Posted on: 10 January 2020
By: Riley Denver Athletics Canada
Diane Clement never stops moving forward. Her spirit of commitment, dedication and service to the sport community and beyond have earned her a new honour: Member of the Order of Canada.
“It was such a shock when the phone rang and the governor general’s office was on the line, telling me the good news,” said Clement. “I know I will be in interesting company when we get our Order of Canada medal in Ottawa. I’m looking forward to meeting the other honorees and the formal dinner.”
That is just the latest title to be attributed to Diane. She is also an Olympian, a Commonwealth Games medallist, a former Athletics Canada President, and a trailblazing sport administrator. You would also be right in calling her a race organizer, a coach, a chef, an author, a public speaker and a community leader.
The Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest honours. Presented by the governor general, the Order honours people whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations, and whose compassion unites our communities.
Clement becomes a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to sports and recreation and as an advocate for athletic excellent, fitness and healthy living among all Canadians.
Doug and Diane
Not many can say they met their spouse and partner at the Olympics. But the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne were the setting for sprinter Diane and middle distance runner Doug Clement to meet. More than 60 years later, it’s a marriage and partnership that has had a great impact on athletics in Canada.
“Sport has been so good to us,” she said in typically humble fashion. “It’s a team effort. We’re very privileged to have the support of so many people.”
The pair co-founded the Richmond Kajaks track club and the Vancouver Sun Run, contributing to countless running careers in BC. They’ve also been on numerous boards, not the least of which was the bid committee for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. They are on the board of the Achilles International Track and Field Society, which runs the illustrious Harry Jerome Track Classic. They’ve collaborated on books and organizations for decades, making them the golden couple of Canadian Athletics.
The couple even know a little about what to expect at the Order of Canada ceremony, as Doug was made a Member in 1991.
“We’re trying to see how many couples have both been named to the Order of Canada,” Diane said. “I don’t think there are too many!”
A Career On and Off the Track
Trying to sum up Diane Clement’s career is no easy task, so let’s look at just a few more of the highlights. Born in Moncton, New Brunswick, her father started the Moncton Olympic Club and started her on her path to the Olympic Games. She represented Canada in the 100 metres, 200 meters and 4x100 metre relay at Melbourne 1956. Two years later, she earned a bronze medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales.
“I was very lucky to have support from my father and my brothers,” she said. “They were the connection that always kept me grounded. I would be at a meet, chatting with all the other competitors and my brother would be the one to get me to focus on my race!”
Diane is also an accomplished chef, authoring eight books in the bestselling Chef on the Run series. She is also the former co-owner/chef of the Tomato Fresh Food Café in Vancouver.
Blazing a Trail for Women in Sport
Diane Clement’s leadership abilities have often taken her places where no woman had gone before.
“What women accomplish today – it’s amazing,” Clement said. “Times have changed. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s great to see how far we’ve come.”
Clement was President of Athletics Canada from 1973 to 1976. Not only was she the first female president of an athletic federation in Canada, but one of the first in the whole world.
“That was maybe the most satisfying part – travelling with the athletes and being like the mother of the team,” she said.
She was also appointed an IAAF scrutineer for doping at international events when few, if any women, held that position.
In this Olympic year, Diane Clement will be eagerly watching the track and field athletes in Tokyo.
“I’m a team supporter. I love to watch the stars, of course, but it’s also great to see new athletes make the team,” she said. “It’s great to see them rewarded for all the work they’ve put into their talent, with their coaches and their families.”
After more competitions and Games and events than you can count, one lesson she has learned over her decorated career applies to athletes and everyone in general.
“Not everyone will make the Olympic team – that’s just life,” she said. “What we learn is that when we fall, get up and finish the race, no matter what.