Inspirational Olympic Stories

Lawrence Lemieux

County Canada
Sport Sailing
Olympics Competed in Los Angeles 1984
Seoul 1988

Biography

Lawrence Lemieux was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on November 12, 1955. Though he enjoyed sailing in the lakes nearby, Alberta has no access to the sea, and he dreamed of sailing in the ocean.

In his pursuit of his dreams of competitive sailing, Lemieux made many sacrifices, including living in a van for 15 years and working three jobs in order to save money to compete.

Lemieux began competing as a teenager in North America, and between 1978 and 1988 he competed in many sailing competitions, winning national and international titles. He competed in the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles in the Two Person Keelboat event, but did not medal.

In addition to sailing, Lemieux spent many years building sailboats for international competitions, coaching and organizing races. He is one of only eleven people to be awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for sportsmanship.

Finn class sailboat Lemieux sailing 2 Pierre de Coubertin Medal

Inspirational Olympic Story

Lawrence Lemieux was in second place while sailing in a Finn class (individual) race in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Later he said he could have won gold. But he was given a choice, save two fellow sailors, or finish the race. According to him, no choice at all.

The wind had become very rough during the race, and the waves had reached heights of four meters. Lemieux saw two sailors in another race capsize, one holding on to the boat, the other was being swept away. He tried to call to see if they needed help, but simply could not hear their replies. Giving up his chance to medal, Lemieux decided he needed to help save the two from the team for Singapore. “I just had to go. If I went to them and they didn't really need help, c'est la vie. If I didn't go, it would be something you would regret for the rest of your life.”

It wasn’t an easy rescue. The waves were high and breaking, causing Lemieux’s boat to take on water, but he was able to rescue the sailors, Chan and Shaw Her Siew, and get them into his small boat. Had he not come to their aid, Chan would likely have been lost at sea.

"I could have won gold. But, in the same circumstances, I would do what I did again," said Lemieux, years later, even though he never had another chance for an Olympic medal. He was given a medal for sportsmanship and awarded honorary second-place. Though he is not remembered by many, Lawrence Lemieux epitomizes the best of the Olympic spirit.

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