Where are they now: 1976 Paralympian Gerry Butterfield

Canadian Paralympic Committee

April 07, 2022

Para alpine skier competed at inaugural Paralympic Winter Games


Gerald ‘Gerry’ Butterfield was one of six athletes who travelled to Ornskoldsvik, Sweden in 1976 to represent Canada at the inaugural Paralympic Winter Games. 

The Para alpine skier from McCreary, Manitoba finished 13th in the slalom event. 

His performance came years after his ski injury that resulted in a leg amputation. At the time, the Paralympics had not yet extended into winter sport. But when the opportunity came, Butterfield relished the chance to represent Canada and become one of its very first winter Paralympians. 

And while 1976 would be his only Paralympic Games appearance, sport has continued to play a huge role in Butterfield’s life including as a long-time ski coach. 

Today, Butterfield sadly has Lewy body dementia. With the help of his partner Pam Little, we find out more about his experiences competing for Canada and his many accomplishments below.

What did it mean to Gerry to be able to represent Canada at the Paralympic Games? 
Representing Canada at the Paralympic Games in 1976 was a big surprise for Gerald. He never dreamt he would be racing in a major competition again – let alone in Europe – after his accident in 1964. At that time Gerald was training to go to the Canadian Ski Championships with the Manitoba Ski Team when he fell and broke his leg. His left leg was amputated above the knee due to complications and his world changed overnight. 

Gerald worked hard at learning to ski well again. He excelled at most sports that he tried as an amputee and never thought of himself as ‘disabled’. He had put the aspirations he had as a ski racer/athlete aside to encourage and coach others to reach their potential. Many Manitoba racers had Gerald as their coach. When named to the Canadian team, Gerald in his humble way thought ‘there must be better skiers than me who could go to the Paralympics’, but he was over the moon excited also. He was super proud to represent Canada. It was his first time on a plane too. He has never stopped telling stories about the time in Sweden.

What are some of his favourite memories from competing for Canada?  
Some of Gerald’s favourite memories that he still talks about are: 
•    Sticking red Mactac maple leaves on the white team rental van
•    Teammate John Gow having to defend his gold medal at an appeal by placing his prosthetic foot and leg onto a table to prove to a delegation that he was a double amputee
•    The special feeling of being at the closing ceremonies and the celebrations
•    Hometown friends Lois and Vivian Cantin coming to see him at the Games in Sweden. They were travelling Europe
•    How he did not want to compete in the downhill because it looked too fast for him
•    All the fundraising that was done by his community to get him to the Paralympics 

What is his proudest sporting achievement?  
Gerald is most proud of the time he spent coaching young ski racers at Mount Agassiz. He enjoyed seeing them grow to love the sport that meant so much to him. Gerald coached many skiers over the years that went on to race in provincial and national competitions. But most of all Gerald made skiing fun.

What is he up to now? 
Sadly Gerald has Lewy body dementia that was diagnosed in 2015. Up until he was 65, Gerald was an excellent farmer for 40 years in McCreary, Manitoba. He, with his brother Mervin, owned the family farm which was established in 1911 by their grandfather. Gerald loved farming and was known for his hard work and conservation methods. 

Gerald loved sports and continued to ski both cross country and downhill, cycle, paddle and sail until his dementia affected his balance. He loved to travel and enjoyed many trips with his partner Pam Little. Today he is happy, loved by his partner and family. He is known for his wonderful smile and the sparkle in his eyes. On his good days Gerald does remember his time in Sweden at the Winter Games. 

What message would he share with current athletes on the road to the Paralympic Games?  
Life is short so enjoy every moment you can doing the sport you love.

Fast Facts 
Favourite activity: Paddling
Personal hero: Terry Fox
Celebrity you’d like to have dinner with: Michael J. Fox 
Favourite hobby: Visiting with people, listening to music, and watching sports 
Favourite motto: Enjoy life with lots of laughter

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