Thelma Wright (WTRACK | Student-Athlete)
Updated: Jan 3
NAME: Thelma Wright
SPORT: Women's Track & Field
YEARS ACTIVE: 1969-74
1973-74 Canadian University Track Athlete of the Year
UBC’s Most Outstanding Female Athlete (1973-74)
Two-time Olympian (Munich in 1972 and Montreal in 1976)
The only UBC female track athlete to appear in two Olympics, Thelma Wright (maiden name: Fynn) was one of the world's top middle distance and cross-country runners in the 1970s, setting Canadian records while establishing Thunderbirds benchmarks.
Known as “The Mighty Atom”, Wright competed in both track and cross country at UBC, where she was part of three conference championship-winning teams and two Canadian championship-winning squads. She captured numerous individual medals in varsity competition and was a multi-time WCIAA/Canada West gold medalist in both the 800- and 1,500-metres, and a repeat cross country champ.
In the 1973-74 season, her last of Canada West competition, Wright led UBC to the women’s team championship in both cross-country and track, while claiming the 800-metre and cross-country individual titles. She ran 17 1,500-metre races that season, winning them all, and was recognized nationally, as the Canadian University Track Athlete of the Year. She was also the recipient of UBC’s most outstanding female athlete award for 1973-74.
Wright represented Canada at the 1972 (Munich) and 1976 (Montreal) Olympic Games. She won consecutive bronze medals in the 1,500-metre at the 1970 and 1974 Commonwealth Games. In 1975, Wright was a silver medalist at both at the FISU Games (in the 3,000m, setting a Canadian record that would stand for nearly 10 years) and the Pan American Games (in the 1,500m). Over the course of her career, Wright was a seven-time national cross-country champ and a four-time Canadian champion in the 1,500m.
Following her time as an athlete, Wright spent over 20 years coaching. She coached Lynn (Kanuka) Williams to a bronze medal in the 3000m at the 1984 Olympics and a gold at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. In 1987, Wright returned to UBC for a year, coaching both the T-Birds track and field and cross country teams.
She received the Coaching Excellence Awards from the Coaching Association of Canada and BC Athletics Coach of the Year title in 1984. In 1987 she was honoured with a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award.
Wright was honoured with the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 1987. She has been inducted in the UBC Hall of Fame (1993), the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (2000), and Athletics Canada Hall of Fame (2017).