Aboriginal sport expert guiding Olympic centre

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By Paul Mayne
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The International Centre for Olympic Studies (ICOS) went to a former varsity athlete, three-time Western graduate and Aboriginal sport expert when selecting a new director.
 
For Janice Forsyth, the opportunity to return to The University of Western Ontario and take the helm of the Olympic centre seemed almost too good to be true.
 
 
Janice Forsyth
 
She has been teaching at the University of Manitoba since 2005 but prior to that earned her bachelor, master’s and PhD degrees over 14 years at Western.
 
“This came up and I knew it was meant to be,” says Forsyth, currently caught up in the paperwork of moving from one province to another, in addition to teaching and getting a feel for her new responsibilities.
 
After receiving her undergraduate degree in history, Forsyth says she was wandering the halls, contemplating her next step. Walking through Alumni Hall, she came upon a sign for the Olympic centre and was curious enough to open the door.

“I opened the door and we met Bob Barney,” says Forsyth, referring to ICOS’s affable founder. “He was like ‘c’mon in.’ And the next thing I knew I was doing a master’s.”
 
The master’s in Aboriginal Sport would soon turn into a PhD. Her research interests included contemporary Aboriginal sport practices in Canada – specifically the North American Indigenous Games and the Tom Longboat Awards – the intersection of race, class and gender in Aboriginal sport and Aboriginal participation in the Olympic Games.
 
A former varsity athlete in cross-country running, track and field, and badminton, the member of the Fisher River Cree First Nation (Manitoba) twice earned All-Canadian status in cross-country running. She also competed at the 1995 and 2002 North American Indigenous Games for Team Ontario.
 
Forsyth’s interest in the Olympic centre grew and she became a member of the board of directors while a student.
 
“As students here we would always talk about what we would do if we were director,” she says. “Having been here before and having that familiarity will make the transition much easier.”
 
Forsyth’s experience in sport extends beyond the university. In addition to being a board member with the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, she has represented the Aboriginal Sport Circle, Canada's national voice for Aboriginal sport and recreation.
 
She maintains strong links with government and non-profit sectors in sport, promoting equitable opportunities for Aboriginal people, and girls and women in sport.
 
“I’m a person that has had a number of different options, such as government; and the opportunity to stay in academia also came up,” adds Forsyth, who is teaching Olympic history in the Department of Kinesiology.
 
“But this was easy. The position came up and I applied. It was a no-brainer. I wanted to return.”
 

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