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McDonald, Les, 1933-2017
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- Leslie McDonald
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Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Les McDonald immigrated to Canada in 1955 and settled in North Vancouver where he married his spouse, Monique, and had three children. He worked as an electrician, taking an active role in trade union activities with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213, and was a member of the Canadian Communist Party from 1958 to 1968. McDonald’s leading of the Lenkurt strike of 1966, however, led to his 30-year suspension from the union; though he was able to secure employment again as an inside wireman, his inability to participate in the union had a profound effect on his later life.
An avid mountain climber and skier from his teenage years, he channelled his feisty spirit and talent for organizing into numerous other pursuits instead: founding the Alta Lake Sports Club, opposing the privatization of the Cypress Bowl cross-country ski trails and even embarking on a brief political career with the provincial NDP. Most notably, his involvement in triathlon – as a participant, but as an advocate especially – characterized his post-IBEW years. He won the Ironman Hawaii title in his age group (50 to 55) from 1983 to 1987. At the same time, he was founding or co-founding the British Columbia Triathlon Association, the Canadian Triathlon Federation and the International Triathlon Union, for which he served as president from its inception in 1989 to 2008. He was approached in the 1980s by the then International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, to spearhead a bid to introduce triathlon into the Olympic Summer Games, and is credited as the driving force for the inclusion of the sport in the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Les McDonald was awarded the Order of Canada in 2013 for his role in advancing the sport of triathlon, both in Canada and internationally, and for his leadership in promoting the participation of women in sport. He was inducted with the inaugural lifetime achievement award into the International Triathlon Union Hall of Fame, and inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame as a “builder” in 2009.
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The following sources, in addition to biographical information from McDonald's son Ian, were used to create the record:
Cernuda, Olalla. 2017. “ITU Honorary President, Les McDonald, dies at 84 years of age,” Triathlon – International Triathlon Union, https://www.triathlon.org/news/article/itu_honorary_president_les_mcdonald_dies_at_84_years_of_age;
Threndyle, Steven. 2017. “Champion athlete Les McDonald brought triathlon to the Olympics” (Obituary), The Globe and Mail, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/champion-athlete-les-mcdonald-took-triathlon-to-the-olympics/article36591096/;
- “Leslie McDonald, C.M.,” The Governor General of Canada, http://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=11278&t=12&ln=McDonald.