Local dynamo wields clout in the sports world

If you want to know who wields influence in Canada’s sporting scene, look no further than Whitehorse’s own Moira Lassen.

If you want to know who wields influence in Canada’s sporting scene, look no further than Whitehorse’s own Moira Lassen.

She can be found tucked neatly between Olympic multi-medalist speed skater Cindy Klassen and former Olympian Silken Laumann on a list of Canada’s most influential women in sport, which was unveiled this week by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity.

Lassen, who works behind the scenes for both the Canadian and International Weightlifting Federations, and has a full-time job at Sport Yukon as well, was humbled by her inclusion on the list of 20 movers and shakers in sports.

The list included hockey player Cassie Campbell, speed skater Clara Hughes and cross country skier Beckie Scott.

“I know — I’m among giants, right after Klassen,” said Lassen on Thursday at her Sport Yukon office.

“Friends of mine joked; ‘The reason you’re not at the top of the list — you’re name starts with L,’” she laughed.

How did she become so influential?

Hard work is at the heart of it.

Lassen appears to have a ridiculous number of projects happening at any one time; right now, she’s slogging through the political and bureaucratic mazes of the May 2008 Junior World Weightlifting Championships, which will be hosted here in Whitehorse.

 The junior Worlds is Lassens’ baby.

She started lobbying for it after the International Olympic Committee’s weightlifting representative, Hungarian Tamas Ajan, visited Whitehorse in 2003.

“He realized that we had the potential to do that sort of thing, and that it would be great, and it sort of went from there,” said Lassen. The event will draw 500 athletes  from 72 countries.

That’s just the start.

“Of course, the Canada Games is my focus at the moment, but I get to go to Rome in April, to take some training and leadership courses. I’ll be a student and a teacher while I’m there.

“Then National Championships in Ontario in May, and then Prague in June for the Junior worlds.”

Lassen serves as the secretary general of the Canadian Weightlifting Federation, a position she’s held since 2000.

She’s also a member of the International Weightlifting Federations’ scientific and research committee, and worked as a technical controller at last year’s world championships in Puerto Rico.

She’s the first woman to do that job in more than 15 years.

“There’s not even 20 women on the international level, with the federation,” she said. “It’s male-dominated — there’s lots of female athletes; we’ve really done well in that regard, but leadership, there’s not many.”

“Moira is definitely on the scene in Canada and internationally — it’s a lot of influence on a lot of fronts,” said Karin Lofstrom, executive director of CAAWS.

Lassen originally got involved in the sport when her daughter, Jeane, started competing internationally in 1995.

Since then, Moira has taken on more and more responsibility.

“I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment I think. I do enjoy it, I do like work, there’s no doubt about that,” she said. “But sometimes I can burn myself out, for sure.”

Lassen estimates that she spends two months a year on the road.

“I have a certain amount of weeks holiday from Sport Yukon, but I find by the fall I’m taking unpaid leave.”

She said that although her daughter competes and she’s behind the scenes in the same sport, they don’t cross paths as often as one may imagine.

“We’re actually running parallel in our careers, not in tandem.”

Jeane trains in Montreal and is currently at a training camp in Italy, and competing in Gran Prix events in France.

“She’ll be in Burgundy and Bordeaux, I told her to grab a bottle of wine for me,” said Lassen with a laugh.

The full list can be found on the association’s website at www. caaws.ca/influentialwomen/e/2006/list.htm.

“As you see from the list of people, there’s everything from professors, administrators to coaches and athletes,” said Lofstrom.

“Because influence doesn’t always happen in the public eye, it’s interesting, when we put out a list, it starts a discussion about who should be on the list? The influence in making the sport system better comes from a lot of places.”