Asian Heritage Month

The Government of Canada signed an official declaration in May of 2002, designating the month of May as Asian Heritage Month. In celebration, Skate Guard presents these timelines highlighting milestones and important contributions of Canadian skaters of Asian heritage. For detailed coverage for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, check out this article and timeline for U.S. Figure Skating.

1880's - At practically every skating carnival in Canada's first covered rinks, white skaters 'dressed up' as people of Asian descent. This continued to occur in carnivals and club ice shows well into the twentieth century.

1889 - Victor Duleep Singh, the eldest son of the Maharaja and Maharani of India, was photographed wearing ice skates while stationed in Halifax as a member of the staff of the Commander of British forces in North America. 

Left: Victor Dulap Singh and Captain A.E. Jenkins. Photo courtesy Nova Scotia Archives.

1905 - At the very first Canadian Championships, Beatrice Davison made history as the first skater of Indian ancestry to compete nationally. Her mother was born in Agra, a city in Uttar Pradesh, south of New Dehli, India. Beatrice's younger sister Ada won a competition for juniors at Canadians in 1908.

1929 - Prince Iemasa Tokugawa was appointed Japanese Ambassador to Canada. He and his family emigrate from Tokyo to Ottawa. His son Hide Ie joined the Minto Skating Club and showed promise as a figure skater. Sadly, Hide Ie died of blood poisoning and sepsis in a Red Cross hospital in Japan shortly upon his return to Japan in 1936. He was buried with his beloved figure skates.

1943 - When Barbara Ann Scott was busy practicing double Salchows and double threes during World War II, over ninety percent of the Japanese Canadian population were being forcibly relocated to internment camps. Families were separated, houses were confiscated and sold and men were forced to do gruelling work on farms and roads. Twelve young Japanese Canadian men assigned to work in the Ontario forest missed their appointment with a National Selective Service officer. It was feared that they'd escaped the Tashme Evacuation Center east of Hope, British Columbia. They'd simply gone skating on a nearby pond.

Unidentified man skating at an internment camp. Photo courtesy University of British Columbia Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, Japanese Canadian Research Collection.

1954 - Tazuko Oishi of Vernon, British Columbia won the novice women's event in the Okanagan-Mainline Figure Skating Championships. The following year she competed in the Western Canadian Championships. She and her friends Asako Sasaki and Miyoko Chiba skated out the Vernon Figure Skating Club in the Southern Okanagan valley of British Columbia.

1955 - Bill Hideo Murakami was a soloist in the Lakeshore Skating Club's "Ice Orama" revue. He was one of the first Asian Canadian men to be so featured prominently in an ice show.

1967 - Sarah Kawahara, the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants to Canada, won the junior women's event at the Central Ontario Championships.

1969 - Naomi Taguchi of the North Shore Winter Club bested twenty-six other skaters to win the juvenile girls event at the British Columbia Championships. She went on to win a gold medal at the Canada Winter Games in 1971 and the bronze medal in the novice women's event at the 1973 Canadian Championships. It was the first time a skater of Asian heritage won a medal at Canadians.

1971 - Janice Maikawa of Hamilton, Ontario made history as the first skater of Japanese heritage to win a medal in pairs skating at the Canadian Championships, when she took the silver in novice pairs with partner Reid MacDonald. A talented singles skater as well, Janice placed second to Karen Magnussen in the figures at the 1972 Canadian Championships.

1982 - South Korean born Young Soon (Choo) Benoit started coaching in Canada. After teaching in Medicine Hat, Alberta, she taught at the Nepean and Vanier Figure Skating Clubs. Young Soon was the winner of the 1980 Campeonatos Del Mundo De Patinaje Artístico Professional Sobre Hielo in Jaca, Spain.

Charlene Wong. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

1983 - Charlene Wong of Pierrefonds, Quebec made history in 1983 as the first skater of Chinese heritage to win a medal at the senior level at the Canadian Championships. In 1988, she made history as the first Canadian skater of Chinese heritage to compete at the Winter Olympic Games.

1985 - Diane Takeuchi of Toronto made history as the first skater of Asian heritage to win a medal in the junior women's event at the Canadian Championships. The following year, she became the first Canadian skater of Asian heritage to win an international competition - the Fuji Film Trophy in Frankfurt, West Germany.

1991 - Netty Kim made history as the first skater of Asian heritage to win the Canadian junior women's title. She was the daughter of first-generation immigrants from Seoul, South Korea who ran a convenience store in North York. 

Netty Kim. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

1993 - Ravi Walia won the Canadian junior men's title, making history as the first skater of Indian descent to win a gold medal at any level at the Canadian Championships.

