Olympic first for Wheeler.
Lucile Wheeler became the first North American Olympic medalist in the downhill, winning the bronze in 1956 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. This was also classified as the World Championship for 1956. In the early 1950s, Lucile’s parents had sent her to spend several winters training in Kitzbühel, Austria as they recognized the talent their daughter had. This paid off as Wheeler was the first Canadian and only female alpine skier to win on the Hahnenkamm in 1957 in the downhill and combined. Wheeler would go on to win two gold medals at the 1958 World Championships in Badgastein, AUT in the downhill and giant slalom as well as a silver medal in the combined.
Wheeler’s breakthrough performance resulted in an increase in government funding that enabled other Canadian skiers to compete at the international level. Her achievements were also instrumental in increasing the popularity of the sport both nationwide and in her native home of Quebec, which was once a remote destination in the Laurentian mountains that now attracts hundreds of thousands of skiers every winter.