Highlighting Black Canadians: Sylvia Sweeney, Canada's First Lady of Basketball

By: Marina Felix

Ms. Sylvia Sweeney is a two-time Olympian and basketball legend from Montréal, Québec, also known as ‘Canada’s First Lady of Basketball’. Apart from basketball, Sylvia is a known member within the arts community, particularly film and media. She has served on several Board of Directors within Canada and internationally. From her LinkedIn profile, her motto reads; Change the picture, one frame at a time. This blog post will outline Sylvia’s many accomplishments. Basketball Sylvia was one of the first Black women to play on the Canadian National Basketball Team. She was a key member of the Olympic team for a decade (1974-84). During her time on the team, she served as the Team Captain from 1979-84 and placed 6th at the Montréal 1976 Olympics, and 4th at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics. At the 1979 World Championships in Seoul, Sylvia was voted the Most Valuable Player and won bronze with her team at the 1979 World Student Games in Mexico. At the 1979 Pan American Games, Sylvia was the Canadian team flag bearer, and won bronze. In 1994, Sylvia was inducted into the Canada Basketball Hall of Hame. Every year since then, the Sylvia Sweeney Award (Outstanding Student-Athlete) is given to a female university player for outstanding achievement on the basketball court, classroom and in the community. To see a list of all recipients, visit the following link: https://usportshoops.ca/history/award-winners.php?Gender=WBB&Award=cissweeney In 1996 she was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. From 1994-96, Sylvia was the only female Director for the Toronto Raptors Foundation and was also the Assistant Head of Mission for the Canadian Olympic Committee for one year (1995-96). She has been a Member of the Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission on the International Olympic Committee since May 2015. In 1999, Sylvia founded the International ArtsGames Committee (IAC) which was launched to medal arts competitions within the International Games Movement. Between 1912 and 1948, the Olympic art competitions had five categories of individual competition: architecture, painting, sculpture, literature and music. The concept of Olympic-style ArtsGames was not new, but Sylvia reinvented it. To learn more about the ArtsGames, visit this website: https://www.ronfanfair.com/home/2018/1/17/order-of-canada-reminds-sylvia-sweeney-of-work-left-to-be-done Arts Apart from sports, Sylvia is an expert and extremely accomplished in the arts, film and media industry. She studied Performance and Piano at McGill University (1973-75), Communications at Concordia University (1977-78), and Philosophy, jurisprudence at Laurentian University (1978-79). From 1983-89, Sylvia was a News Anchor and Reports for CBC Radio, and was a co-host for CTV’s ‘W5’ and the Women’s Television Network flagship program, ‘POV Women’. In 1985, Sylvia established Elitha Peterson Productions. Over the past three decades, Sylvia has produced over 100 documentaries and live events, and only one has been funded by CBC. Most recently, Sylvia was appointed as the Associate Dean, Film, Acting & Media Production in the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts at Humber College. Sylvia is a resilient and disciplined leader. From piano, to sport, to broadcasting, she is dedicated to promoting excellence and empowering all cultures. Sylvia recognizes her accomplishments as a stepping stone to the work ahead of her she has to live up to. Sylvia inspires everyone around her, especially Black female Canadians, that they should aspire to accomplish anything they are passionate about. We can celebrate Sylvia’s contributions and stay inspired not only during Black History Month, but all year round!

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