September 3, 2007

September 3 | Jean Wilson

July 19, 1910 - September 3, 1933: Age 23

Born in Glasgow, Jean Wilson came to Canada as a baby. She didn’t learn to skate until she was 15 but by 18 was beating world champions. She represented Canada in the North American championship and won every event she entered. She competed in the 1932 Olympics and medaled with silver. In the 1K event she was in the lead but fell just before the finish line. Her comment: “Falling before the tape will be done again and by others beside myself.”

In fact, it would be done only by others besides herself. A few months after the Olympics she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the muscles. The muscles become weaker during periods of activity, but improve during periods of rest. There is no cure, although today, as with many autoimmune diseases, it can be controlled with drugs. In the 1930s, it was fatal. Over the few months after her diagnosis Wilson would have experienced drooping eyes, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, unstable gait and, ultimately, difficulty breathing. Wilson died within a year of her diagnosis.

Sources: Find-A-Grave, Canadian Sports Hall of Fame

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