HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Happy Birthday today to Richard Patrick Scott. I see you shaking your head. Name doesn’t ring a bell? Well, he’s an Ottawa sports icon. Let’s carefully slide his first and middle names aside and put in Mike.
That’s better. Anyone who has been connected to the Ottawa amateur sports scene for the past 75 years certainly would have met or at least heard about this soft-spoken and energetic leader in the fields of paddling and boxing.
During his 9 decades involved in 6 sports, Mike Scott has had many titles. Apologies if I have missed some: boxer, canoeist, long-distance runner, triathlete, cross-country skier, coach, commodore, author, builder and hall of famer.
Today, Scott has been bestowed a new title, and he didn’t have to run a marathon, paddle a stroke, take a left hook, or chair a national canoe kayak championship. Welcome Canada’s newest NONAGENERIAN. Yes, Mikey, you’re 90.
“Mike is my nickname,” Scott said in a phone interview as he focuses on rest and relaxation, after falling two months ago and injuring his head. “Back when I was a baby, my mom called me Mikey. I don’t know why. I never found out.”
Some people may remember Mikey as the horror/thriller movie from the early 1990s. But the short form for Michael actually means “who is like God.” Scott would release a hearty laugh about that, but he has many God-like qualities.
Today, he’s thankful for reaching this milestone. If there is a celebration with his wife Lola and sister, it will be small. Maybe a cake. This will give him time to reflect on his years of unselfish service to Ottawa amateur sports.
“I think I’m very lucky I managed to be healthy to reach 90. I’m thankful for that. When you get older, you never know what will come upon you,” added Scott, who has received birthday cards from Lachine and Cartierville canoe clubs.
One reason Scott has hit 90 is because he has always been active. Up until recently, he would paddle eight kilometres three or four times a week with John Bales, a former national juvenile canoe champion and Rideau/national team coach.
“I’m not sure I can still do it. I went out two years ago and got up to 1,000 metres. I paddled easy, but I felt it in my upper body. I possibly may be finished as a paddler. When you’re 90, you’re 90,” he said.
As a young boy, he was a boxer for 10 years and ended his career losing his only lightweight bout at the 1956 Olympic trials in Montreal. Instead of going to Melbourne, Australia, for the Summer Olympics, he turned to canoeing.
Scott joined the Rideau Canoe Club in 1949 and has been a loyal and trustworthy volunteer all these years. He was on the board of directors for 33 years, including 25 years at the club’s longest-serving commodore (1961-85).
During that time, he was the chair for eight Canadian canoe kayak sprint championships at the Rideau. He also managed Canadian competitive teams in Cuba, Italy and the U.S.A. as well as 10 Ontario spring training camps to Florida.
The best memory in his 11-year youth career was winning the Canadian junior war canoe race in 1958. He served as one of the left strokes. As a masters canoeist, he was one of the best, earning 30 CANMAS national titles in 5 classes.
He won seven masters championships in C1, another seven in C2, and 12 in C4, In mixed competitions, he earned another two Canadian titles in C2 and two more in C4.
Scott also loved to enter road races, whether it was five or 10 kilometres or even marathons. He regularly ran the National Capital Marathon in its early days, the 1979 New York City Marathon, and had a personal-best time of 3:35.
He particularly remembers the New York City Marathon. “I didn’t win it,” he said with a laugh. “It was a nice event to go and do once in a lifetime with 20,000 people. It was big. It’s quite a challenge to do a marathon.”
Scott also had an open mind, when it came to amateur sports in Ottawa. He was a member of the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame nomination committee for several years and sat on the Ottawa Sports Awards board of directors.
He was the 1972 Sportsman of the Year at the ACT amateur sports award dinner, predecessor to the Ottawa Sports Awards, and was inducted into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame in 1986 as a builder. In 2002, he wrote a book: The Rideau Canoe Club: A Century of Paddling.
Asked if he had any goals as he moves into his 91st year with the aid of a walker, Scott said “not too many.” But he left the door open to volunteer for the 2021 Canadian canoe kayak championships in August, if the organizing committee can find a role for him.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.