1994 - Megan Wing made history as the first ice dancer of Chinese descent to win a medal in junior dance at the Canadian Championships. Three years later, she was the first to win a medal in senior as well. Megan and Aaron Lowe reigned as one of Canada's top dance teams for a decade, winning an incredible ten consecutive senior medals at Canadians and representing their country at six Four Continents Championships, five World Championships and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino.

Megan Wing, Aaron Lowe and Ravi Walia

1995 - Netty Kim made history as the first Asian Canadian skater to win a national senior title in any discipline. 

1995 - Ravi Walia made history as the first skater of Indian descent to win a medal in the senior men's event at the Canadian Championships. 

Sheila Gangopadhyay. J. Barry Mittan photo.

1997 - Sheila Gangopadhyay was the first Canadian athlete of Indian heritage to serves as flagholder at the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Universiade. She placed fifth out of eleven entries in the women's figure skating event in Chonju, South Korea that year.

1998 - Emanuel Sandhu made history as the first skater of Indian heritage to represent Canada at the World Championships. He went on to represent Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics and win three Canadian senior men's titles and two Skate Canada titles.

Emanuel Sandhu. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

1998 - Moncton, New Brunswick's Hugh Yik accomplished a series of historic firsts in 1997 and 1998, when he became the first Asian Canadian skater to win the novice and junior national titles in succession.

2003 - Ear Falls, Ontario siblings Neeta and Devinder Singh won a silver medal in the novice pairs event at the North American Challenge Skate event in Edmonton, Alberta. The Singh siblings were born in India and immigrated to Canada when they were adopted at the ages of seven and four.

Neeta and Devinder Singh. Brett Barden photo.

2004 - Emanuel Sandhu made history as the first skater of Indian heritage to win a gold medal at the ISU Grand Prix Final, defeating the reigning World Champion in the process.

2004 - Andrea Chong took the Canadian novice ice dance title with Spencer Barnes, making history as the first ice dancer of Chinese heritage to win a national ice dance title at any level.

Mira Leung

2004 - Mira Leung won her first of four consecutive medals at the Canadian Championships - a first in the senior women's event for a woman of Asian descent. Mira, the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, represented Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino and went on to work as a software engineer at Google.

2005 - Japanese born Utako Wakamatsu made history as the first Asian Canadian skater to win a medal in senior pairs at Canadians with her partner Jean-Sébastien Fecteau.

Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sébastien Fecteau

2007 - Rika Inoda of the North Shore Winter Club made history as the first Asian Canadian woman to win the national novice women's title.

2007 - Jeremy Ten won the Canadian junior men's title. During his competitive career, Jeremy won three medals in the senior men's event at Canadians and competed at two World Championships and four Four Continents Championships.

Patrick Chan performing in Stars On Ice in 2015

2008 - Patrick Chan made history as the first man of Asian descent to win the Canadian senior men's title. Patrick went on to win three Olympic medals, three World titles and three Four Continents titles - making him the most decorated Asian Canadian skater in history. He was the son of immigrants from China who were born and raised in Hong Kong.

2010 - Eri Nishimura was the first skater of Japanese heritage to win the Canadian junior women's title.

2011 - Patrick Chan was the first Asian Canadian athlete to be awarded The Lou Marsh Trophy.

2011 - Siblings Victoria and Connor Hasegawa claimed the bronze medal in the junior ice dance event at the Canadian Championships.

2013 - Zhao Kai Pang won the Canadian junior ice dance title with Madeline Edwards. Edwards and Pang won the novice Canadian title two years prior. They represented Canada at three World Junior Championships, winning a bronze medal in 2014.

2014 - Mervin Tran made history as the first skater of Cambodian descent to represent Canada at the Four Continents Championships.

Nam Nguyen

2015 - Nam Nguyen was the first skater of Vietnamese descent to win a senior title at the Canadian Championships.

2015 - Sarah Kawahara was the first person of Asian heritage to be inducted to the Skate Canada Hall Of Fame.

2016 - Joseph Phan won the Canadian junior men's title in Halifax. He was of both Vietnamese and Chinese heritage.

2018 - Keegan Messing won his first medal at the Canadian Championships. Keegan was a descendant of Manzō Nagano, the first Japanese person to officially emigrate to Canada in 1877.


2020 - Chinese born Alison Schumacher was the first senior women's medallist of Asian descent at the Canadian Championships in over ten years.

2022 - Sixteen year old British Columbian skater Wesley Chiu won a medal in his very first trip to the Canadian Championships as a senior. He was the first man to medal in his first year as a senior since Emanuel Sandhu in 1998.

REQUIRED READING

Some of these Skate Guard blogs from years past highlight the important contributions of skaters of Asian heritage in Canada.