Norm Lesage

At age 67, at the 1997 Arizona Senior Games, Norm Lesage competed in his first track and field meet–and came last in the 100m and 200m.  The next year Norm returned to Arizona and competed in these races again, but this time he did not come last.  Norm said he beat one runner who he described “was 30 pounds overweight.”

If he was to continue racing, Norm realized he needed to get some help, so in 1999 he joined the newly-  formed Tri-City Greyhounds Track and Field Club for seniors.  He didn't win any medals that year but he was quickly improving his speed and endurance.  Then at the 2000 BC Seniors Games in Kelowna, Norm won his first gold medal in the M70 100m and a bronze medal in the 200m.  Success at last and much more success was to follow.  Over the next fifteen years, Norm competed in nine BC Seniors Games and won every 100m and 200m races that he entered.  Norm added the 400m to his list of events at the 2004 Games in Penticton, and won all but two of these races.

In 2005, and now in the M75 age group, Norm started breaking records.  He went to the US Masters Indoor Championships in Boise, Idaho, where he came second to American champion Harry Brown, but he broke BC indoor records in the 60m and 400m.  He could have broken the 200m record too (which he did three years later) but Norm forgot to sign in for the race and was not allowed to run.  Norm continued to run great times in the outdoor season, breaking the Canadian M75 record in the 200m (29.51) and BC records in the 100m (14.51) and 400m (1:10.57).  In 2007, Norm competed in the World Huntsman Senior Games in St. George, Utah, where he won gold medals in the 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m, breaking three Games records in the 50m, 100m and 200m.  When Kamloops hosted the first-ever BC Masters indoor championships in 2008, Norm was able to run the 200m race that he missed in Idaho, and broke the BC M75 indoor record (32.28).  He would compete in the next seven consecutive BC Masters Indoor Championships and win every race he entered.

When Norm turned 80 in 2010, Norm competed in his first (and only) World Masters Championships, the WMA Indoor Championships hosted by Kamloops.  He had an outstanding meet, winning all three of his races in the 60m, 200m and 400m, breaking the Canadian record in the M80 60m (9.92) and BC records in the 200m and 400m.  He also helped Canada win the 4x200m relay, setting a new Canadian indoor record.

After being considered for the BC Athletics' Masters Male Track Athlete-of-the-Year Award several times, Norm finally was honoured with this award in 2012.  He competed in eight meets during the year, breaking his Canadian M80 indoor record in the 60m (9.90), his BC 100m (15.70) and 200m (33.82) records as well as the BC 400m indoor record (1:24.83).  During the 2015 season, with Norm now being in the M85 age group, he competed in only four meets and then retired from competition.  He broke Canadian records in the M85 Indoor 60m and 200m, and BC records in the indoor 400m, and outdoor 100m and 200m.

Norm was one-of-a-kind, his own special character.  He was always challenging people, young and old, anyone who would listen, to a race.  His body was in constant motion, along with his mouth – which at times seemed to challenge his brain to keep pace.  Instead of taking the elevator, Norm loved to run up the stairs to his thirteenth floor apartment, walk down, and run up again.  This could have been one of the reasons, Norm had his own unique style of sprinting, a very high knee action for someone his age.

One of Norm's great passions was flying his helicopter.  On June 25, 1982, after taking his wife, Mary Lou, to Vancouver for her birthday, Norm was flying back to Kamloops.  A camper had driven off the HopePrinceton Highway and into the Similkameen River.  Two park rangers helped get the man to the shore but a woman passenger was in shock and still stranded on the roof of the vehicle.  The raging, ice-cold river made it impossible for the two park rangers, who had made it to the truck, to rescue her.  In extremely dangerous wind conditions, Norm hovered his helicopter above the truck while the woman was put into a sling.  By the time Norm managed to get the woman to shore, he was shaking nervously.  But he went back two more times to get the two park rangers.  At great risk to his own life, Norm saved the lives of the woman and the two park rangers.  For this heroic act, Norm received the Saint John’s Ambulance LifeSaving Medal and also the CANADIAN MEDAL OF BRAVERY.