At 96-years-old, Trafalgar graduates Rhoda and Rhona Wurtele (Class of ’40) are inspiring examples of how a lifetime spent keeping active benefits both body and mind.
Gathered with current Traf students and several family members to mark the opening of PyeongChang 2018, the identical twins reminisced about being the only female members on Canada’s ski team at the Olympics, 70 years earlier: “It was exciting to be around women from other countries who loved to ski as much as we did—we all knew we were breaking barriers.”
As the duo explained to their rapt audience in the reception room at the Maywood Residence, they spent much of their early life outdoors, delighting in pushing their limits on the ski runs (and jumps) near their Westmount home. At school, they took part in many different sports—including skiing, swimming, and basketball—and encouraged their classmates to do the same.
Once they began official competitions in 1942 they won almost every race they entered, in Canada and beyond. They also garnered many other honours, including the prestigious Federation Rose Bowl for Canada’s Most Outstanding Woman Athlete (1945), induction into the Canadian Amateur Athletic Hall of Fame (1953), and induction into the US National Ski Hall of Fame (1969).
The twins are clearly equally proud of the difference they made through teaching, coaching, and by establishing schools and clubs that made it easier for families to take up the sport: Rhoda began the Ski Jays ski school and club in 1956, with Rhona joining her to direct it in 1961; they formed the longstanding Twinski Club for women in 1964.
More recently, they helped to launch a new ski and snowboard hill near Angrignon metro in Ville Emard, designed to make winter sports as accessible as possible to families in the city.
Trafalgar’s Head of School Katherine Nikidis commented that the visit was “an amazing opportunity for the girls to hear that the school has always encouraged a healthy, active lifestyle, and that they are part of a legacy of determined, energetic women.”
Trafalgar would like to thank the Wurtele family for sharing their time and stories with them and the Maywood staff for their hospitality. Special thanks to Traf mom Alexandra Topley-Longlade for providing the delicious Olympic cake!
To see and hear media coverage of the event, click on the following links: