Where Are They Now: Liz Manley
She was the Darling of the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games
This special series catches up with some of Canada’s most notable Olympic athletes, forever members of the country’s ever-growing Olympic family. One question remains: Where are they now?
Her infectious smile stole the hearts of countless Canadian Olympic fans.
Elizabeth Manley is one of Canada’s most famous and most beloved figure skaters. Her crowning achievement came on “home” turf – the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Before a captivated audience, and millions watching on television, Manley pulled off a remarkable free skate to launch past American star Debi Thomas and win the silver medal. It was the fourth-ever figure skating medal for a Canadian woman and it overshadowed the much-publicized duel between Thomas and East Germany’s Katarina Witt – a media frenzy that Manley said allowed her to focus on skating.
Her silver medal was one of five medals won by Canadian athletes in Calgary. It remains, coupled with Brian Orser’s silver in those Games, the top Olympic Winter mark set by Canadians in Canada. Manley is a two-time Olympian, having finished 13th at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games. The three-time national champion competed in many World Championships in the 1980s, culminating in a silver medal in 1988 (clearly a good year).
Her Olympic and World Championship silver medals are kept, Manley admits, in her underwear drawer.
After the Games, she turned to professional ice dancing and then coaching in the United States. She lives now in Ottawa, close to family, with her husband Brent Theobald. (He is also a former athlete, a hockey player at the junior level.) Two of her brothers also live in Ottawa but all is not well. Together they help care for their father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. In July, Manley’s life was hit hard when her mother died of ovarian cancer. “It’s a tough time for us right now,” she said.
After an extended period of caring for her mother and slipping into a difficult place after she passed away, Manley says she has regained proper health and nutrition. She is very busy as a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ottawa and of Canada, Ovarian Cancer Canada and Herbal Magic (the company she credits for restoring her health).
Manley coaches figure skating at Ottawa’s Gloucester Skating Club in a training area that bears her name. She is a regular motivational speaker at local schools and organizations, detailing her life and Olympic experiences. In her free time, she golfs.
Remembering Calgary 1988, Manley relishes sharing her silver medal moment with the Canadian fans who embraced her. Forecasting Vancouver 2010, the star skater says the Games will provide amazing memories and bring people together. “It’s a wonderful thing to have everyone forget the hardships of life and have a great time,” she says.
To the athletes, she advises to stay in a normal routine and not get caught up in the hoopla with friends and family who will be there. “Mom and Dad will understand if you can’t make lunch!” she says.
Manley can be heard next February analyzing ladies figure skating and ice dancing as part of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.