Stratford native Donald McPherson (1945 – 2001) a member of the Stratford Figure Skating Club, first gained public notice by winning the national junior title in 1959. He represented Canada at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California when he was just 15 years old. Three years later he won the World Figure Skating Championship at Cortina, Italy, still the youngest man to have ever done so. On his return to Stratford, Mayor C. H. Meier proclaimed Tuesday, March 26, 1963 be “Donald McPherson Day.” After a parade and civic reception McPherson became the youngest citizen to receive a golden key to the city.
In David Young’s book, The Golden Age Of Canadian Figure Skating, McPherson recalled his earliest skating experience. “I started skating when I was two years old. We lived in a small apartment in the middle of town, and there was no place for me to go out and play. My mother read in a newspaper that a skating club was starting in the fall, so she got me a pair of skates”.
During the years that Stratford native Laura Pogson skated alongside of McPherson she admired his dedication to the sport, his perseverance in practice sessions, and his cheerful disposition on the ice, no matter the difficulty of the jumps and spins he undertook. Pogson recalls that “as an only child his parents diligently supported him financially, selling a life insurance policy so he could compete in Europe.”
Noted Hall of Fame coach Ellen Burka recalled that McPherson “had fabulous footwork. He had an interesting step that nobody had done before. I taught that footwork to all my skaters. I called it, the ‘Donald McPherson footwork.'”
Lack of funds ended any hope of McPherson continuing his competitive career beyond the 1963 season. After his World title he turned professional and toured for 11 years with Holiday on Ice.
On his competitive career, he stated: “to be a champion, you have to have the desire to prove that you can be the best, even if it means giving up everything else. It’s a marvellous feeling when you finally achieve your goal, but the work along the way means so much more.”
McPherson was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1963 and the Canadian Figure Skating Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. His Stratford star is located just outside the entrance of the Allman Arena, where he began his career.
Watch a YouTube video about McPherson on the occasion of his induction to the Stratford Sports Wall of Fame in 2011: https://www.stratfordcanada.ca/en/playhere/athletes.asp
“The Don’s Of Canadian Figure Skating,” Skateguard, http://skateguard1.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-dons-of-canadian-figure-skating.html
“Skater McPherson dead at 56,” CBC Sports https://www.cbc.ca/sports/skater-mcpherson-dead-at-56-1.257127
Stratford-Perth Archives clipping files.
Laura Pogson contributed to this article.