Tim Berrett would be the first to tell you “race walking is not something you do for glamour, that’s for sure.” That might sound strange coming from a 5-time Olympian, in 20-kilometre and 50-kilometre race walking. Berrett is also the only Canadian athlete to compete at 9 consecutive IAAF World Championships. He won 2 Commonwealth Games medals and holds Canadian records over distances ranging from 3,000 metres to 50,000 metres.
Berrett would also tell you that he is one of 3 of the 9 members of the Athletics Canada Board of Directors who are current or former race walkers. How does he account for the apparent popularity of this little-known discipline? “Race walkers tend to be very passionate about the sport in general,” he says. “Because the events are so long, it gives you a lot of time to think. We tend to be fairly well educated. And we kind of crop up in unexpected places.”
Berrett attributes his involvement in race walking to having grown up in the heyday of track and field in England in the 1980s. “I was hooked on track and when I was 13 and a teacher told us about a race walking event that literally went by my front door. I didn’t want to just watch other people doing it, so I gave it a try and finished third.” That sent him to the nationals where he finished 14th. The next year he finished on the national podium and then won a British age-group title in each of the following 5 years. After moving to Canada in 1987, he won 15 national titles in this country.
Berrett has been involved in athletics for over 35 years and for the past two decades has also, with the strong support of his family, played leadership roles, both in promoting athletics to young people from elementary to post-secondary schools and as an officer of Athletics Alberta, Athletics Canada and other national and international athletics organizations and committees. He was inducted into Athletics Canada’s Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
“Track and field was the number one summer sport in England in the 1980s. I remember watching meets in Europe at age eight and was hooked from there. Now I’m giving back to the sport.”
Hugh Campbell has been inducted into 9 Hall of Fames, from Los Gatos High School in San Jose, California, to the City of Edmonton, where as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos he led the team to 5 consecutive Grey Cups (1978–1982).
At Washington State University, he was considered one of football’s great pass receivers. Known as “The Phantom of the Palouse,” he caught 66 passes as a sophomore and received the Voit Memorial Trophy for outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. As a Saskatchewan Roughrider, “Gluey Hughy” set a career high of 1,329 receiving yards and caught a career-high 17 touchdown receptions. He helped the team to 3 consecutive Grey Cup appearances, including the 1966 championship.
Campbell began his coaching career at Whitworth College in Spokane. In Edmonton, he led the Eskimos to 5 consecutive Grey Cup wins. His 0.729 winning percentage was the best in CFL history, and he received the Annis Stukus Trophy as Coach of the Year in 1979. After 3 years coaching in the United States Football League and National Football League in the United States in the mid-80s, he returned to the Eskimos as General Manager. In 1997, he became President and CEO, a post he held until his retirement in 2006.
Campbell is well known for his compassion and impact as a person by those who have worked with him. “He knew to be successful you have to believe you will be successful, and he motivated you to see yourself as a success,” said one.
Campbell’s legacy with the Eskimos included thousands of volunteer hours donated by players and Eskimo Alumni. Campbell and his wife Louise helped either to create or sustain Kids With Cancer, Ronald McDonald House, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and the Eskimo/Oilers Carnival of Champions. Campbell was notably successful in having words added to the Alberta Marriage License with the intent of recognizing and preventing abuse.
Hugh often quoted a line he first heard in college. “It’s amazing how much a group of people can accomplish when none of them care about who gets the credit.”
When Laurie Eisler came to Edmonton in her mid-20s, it turned out to be a great move for her and the University of Alberta Pandas (U of A) volleyball team. In her second season as coach, the Pandas made it to the championship game for the first time in the school’s history. The Pandas have since won over 714 games of the 976 Eisler has coached, the most overall wins ever at the U of A in a single sport. The Pandas have won 7 U Sport Championships and 11 Canada West Conference Titles, and Eisler has been named Canada West Coach of the Year seven times and CIS Coach of the Year 3 times.
“I was fortunate to work alongside a really great mentor at the University of Saskatchewan, Mark Tennant,” Eisler says. “Every day was like a clinic working with him. He had such a passion for and knowledge of the sport.”
Eisler’s success wasn’t overnight, especially after having 2 children. “There were few coaching parents and almost no women, so I wasn’t really sure I could be successful doing it all. With the support of my employer, the team and my family, we have found a way to make it work.” Eisler became a role model for other women and her kids have become outstanding student athletes. Her son Clayton plays hockey and daughter Jenae will join the Pandas volleyball team next fall.
“At this point in my career, while I may have ticked off a lot of boxes, I feel there is still so much to learn and accomplish. I’m asked almost daily: are you still coaching? As if for women it’s not really a career. For me it’s been more than a career, it’s my passion and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing young people over the many years!”
One of Eisler’s nominators says, “She needed to create a winning culture from a program with no history of winning. She built what is arguably one of the most consistently successful sport programs in Canada, from virtually nothing to the top.”
“I truly want to be there for my athletes and support staff. I want to help them thrive and excel and achieve their potential. I can’t think of any other job I’d enjoy as much.”
Sheila P. O’Kelly
Sheila O’Kelly, a native of Ireland, came to Edmonton in 1978 and soon discovered she, her husband and 4 competitive kids could enjoy triathlon as a sport together. Luckily for Edmonton, O’Kelly found out she was better at organizing than doing the sport herself.
After O’Kelly became involved in Kids of Steel, a triathlon event for children and youth, she honed her skills organizing the St. Albert Triathlon. At the Canadian Triathlon Championship in Fort McMurray in 1995, she put a bid forward for Junior Nationals in 1996, beginning her long association with Triathlon Canada and the International Triathlon Union (ITU). The following year, she was Race Director for the Canadian Junior Championship in St. Albert. Her team’s presentation to the ITU was the winning submission that made Edmonton host city of the World Championship in 2001. After the event, the ITU President declared the Edmonton World Championship the best in the sport’s history.
Edmonton has hosted a major international triathlon every year since 1999, with the exception of a 3-year break from 2007–2010. When San Diego backed out of hosting the 2014 Grand Final, the ITU asked if Edmonton could step in with just 17 months’ notice. O’Kelly’s team pulled it off, and recently won the 2020 Grand Final for Edmonton, making Edmonton and Lausanne the only two cities in the world to be host city for the event 3 times.
O’Kelly was held in such high esteem in the triathlon world that she was appointed Director of the ITU’s World Cup series in 2005. She has travelled the world and played an organizational role in every World Championship/Grand Final since 1998. O’Kelly’s efforts are credited with Edmonton setting standards other cities in the triathlon world strive to meet. O’Kelly is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She has done it all from making sandwiches for hungry athletes and working with media to sweeping courses and piling cones. It is a quality that has volunteers coming back year after year to work with her.
“It’s Edmonton’s ‘can do’ attitude. A lot of people here came from somewhere else. Triathlon is a way for them to become involved, a way to participate in the community. Part of the legacy of Edmonton as a whole is the longevity and continuation of the event in terms of volunteers, sport development and expertise.”