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Diane Jones-Konihowski set to be enshrined in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Canada's Diane Jones-Konihowski takes the turn during ther 800m of the pentathlon event here August 6 at the Commonwealth Games. Jones won all the other events and placed 2nd in 1978.
Canada's Diane Jones-Konihowski takes the turn during ther 800m of the pentathlon event here August 6 at the Commonwealth Games. Jones won all the other events and placed 2nd in 1978. Colin Price / Canadian Press

One of the most decorated athletes ever to come out of Saskatchewan is set to receive Canada’s highest sporting honour.

Former Saskatchewan Huskie and Canadian Olympic track and field star Diane Jones-Konihowski was announced Wednesday as one of the newest inductees to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. A total of six athletes and five builders make up the hall’s combined 2020-21 class.

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Jones-Konihowski, who once served on the hall’s selection committee, was somewhat surprised to get the call.

“It’s a tough hall to get into and I’m in many halls but this was the one I didn’t think I’d ever get in because our Canadian athletes are performing so well. So it’s a real honour for me,” she said.

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Born in Vancouver, Jones-Konihowski moved to Saskatoon at the age of five. She attended Aden Bowman Collegiate before heading to university, where her athletic career took off.

A two-sport star who also excelled in volleyball, Jones-Konihowski eventually turned all of her athletic focus towards the pentathlon. In five years with the Huskiettes she led the team to three conference titles, won 12 individual events and set four conference records.

In 1972, she represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, where she finished 10th in the pentathlon. Jones-Konihowski returned to the Olympics four years later on home soil in Montreal, placing 6th, a “respectable” result in her words but one she felt could have been better.

“I was chosen as ‘the one’ to sort of win the medal but when I moved to Santa Barbara (California) to train for the winter I was up in Canada almost every two weeks promoting the Games… so by the time I got to Montreal I didn’t have a lot left and I’d given an awful lot. So that was a huge lesson for me, that I had to be less giving of myself and really focus in on being an athlete.”

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Jones-Konihowski won gold at both the 1975 and 1979 Pan-American Games and in between, she topped the podium at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, earning the world number one ranking and setting herself up as a gold-medal favourite for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

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She never got the chance to win that medal though, as Canada joined an international boycott of those Games in protest of the Soviet Union’s military action in Afghanistan. Jones-Konihowski would subsequently compete against all three medalists from Moscow in another event just weeks after the Games and defeated them all.

Jones-Konihowski became a member of the Order of Canada in 1978, the same year she claimed the Bobbi Rosenfeld Trophy as Canadian Female Athlete of the Year and the Velma Springstead Trophy as Canada’s Outstanding Female Athlete. She was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

In her post-athletic life, Jones-Konihowski served as Canada’s chef de mission for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Due to the uncertainty regarding crowd size restrictions, travel bans and safety measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has postponed its formal induction ceremony until 2021.

What’s ahead for the Saskatoon Hilltops
What’s ahead for the Saskatoon Hilltops