We are extremely saddened to report that four-time Olympian and one of Canada’s greatest cross-country skiers Shirley Firth Larsson died Tuesday at her home in Yellowknife. Shirley passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at age 59.
Our sincere condolences goes out to Shirley’s family and friends.
She was a member of the Gwich’in First Nation and became one of the first aboriginals to represent Canada at the Olympics, along her twin sister, Sharon Firth. They participated in four Olympics: in 1972 at Sapporo, Japan, in 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York, USA, and in 1984 at Sarajevo, Jugoslavia.
Shirley Firth, together with her twin sister, Sharon, were the product of a pioneering program to introduce skiing to Canada’s original peoples (First Nation and Inuit). Her career was an outstanding testimony to the dedication displayed by her in achieving a level of excellence very rarely attained by any athlete in this country.
According to family, Shirley took special pride in her three daughters and her Gwich’in heritage.
Shirley was a strong advocate for family values, healthy lifestyle and believing that you can accomplish anything you want.
After marrying Jan Larsson, they started a family in Europe before moving back to the Northwest Territories.
Shirley was a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals.
We were very privileged to have Shirley and her husband visit the Cross Country Canada National office in Canmore last summer.
We were also very honoured to welcome the Firth sisters back in Canmore for a surprise event celebrating Linda Dunbar’s 2012 Firth Award, organized by Blair Dunbar. The Firth Award was established in 1985 to honour Sharon and Shirley Firth and is presented annually at the Cross Country Canada AGM to a woman who has made a longstanding outstanding volunteer contribution to cross country skiing in Canada.
- CBC North article
- Native Communications Society of the NWT
- Pavlina Surdrich blog entry on Shirley Firth
- Canadian Ski Museum Hall of Fame
- Canada Games archived content