuvik: “[The kids our own age, our old classmates,] seem very strange to us. I guess we strike them as pretty weird too. We’ve become strangers in our own home town.”

By proving that new horizons are possible, Shirley and Sharon Firth became role models for young people in indigenous communities throughout Canada

The Firth sisters

Inuvik in 1961

Sapporo 1972

Innsbruck 1976

Shirley at Lake Placid in 1980

Sarajevo 1984

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Photo credits

Towards greater Equality

Home page
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Missouri Historical Society

1896 - 1936

Charlotte Cooper
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Halet Cambel
Unknown rights

Lina Radke
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Suzanne Lenglen
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Alice Millat
Bibliothèque Nationale de France / Agence Rol (public domain)
Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Clara Zetkin
Wikimedia Creative Commons (public domain)

Emmeline Pankhurst
Central Press / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Shawshots / Alamy Stock Photo
Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons / United States Library of Congress (public domain)

Annette Kellermann
General Photographic Agency / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Wikimedia Creative Commons / United States Library of Congress (public domain)

Gertrude Ederlé
General Photographic Agency / Getty Images
Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
NY Daily News / Getty Images
Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

1936 - 1976

Billie Jean King
Central Press / Getty Images
Getty Images
Keystone / Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons (public domain)

Eleanor Roosevelt
Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo
Fox Photos / Getty Images
Keystone / Getty Images
World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Enriqueta Basilio
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
The History Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Fanny Blankers-Koen
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Giuliana Chenal Minuzzo
Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (CONI)
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Magazine Avanguardia (public domain)

Kathrine Switzer
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images
Getty Images
Sports Illustrated / Getty Images

Simone De Beauvoir
Gallimard
Keystone / Getty Images
Sygma / Getty Images

1976 - 2004

Anita De Frantz
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Annie Sugier
Annie Sugier
Centre Simone de Beauvoir (video)
Linda Weil-Curiel
Service photographique du Palais de l’Elysée
Soudeh Rad

Birgit Fischer
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Hassiba Boulmerka
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Lida Fariman
AFP / Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Nawal El Moutawakel
Bongarts / Getty Images
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

2004 – 2019

Charlotte Girard
Getty Images

Lindsey Van
Getty Images

Mary Kom
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Monique Lamoureux
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Robina Muqimyar
International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Inna Schevchenko
Alamy Stock Photo
Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons / FEMEN Women's Movement
WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Malala Yousafzai
Alamy Stock Photo
Getty Images

Ada Hegerberg
AFP / Getty Images
Getty Images

Pauline Ado
Getty Images
ZUMA Press Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo


Towards greater Respect

1896 - 1936

George Poage
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
La Crosse Public Library
Murphy Library / University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Missouri Historical Society

Jesse Owens
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
The Ohio State University

Jack Johnson
Getty Images
Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
The Protected Art Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Ullstein Bild / Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Bettmann Archive (domaine public)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / United States Library of Congress (domaine public)

Alfonso Brown
Agence Meurisse / Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images
Getty Images

Marcus Garvey
Gado Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Getty Images
Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
History and Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
Wikimedia Creative Commons (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Grantham Bain Collection (public domain)
World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

1936 - 1976

Mohammed Ali
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / New-York World-Telegram and Sun Newspaper (public domain)

Abebe Bikila
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Getty Images

Tommie Smith
Archivio Angelo Cozzi / Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images
Corbis / Getty Images
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Olympic Channel (video)
Paris Match / Getty Images

Sharon et Shirley Firth
Canadian Ski Museum
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Sharon et Shirley Firth / Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
The Canadian Press

Jackie Robinson
Corbis / Getty Images
Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Kansas City Call Newspaper, United States Library of Congress (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / United States Library of Congress (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / United States Mint (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / US National Archives and Records Administration (public domain)

Martin Luther King
Getty Images
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Birmingham AL Police Department (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / Plain Dealer Newspaper (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / US National Archives and Records Administration (public domain)
Wikimedia Creative Commons / White House Photo Office (public domain)

Harvey Milk
Alamy Stock Photo
Ted Sahl Collection / San José State University Special Collections and Archives
ZUMA Press Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

1976 - 2004

Alwyn Morris
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
The Canadian Press

Cathy Freeman
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 

Martina Navratilova
Alamy Stock Photo
Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo
NY Daily News Archive / Getty Images

Nelson Mandela
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 

2004 – 2019

Rohullah Nikpai
AFP / Getty Images
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 

Tom Daley
Getty Images
Instagram and Facebook / Tom Daley Official
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 

Feyisa Lilesa
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 

Eric Radford
A Plus Creative
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Olympic Channel (video)

Stefany Hernandez
Getty Images
International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Peace and Sport (video)

Stefany Hernandez
Chris Mosier
Ashley Hamm
Getty Images
Javier Diaz Martos
Olympic Channel (video)
Zhen Heinemann

Colin Kaepernick
Getty Images

Barack Obama
Getty Images
White House Photo Office (public domain)

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