IOC President Thomas Bach meets with Tricia Smith. IOC/GREG MARTIN

Tricia Smith, a four-time Olympian, boasts a career adorned with a silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, seven World Championship medals, and a Commonwealth Games gold. She was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2016 and has received numerous accolades.

A lawyer by profession, her volunteer journey in sports began in 1980 as a member of the first Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) Athletes’ Council, and she has since dedicated over 40 years to sports service. 

Currently, she holds several prestigious positions: President of the COC, Vice President of World Rowing, Board Member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Executive Committee Member of both the Association of National Olympic Committees and Panam Sports.

"I was really fortunate to grow up in a family of five kids with parents who had been athletes, and who made sport a part of our lives," she told in an exclusive interview. "My parents met in the gym at the University of British Columbia. My mom represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in basketball and my dad was a star university rugby player.

"They were young, active parents, and we kids were just as active along with them. We were made to feel that there was nothing we couldn’t handle, whether it was being towed on skis, holding onto water ski ropes behind the station wagon on a rare Vancouver snow day, playing neighbourhood scrub games on summer evenings, or learning to waterski along with all the neighbourhood kids behind a ski boat, which I think might have been built from a kit. My parents must have had a lot of energy! I saw them always step up in volunteer roles as well, largely in sport.

Tricia Smith (L) has revealed her remarkable journey to becoming Canadian Olympic President. GETTY IMAGES
Tricia Smith (L) has revealed her remarkable journey to becoming Canadian Olympic President. GETTY IMAGES

"We all swam competitively at some point. I don’t remember how we started but [it was] probably a good idea living next to the beach. Shannon, the youngest by four years, was by far the best. At 14 she won a bronze medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I was so proud of her."

Smith lost her mother at a young age, and both her brothers to accidents, and she revealed the challenges she faced. "We lost my brilliant mom in her early 50s to a rare brain disease and around the same time, my father had surgery to remove a disc," Smith added.

"It was a pretty common surgery in those days but in the process the surgeon damaged his nerve and my dad lost the use of his legs. Then we lost both my brothers–Jeff in a motorcycle accident and Dean, almost exactly seven years later, in an avalanche. Both were talented, kind, and intelligent young men. 

"Jeff was also a lawyer and he and I definitely shared the same sense of humour. Dean was a bush pilot, our guide in the mountains or on the sailboat he built. Losing them was obviously more than devastating, as if the wind was knocked out of you, and along with the challenges faced by my parents, for me, it truly put things into perspective. It made me appreciate what I had had, and what I still had."

Smith revealed some of her best moments after being involved in four Olympics. GETTY IMAGES
Smith revealed some of her best moments after being involved in four Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

The 67-year-old Vancouver-native has participated at four Olympics, and revealed her highlights. "Firstly, seeing my little sister win that medal at the Olympics in 1976. On reflection it was even more impressive in that she and others were competing against the dominant East German team, who we now know were part of their state sponsored doping program. 

"In addition, support for our athletes at the Games in those days was really hit or miss. Even though she was only 14 years old and something like top 10 in the world in 5 events, her coach wasn’t selected, so he wasn’t even allowed to be with her for support, and there were no cell phones in those days. We can always do better, but I am thankful that things have changed for our athletes and coaches, in a positive way. 

"Secondly, I will never forget the roar of the home crowd when we marched into the stadium as Team Canada at the first Olympic Opening Ceremony I attended in Montreal.

And finally, the time my pair rowing partner and I spent training in Italy with our coach for two seasons prior to the 1984 Olympics. As we were top 3 in the world, we were “A” carded and qualified for something like an extra $1500 (€1,380) for the year for special projects. Our special project was buying tickets to Italy after our coach, with no professional positions in Canada, took a job with the Italians."

Smith applauds the Canadian rowing team at Tokyo 2020. Merijn Soeters –
Smith applauds the Canadian rowing team at Tokyo 2020. Merijn Soeters –

Smith opened up on her role with as the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, and is delighted to play an important role for her country.

"I had not thought about being President of the Canadian Olympic Committee until one of the board members pushed me to think about it," she recalled. "I thought I had enough on my plate with my other volunteer roles and in building a business. I didn’t really see myself in such a role. In the end, I was convinced I could contribute. I feel very fortunate to be President of the COC. 

"Obviously, being an Olympic athlete is valuable for this role. I was an Olympic athlete many years ago, so a lot has changed, but I hope I can still relate. I understand that an athlete has to be creative in order to be the best they can be, often with extremely limited resources. I understand the importance and relationship between the various players in the sport system. 

"This understanding helps ensure we set the right priorities to do what we can to support the athletes, coaches, and the system in the best way possible. If you’ve been through it, you get it. It probably gives me some credibility as well as the leader of the COC Board. People do light up when you tell them you are an Olympian.

"I have also brought to the role, as importantly, my legal training and background as well as my experience in building a successful business over the last almost 30 years. I have to say, since retiring from my paid job, the volunteer part of my life is even more enjoyable. I am no longer constantly a little bit behind on everything!"