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Former Whitehorse resident becomes first woman on IWF executive board

A former long-time resident of Whitehorse has broken a century-old glass ceiling.

A former long-time resident of Whitehorse has broken a century-old glass ceiling.

Moira Lassen, mother of Yukon Olympic weightlifter Jeane Lassen, was elected to the International Weightlifting Federation’s executive board on May 21 in Moscow.

She is the first woman on the federation’s executive board in its 108-year history.

“I’m really proud to say I came out the winner on this one,” Lassen told the News in an interview from Glasgow, Scotland. “It’s really great that Canada is the leader in this - a history-maker in this.”

Last December the IWF reviewed its constitution and decided to allocate one of its 22 executive board positions specifically for a woman.

Lassen ran against three other women for the spot and received 64 of 134 votes to earn the position.

“They did this as a proactive approach to insure female representation of the executive board,” said Lassen, who beat out contenders from Denmark, Austria and Japan.

“Four women put in for the executive board position and whoever came out as the winner, the other three could run against the guys in the next ballot.”

Two of the three other female candidates ran in the open elections for the other 21 seats, but neither won.

As a member of the executive, Lassen will help oversee Olympic qualification standards, budget approvals, developmental programs and more.

Her main goal, however, it to grow female participation in the largely male-dominated sport.

“We have lots of female athletes, which is great, but we really lack in coaches, female technical officials, and, obviously, female decision-makers - I’m the only one on the board,” said Lassen. “This is one of my mandates: to get more female representation in all levels, not just athletes.

“Also to have the long-term athlete development model - Canada is a frontrunner in that - to have that implemented throughout the development of athletes in the sport internationally.”

The 49-year-old is no stranger to breaking gender barriers.

Lassen attended the 2008 Olympic Games as an international technical official and, in the process, became the first woman to be a technical controller for weightlifting in Olympic history.

In 2010 she became the first female president of the jury in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games.

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, she was the first female technical official group leader for weightlifting.

It’s no wonder she’s also the chair of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sports (CAAWS), an Ottawa-based organization devoted to getting more women involved in sports, both as athletes and officials.

In 2006, she was named one of the 20 most influential women in sports by CAAWS.

Lassen was born in Hamilton, Ont., and moved to Victoria where she attended high school and had her children, Jeane and Leif.

She moved to Whitehorse in 1989.

Lassen did not pass down her interest in weightlifting to her daughter, Jeane. It was the other way around.

Jeane, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and placed eighth in her weight class, began competitive weightlifting in 1995.

Around the same time Moira became president of Yukon Weightlifting Association, a position she held for 14 years up to 2009 when she moved from Whitehorse.

She also acted as secretary general for Canadian Weightlifting Federation from 2000 to 2008, was on the International Weightlifting Federation’s scientific and research committee 2005-2009 and on the technical committee 2009-2012.

Moira has also been on the International Weightlifting Federation Doping Hearing Panel as well as the Constitution & Bylaw Commission.

She is currently president of the Ontario Weightlifting Association and a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Moira estimates she has officiated at about 36 international events including the Youth Olympics, the PanAm Games and Commonwealth Youth Games.

She is currently living in Glasgow in preparation for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

Contact Tom Patrick at