Joan Manley, the mother of hall of fame figure skater Elizabeth Manley-Theobald, died Saturday of ovarian cancer. She was 73.
Joan Manley heavily invested in the career of her daughter who rose to superstardom in the late 1980s. Divorced when Elizabeth was 9, Joan Manley was the sole financial supporter of her daughter’s career, which began when she first laced up her brother’s hand-me-down skates at age 5. Her talent was immediately recognized, but money was tight and Joan Manley went into a reported $26,000 debt financing her daughter’s skating.
The Canadian skater's career was as up-and-down as a roller coaster. She left the sport for a while in the early 80s and was not chosen by any of the pundits as a medal contender in Calgary.
Yet, Manley (who now goes by Manley-Theobald) gave an electrifying performance on the world’s biggest athletic stage – the Olympics. She won the free skate and the silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. She went on to claim silver at the 1988 World Championships in Budapest a month later and became a national hero in Canada.
Retiring from amateur competition following the 1988 season, she signed with the Ice Capades. She was given a reported $50,000 signing bonus and paid off her mother’s debt. She went on to star in her own television specials and tour, and she later coached in the United States (she is now married to Brent Theobald and lives in Ottawa).
Manley-Theobald moved back to Canada from Pennsylvania to coach at the Gloucester Skating Club last summer. In a July 26, 2007 interview with The Ottawa Citizen, she said the move was being made due to a desire to be near her parents as well as her husband who was unable to get his immigration application processed due to a one-year backlog in applications.
Manley-Theobald told the paper: “We’ve barely seen each other. I'm busy coaching, he’s working full-time and my mom has been ill. It has been rough. I’m exhausted emotionally. I’ll feel better when I’m closer to my parents, home and family.”
At the time, the newspaper indicated that Joan Manley had Stage 3 ovarian cancer and was receiving chemotherapy treatments in Kingston.
The paper also reported that Manley-Theobald’s father, Bernie, has Alzheimer’s disease and was splitting his time between his home in Ottawa and a medical care center.
A three-time Canadian champion (1985, 1987 and 1988), Manley-Theobald was inducted into the Canadian Amateur Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1998, she was made a member of the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in 2001.
Joan Manley, the catalyst behind this great skater, is survived by her four children, Tim, Tom, Greg, and Elizabeth as well as nine grandchildren.
The funeral service will be held Friday, July 11. Memorial donations can be sent to the National Ovarian Cancer Association, 101-145 Front St. East, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 1E3 or www.ovariancanada.org.