First Canadian to win Olympic gold
while competing for Canada
Born: 1877 in Montreal, Quebec
Died: October 30, 1905 in Montreal, Quebec
Etienne Desmarteau was a Montreal policeman when he asked for a leave of absence to compete at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. The request was denied but Desmarteau went anyway and was fired from his job for insubordination.
At the Olympics, he competed in the 56 pound weight throw (similar to today's hammer toss) and was awarded the gold medal for his throw of 34' 4". This made him the first Canadian to win an individual Olympic gold medal while competing for Canada.
Desmarteau returned to a hero's welcome in Montreal and his job firing was forgotten. He died of typhoid fever the following year.
There is a community sports complex named in Desmarteau's honour in Montreal.
More information on:
Kearney, Mark, and Randy Ray. The Great Canadian Trivia Book. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1996.
Added 14 April 2002.