By Aylin Polo Calderon, Samantha Cheung and Jaida Hiebert, CityStudio North Vancouver
Stepping off the Seabus and facing the gently sloping streets, swathes of lush forests, and waterfront views, it’s clear that you are in the City of North Vancouver. This place is home to Karen Magnussen, Olympic Silver Medalist Figure Skater, who would go on to share her love and passion for skating to generations of skaters on the North Shore.
As you walk into the Museum of North Vancouver’s main exhibit gallery, Karen Magnussen is profiled in the Connections Gallery. A doll figure in a skating outfit, one of Karen’s hats, and a competition costume pays homage to North Vancouver’s very own Olympic legend, speaking to the incredible legacy that made her a household name in Canada and a prominent role model in the world of figure skating.
Karen Magnussen was born in 1952 in North Vancouver and started skating at a very young age. Her first public skating appearance was in a winter carnival at age 6, where she played a snowflake at the Kerrisdale Skating Club.
Growing to love the sport, Magnussen switched to the North Shore Winter Club and eventually became a full-time athlete as she participated and placed in the provincial novice championships. At age 13, her professional career began as she competed in the Canadian Championships, North American Championships, and World Championships where she placed 12th overall.
From Persistence To Success
Unfortunately, at the 1969 Canadian Championships, Magnussen developed an injury in her legs from performing a Lutz jump. While the injury was severe, the goal to get back onto the ice motivated her fast recovery, and two weeks later she was competing again.
Magnussen’s success continued and she became an Olympic silver medalist at the 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. Commemorated for her courage and persistence, Magnussen was nicknamed “Canada’s Sweetheart”.
Life after Skating
After her amazing career as a figure skater, Magnussen began her coaching career. Having married Tony Cella in 1978, she taught in Boston for eleven years before returning to the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver.
However, her coaching career was sadly cut short in 2011, when the North Shore Winter Club experienced an ammonia leak that left Magnussen injured and permanently disabled. Due to the impact of the leak, her long-term health problems requires her to frequently visit the hospital and stay at home for her safety and health. This injury forced her into an early retirement.
Karen’s Lasting Legacy
Magnussen’s dedication and commitment gave her the opportunity to attain remarkable achievements throughout her career. Certainly, she is a great inspiration to anyone looking to pursue their passions.
In 1974, a new recreation centre located at 2300 Kirkstone Road was named in her honour, reflecting once again how important a figure she is to North Vancouver. The Karen Magnussen Community Recreation Centre is known for its offerings in fitness, dance, swim, and skate programs for people of all ages.
Karen Magnussen’s inspiring story highlights the important role that sport plays in the cultural development of community. The legacies of our athletes are sources of inspiration, and encourage others to pursue their passions and make their community a better place.
Want to learn more about Karen Magnussen? Visit MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver, open on Thursdays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, and Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Holiday hours: Open Wednesdays, December 14, 21 and 28 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Click here to learn more and plan your visit.
During the spring of 2022, students were invited to explore the Museum of North Vancouver to create editorial content inspired by MONOVA’s Archival and Museum collections. Watch for other stories from the students to roll out over the coming months.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.