Impassioned, outgoing and energized, Carol Anne Letheren made exceptional contributions to the Olympic Movement in Canada and abroad. For this, she received the Canadian Olympic Order in 2001, the year of her death.
For more than three decades, Letheren held a variety of vital roles in Canadian sport. It started with gymnastics. First a gymnast herself, Letheren became vice-president of the Canadian Gymnastics Federation from 1970-77 and an international judge for the sport at three Olympic Games (1976, 1980, 1984), four Pan American Games (1975, 1979, 1983, 1987) as well as the 1974 and 1987 World Championships.
From there, Letheren became a defining figure in Canadian Olympic sport. For the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, she led Team Canada as Chef de Mission. In 1990, she moved from vice-president to president of the Canadian Olympic Association (COA), before switching roles to chief executive officer and secretary general from 1994 to 2001. For 11 years beginning in 1990, she was an International Olympic Committee Member in Canada. She was also a leader of Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid. All the while, she exemplified the Olympic Values in everything she did.
Letheren was well-known for her deep knowledge of sport and her tireless support of this nation’s athletes. In the same vein, she was highly regarded as an ambassador for the advancement of women in sport. To recognize this, the COA created in 2002 the Carol Anne Letheren Leadership and Sport Scholarship, overseen by a foundation that exists in her name. It supports the pursuit of excellence by young Canadian women who have demonstrated athletic talent, outstanding academic performance, leadership qualities and are entering college or university.
While chief executive officer of the COA, Letheren died suddenly of a brain aneurysm while delivering a speech at York University on Feb. 2, 2001. She was 58. In the wake of this tragic event, words of praise flowed in from sport figures and government officials from Canada and across the world.