Updated on Oct. 29
The Canadian athletics community is in mourning following the sudden death of John Fitzgerald who died on Friday, Oct. 26.
Over his 47-year career, Fitzgerald produced champion runners, race walkers and para athletes for Canada who captured more than 50 Canadian records in various distances and won medals at major global events, including the Paralympic Games, Commonwealth Games and IAAF World Race Walking Cup.
Fitzgerald was inducted into the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame on Aug. 9, alongside one his athletes Ann Peel.
“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 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.”
Following their respective retirements Peel and Fitzgerald remained very close friends in life. She went on to say that “he brought joy, warmth and humour to everyone around him. He would regale us with stories over and over again. In his telling, life was always full of surprise, wonder and pride in his family and friends. I will miss him with all my heart.”
Fitzgerald also coached five-time Olympian Tim Berrett, who is currently in the United Kingdom. The news of Fitzgerald’s passing spread quickly amongst his inner circle, as Berrett told Athletics Canada he learned of Fitzgerald’s passing via Jason Warick, a former athlete who trained under Fitzgerald, turned CBC journalist.
“This is a great loss for his close family and friends and also the wider athletics family – not just in Canada, but also in Australia where he worked from 2000-2004 at the Australian Institute of Sport and helped guide their leading race walkers. Although he focused on coaching race walkers later in his career, his contributions to middle and long distance running and the integration of para athletes in Canada were also noteworthy.”
Berrett when on to say, “on a personal note, I owe a great deal to John. He took me from an enthusiastic (relatively) young athlete and guided me to five Olympic Games, multiple World Championships and two Commonwealth medals. I wouldn’t have achieved anything close to the success that I did without his constant support over a period of two decades.”
“John touched many lives and made a huge difference to those who were fortunate enough to have known him and benefited from his enthusiasm, passion and encouragement. He will be missed.”
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. Follow this link to read the full obituary.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Fitzgerald family, and everyone close to John, at this difficult time.
For more on Fitzgerald’s accomplishments in athletics:
- ‘Unorthodox’ coach John Fitzgerald inducted into Athletics Canada Hall of Fame (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
- Saskatchewan track coach ran his own race – all the way to the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame (CBC News)
- Peel, Fitzgerald, Armstrong, Lyon enter Hall of Fame (Athletics Canada)
- Armstrong, Peel, Fitzgerald and Lyon to be inducted into the Athletics Canada Hall of Fame (Athletics Canada)