Irene MacDonald was first named to the Helsinki 1952 Olympic team, but was unable to go to Finland due to a lack of funding. At Melbourne 1956, she won the springboard bronze medal, preventing the USA from sweeping the podium. It was Canada’s first ever Olympic diving medal and its last for 28 years until Sylvie Bernier’s gold at Los Angeles 1984. At Rome 1960, MacDonald had two top-10 results finishing sixth in the springboard and ninth in the 10m platform.
A two-time 3m springboard British Empire and Commonwealth Games medalist, MacDonald won a 1954 bronze and a 1958 silver. She had fourth place finishes in the 3m at the 1955 and 1959 Pan American Games and in the 1959 10m platform. During her career that spanned from 1951-61, MacDonald won 15 Canadian Championships, six US National Championships and two Mexican Championships.
A timid child, MacDonald grew up in an orphanage during the depression and Second World War. She started swimming and then switched to diving at the Hamilton Aquatics Club, and by 1948 she was an Ontario champion, and by 1951 she captured her first senior Canadian title in the 3m springboard. She went on to win nine more national titles from 1952-61, except for 1953.
A detached retina caused MacDonald to retire after the 1961 Canadian Championships. For over 30 years she remained active in the sport as a well-respected and long-time coach, provincial and national administrator and broadcast television colour commentator for Montréal 1976 through to Seoul 1988. She was instrumental in advancing the sport and starting the first national diving association in Canada, then serving as chairman and technical director of it, and was executive director for the BC Diving.
MacDonald passed away in 2002 at the age of 70 in Delta, British Columbia leaving a generous legacy in her will to BC Diving to create the Irene MacDonald Memorial Fund, used to ensure children without means could still participate in the sport. The Irene MacDonald Memorial Invitational meet is hosted annually by BC Diving.
MacDonald was made a member of the Order of British Columbia in 1991 and has been inducted into the British Columba Sports (1972), Canadian Olympic (1976), Canada’s Sports (1981) and Hamilton (2014) Sports Halls of Fame.
|1956 Melbourne||Aquatics - Diving||Springboard 3m - Women||Bronze|
|1960 Rome||Aquatics - Diving||Springboard 3m - Women||6|
|1960 Rome||Aquatics - Diving||Platform 10m - Women||9|