Olympian Pat Leech has been inducted into Speed Skating Canada’s Hall of Fame during an awards banquet in Winnipeg in Manitoba ©Hearsum Photography/Speed Skating Canada

Olympian Pat Leech has been inducted into Speed Skating Canada’s Hall of Fame during an awards banquet in Winnipeg in Manitoba.

The 59-year-old, a native of Winnipeg, was inducted as a builder for her long-term involvement and exceptional contributions to the development of speed skating as a coach, administrator and volunteer.

Having started speed skating at the age of 11, Leech competed at the 1975 Canada Winter Games, bringing home a gold medal in the 1,000 metres and silver in the 400m.

She joined the Canadian national team at the age of 16 and went on to capture three bronze medals at World Junior Championships level, before moving onto the senior ranks where she took part in a number of events, including the 1977 World Championships for women and 1979 World Sprint Championships.

The highlight of Leech’s athletic career came when she represented Canada at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, where she placed 23rd in the 3,000m.

In the late 1980s, following her retirement from skating, she helped create the Westman Speed Skating Club in Brandon in Manitoba.

As the club celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Leech continues to serve as both head coach and Board member.

In addition to her extensive work at club level, Leech has served many roles at provincial level.

She has served as coach for Team Manitoba, at the Canada Winter Games and other national competitions, and has been a member of the province’s High Performance Committee and disciplinary panels.

"It was a wonderful evening surrounded not only by my peers, but also a new generation of skaters," Leech said.

"This awards banquet illustrates all the moving parts of a sporting community – volunteers, officials, families, skaters and business sponsors who were all honoured tonight."

Susan Auch, Speed Skating Canada’s chief executive, added: "Pat’s influence on the development of speed skating across Manitoba is immeasurable.

"Her passion and love for the sport are channelled into continuous support and dedication to her athletes, her club and the provincial association."

The awards banquet was held in Winnipeg ©Hearsum Photography/Speed Skating Canada
The awards banquet was held in Winnipeg ©Hearsum Photography/Speed Skating Canada

The banquet also saw the Williamson Derraugh family - who have helped shape speed skating in Manitoba and across the country for more than 50 years - presented with the Gagné Family Award, which honours the family legacies that run through the Canadian speed skating community.

The members of the well-known speed skating family have impacted countless young athletes through their involvement in coaching, administrative and technical positions with the Manitoba Speed Skating Association (MSSA) and Speed Skating Canada.

The late Peter Williamson, who represented Canada at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, was a coach and technical director for both the MSSA and the former Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association.

His wife Lori was a Canadian champion in both short track and long track in the mid-1970s and went on to play many roles within the sport, including as executive director of the MSSA and as a coach and volunteer at the provincial and club level across Manitoba.

The pair instilled a love for speed skating in their children - Tyler, Reece and Elizabeth - who each enjoyed their own athletic careers on both the national and international stage.

After retiring as a national team skater, Tyler became the provincial team coach for Manitoba and has supported several long track skaters on their journey to the World Junior Championships in recent years. 

His wife Gabrielle was also a national team athlete in short track and now volunteers as a coach.

Reece also maintained his connection to the sport once his days as a skater came to an end. 

He was hired as the equipment technician for Speed Skating Canada’s long track team, a role that has allowed him to support Canada’s athletes during the past two Olympic Games at Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018. 

Elizabeth, meanwhile, took on the role as executive director of the MSSA in 2016, a torch passed down from her mother who held the same role in the 1980s.

"The Williamson-Derraugh family’s level of professionalism and commitment has made a tremendous impact in so many ways to the speed skating community," Malcolm Scott, President of the MSSA, said.

"The number of athletes, parents and volunteers who they have positively impacted is truly remarkable and their continued dedication to the sport is inspiring to everyone around them."

In addition to Leech and the Williamson Derraugh family, more than a dozen of speed skating’s most dedicated stakeholders – including athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and partners – also had their contributions and achievements recognised at the awards banquet.

Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic gold medallist Samuel Girard and Alex Lepage Farrell were named the male and female short track athlete of the year respectively, while Hubert Marcotte took the male long track athlete of the year prize and Isabelle Weidemann claimed the female equivalent.

A full list of winners can be viewed by clicking here.