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Remembering Ken Smith, Canadian cycling pioneer

With the end of 2013 in sight, Canadian Cycling Magazine is looking back at significant events of 2013 in our sport. Today, we look at the legacy of Ken Smith.

Photo courtesy of Michael Barry.
Photo courtesy of Michael Barry Sr.

In April of this year, the Canadian cycling community suffered a great loss. Ken Smith, who was one of Canadian cycling’s greatest contributors, passed away at the age of 92.

Born in 1920 in London, Smith’s served in the Second World War for Great Britain before moving to Canada in 1957. He was active with the Toronto cycling scene after joining a local club with some fellow Brits. Before long, he was running the Ontario Cycling Association more or less from his own home. “Ken ran the Ontario Cycling Association from his kitchen table. I paid him $2 to be a member and another $1 for a year’s racing license,” said Michael Barry Sr. Smith handled everything from a monthly newsletter to serving as a liaison with the national governing body, which at the time was known as the Canadian Wheelmen’s Association.

Smith organized some of the first races in Ontario such as the Toronto-London and the Toronto-Owen Sound races. “During the ’60s there was a large influx of European immigrants to Ontario. Those that arrived with their racing bikes usually found their way to Ken’s apartment to get a racing licence,” said Barry. His prowess in the cycling scene eventually landed him a job at the national level when he was hired to be the executive director of the Canadian Cycling Association (CCA). Smith was in office during Canada’s first golden era of cycling, when Canada hosted the 1974 world championships and the 1976 Olympic Games.

After many years at the CCA, Smith decided it was time to do something else. He did remain in sport and his organizational skills were again tested. He immersed himself with sports that did not have enough participants to warrant a staff and national office. It was a challenging in a hockey-obsessed nation. For example, Smith did his best to develop the game of cricket in Canada, a sport he had been passionate about back in England.

The passing of Ken is certainly one that is a great loss to the Canadian cycling community. His enthusiasm and eagerness to expand cycling is irreplaceable. His contributions were many and the emergence of cycling in Canada in recent years is certainly a reflection of the foundation Ken Smith had a major part in setting.