Lions mourn loss of former coach John Fitzgerald

UPDATE: A Come and Go Memorial Service will be held Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at Rosthern Station Arts Centre, 701 Railway Ave. The Memorial Service will be held Wednesday, October 31 at 11 a.m. at Rosthern Mennonite Church, 3016 5th St. Memorial donations may be made to Rosthern Junior College (Athletic Department), Box 5020, Rosthern, Saskatchewan, S0K 3RO. Arrangements are in the care of Funk’s Funeral Home, Rosthern (306-232-5245).

The Ottawa Lions mourn the sudden death of former coach John Fitzgerald who passed away Friday at the age of 67.

Fitzgerald, who was born in Compton, Quebec, moved to Ottawa in the early 70’s to study recreology, a program that later became kinesiology. He would go on to spend two decades in the nation’s capital working with athletes in both the distance and race walk events, leading them to success both on and off the track. He led an athlete to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 1978 and was a key contributor to the back-to-back National Championship teams from the University of Ottawa in 1986 and 87.

However, what he may be most recognized for his work in the race walk and with star pupil Ann Peel in particular. According to our records, Peel was a 12 time national champion in the walks under Fitzgerald’s tutelage and was also the first club member to win a World Championship medal – twice taking bronze in the 3000m walk at the Indoor Championships. The pair were both inducted into the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame earlier this year for their achievements.

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John Fitzgerald and Ann Peel celebrate team bronze at 1985 IAAF World Race Walking Cup

“John was the most significant person in my life for 20 years while he coached, guided, nudged and pushed me to achieve as an athlete and as a person,” said Peel to Athletics Canada after learning about Fitzgerald’s passing. “John’s magic was that he understood that who you were as a person mattered more than what you achieved. Without the pressure of outcomes, his athletes thrived and accomplished great things.”

Athletics Canada says a funeral service is expected to be held this coming week in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Further details will be shared as they become available.

The thoughts and prayers of the entire Lions pride are with the Fitzgerald family and friends in this difficult time.