track and field
1964, 1968, 1972, 1976
One of the greatest female track and field athletes in Canadian history, Hoffman competed in four Olympiads and was Canada's flag-bearer at the 1976 Games. A middle-distance specialist, she first competed in the Olympics at the 1964 Tokyo Games. In the 400-meter race, she finished seventh in her preliminary heat (55.9) and missed advancing to the next round by only 0.4 seconds. She also ran in the 800-meter and finished eighth in her preliminary heat with a time of 2:17.4.
Hoffman returned to the Olympics in 1968 at the Mexico City Games and competed exclusively in the 800-meter, which by then had become her best event. She finished second in her preliminary heat (2:08.7) and advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Hoffman made it to the final of the 800-meter. She eventually finished in eighth place overall with a terrific time of 2:00.2.
Hoffman made her final Olympic appearance at the 1976 Montreal Games when she was chosen to be the flag-bearer for the host nation. She again competed in the 800-meter, but did not advance past the semifinals. After her career as an athlete ended in the mid-1970s, Hoffman remained a force in the Canadian Olympic movement. In 1981, she became the first woman elected to the executive of the Canadian Olympic Association.
Hoffman's athletic career began at the age of nine, when she cut her hair and played hockey in a boy's league. When her team made the playoffs, it was discovered she was a girl, and the league banished her from playing. Abby and her family sued the league to allow her to play, but lost a ruling from the Ontario Supreme Court that upheld the league's decision. Nevertheless, the court battle rendered young Abigail Hoffman one of the most important and influential females in the history of sports. Although she did not play hockey any more, Hoffman's struggle to compete as a female athlete was remembered in the early 1980s when the Ontario Women's Hockey Association played the Abby Hoffman Cup (a national women's tournament); the Cup is still played today.
After giving up hockey, Hoffman tried other sports, including swimming, before finding her niche in track and field. While she struggled for acceptance (she was the only women in an all-male club for a number of years), by the mid-1960s, she became one of Canada's top athletes. Abby won eight Canadian national titles in the 800-meter and held the national record from 1962-1975. She won the gold medal in the 880-yard event at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. Abby also competed in the World University Games, capturing the silver in the 800-meter in 1967 and the bronze medal in 1967. At the 1969 Maccabiah Games, she struck gold in both the 400-meter and 800-meter. She won the gold medal in the 800-meter at the 1971 Pan American Games and the bronze in the both the 800-meter and 1,500-meter at the 1967 and 1975 competitions.
After retiring from international competition, Hoffman became a professor of political studies at the University of Guelph in the late 1970s. In 1981, she became the first woman to be appointed director of Sport Canada (the position was created in 1961). After leaving Sport Canada, she continued to work for the advancement of women in athletics and was one of the first two women elected to the executive council of track and field's governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). Hoffman was also awarded the IAAF medal in 1998, and was elected to the IAAF Congress in 1999.
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