Whitehorse resident breaks glass ceiling at Commonwealth Games

Over the last couple weeks, while overseeing the weightlifting competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, Whitehorse’s Moira Lassen was doing a little lifting of her own.

Over the last couple weeks, while overseeing the weightlifting competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, Whitehorse’s Moira Lassen was doing a little lifting of her own, once again moving the gender barrier closer to equality.

Lassen, the mother of Yukon’s Olympic weightlifter Jeane Lassen, was in India as the first female president of the jury in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games.

“I know history is made every day, but that’s my contribution,” said Lassen.

“The president is the overseer of the whole field of play. The jury has the ability to reverse decisions of the referees. We have to be unanimous in our decision to do that.

“You can have a couple sessions where nothing is overturned by they jury, but then you can have quite a few in one session. It depends on the lifting, it depends on the technology, it depends on the officials, if they’re doing their jobs.”

This is not the first time Lassen has broken down a gender barrier at a major sports event. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Lassen became the first female international technical official in weightlifting at an Olympic event.

Lassen, whose interest in the sport grew out of her daughter’s participation in it, was secretary general for the Canadian Weightlifting Federation for eight years, finishing in 2008. She was also on the International Weightlifting Federation’s scientific and research committee before moving onto the technical committee.

Expanding her focus beyond weightlifting, Lassen is also a board member of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sports (CAAWS).

“I think everyone on the CAAWS board is thrilled with the advancement of women, in particularly the athletes component in the games and/or sport, although there is a lot to be done when it comes to the leadership roles such as coaching and officiating and administration,” said Lassen.

While in India, after her duties as president wrapped up last week, Lassen “had an experience like no other.”

Taking in some badminton as a spectator, Lassen had – not one but two – royal encounters, sitting with England’s Prince Edward.

“We are sitting right behind the Prince of Malaysia and then suddenly Prince Edward sits directly behind me,” wrote Lassen in an e-mail to the News following the initial interview. “He’s in a row by himself so he asks if he can join us! The only spare seat is on my right side so he sat on my right, and no one was on his right so I had his full attention for the whole two matches.

“When he left he said, ‘I will see you later,’ – and later he did! We went from badminton to netball and watched the last half hour of New Zealand and Australia play.

“Prince Edward walked by me so I commented that I was disadvantaged this time because I didn’t know the rules of the game and I had to have him explain it to me. We spoke again for awhile, cracked some jokes like old friends and off he went.  He’s a lovely, personable, witty man.”

Like the three Yukoners who attended the Games as athletes, Lassen felt India did a good job hosting, despite the negative media reports pouring out of Delhi in the days leading up to the opening ceremonies.

“India is doing an amazing job,” said Lassen. “It’s a stunning country. There’s sensory overload with the amount of people and traffic. This is my third time here. I was at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008 in Pune, then I was at the test event in August.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com