Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jocelyn Lovell - Canadian Cycling Hero: 1950 - 2016

Though a lot of cycling fans in the U.S. might not be familiar with the name, bike racer Jocelyn Lovell was as big of a hero in Canada as somebody like Greg LeMond here in the states. Lovell was a dominant force in Canadian cycling on both the track and road, and helped reinvigorate the sport in his country in much the way LeMond did in the U.S.

(photo from Toronto Star Archives)
Jocelyn Lovell was born in England, but moved with his family to Canada at the age of four. He started bicycle racing when he was just 13, and competed in his first of three Olympics games in Mexico, 1968. He would have been only 18 years old and finished an impressive 6th on the track in the kilometer.
Lovell on the track, in his familiar national colors.
During his racing career, he won more than 35 national titles, competed in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics, and won numerous medals in the Commonwealth Games (including 4 golds), Pan American Games (2 golds), and World Championships (silver). In some of those performances, he set records that would stand for decades.

Lovell on a bike built for him by Giuseppe Marinoni, who built a number of bikes for the Canadian racer. The two were reunited in the recent documentary about Marinoni, The Fire in the Frame.

In 1983, while out for a training ride, Lovell was tragically hit and dragged by a dump truck. The  resulting spinal cord injury left him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

Lovell with his first wife, speed skater Sylvia Burke, shortly after the tragic accident in 1983. (photo from the Toronto Star Archives)
Though the terrible incident ended Lovell's racing career, he was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. Just last year, he was among the first inductees into the new Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame.

Lovell would become a major advocate for spinal cord research in his life, but reportedly continued to suffer from health effects and complications from his life-changing accident. He died last week, June 3rd, with his second wife, Neil, at his bedside.

What a terrible loss. Jocelyn Lovell, Rest in Peace.


  1. It's a terrible, sad irony to realize that a person who had such grace on a bike couldn't move his body at all (at least below his shoulders) for half of his life.

    We will miss you, Jocelyn Lovell!

  2. Well stated, Justine. My sentiments as well. Thank you.

  3. When I lived in Toronto you would see some of the frames that he built. My understanding was that he started building in the late seventies.