‘We had to fight our way along’: Wurtele twins look back on breaking barriers at 1948 Olympics
Two former Olympians from Montreal are marking a milestone of their own on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games.
Twin sisters Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele broke barriers when they became the sole members of the Canadian Olympic women’s alpine ski team 70 years ago, at the 1948 Olympics.
“Women were thought of as Class B,” said Rhona. “We had to fight our way along.”
The 96-year-old sisters shared their experience with a group of aspiring young female athletes at their alma mater, the Trafalgar School for Girls, Thursday.
Growing up in a family of seven in Westmount, neither Rhona nor Rhoda shied away from joining their brothers in sports.
While they found their love for skiing on the slopes of snowy Mount Royal, the pair was quick to try every game out there.
“Running and jumping — and we played with the kids in the street,” said Rhona. “We loved football and hockey and whatever great was going on.”
‘It didn’t matter what they said’
When it came to getting to the Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the only way to travel was by boat.
In what Rhoda describes as an “exciting trip,” the two set sail for Europe aboard the RMS Queen Mary during a January blizzard.
“It took six days,” said Rhoda.
“There was a terrible snowstorm when we arrived in New York, and everything was stopped. We had to walk part of the way to the ship.”