Williams knows winning

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on August 30, 2012

It's been 30 years since Sonia Williams of Harbour Grace turned in a dominant performance at the 1982 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Labrador City, capturing four gold medals and a silver in speed skating.

Among the 750 competitors in attendance, only one other athlete could match her success on the podium.

"It was certainly a great accomplishment," Williams told The Compass last week during a nostalgic "skate" down memory lane, just days before the 2012 Summer Games were set to kick off in her backyard.

Williams has a long history of sporting accomplishments, having represented the province at no less than four national competitions, all in different sports - ice hockey, softball, speed skating and curling.

"If there was a sport to play, I was playing it," said Williams, who works with Moore's Ambulance Service and is a key member of the historic Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Williams said athletics is a tradition in her family. She has been involved with the Harbour Grace Regatta for the last 30 years and figures she might have missed a single race in that time.

Her medals and customized speed skates from the '82 Games are on display in the Harbour Grace Sports Hall of Fame, located in the upper level of the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium.

Female hockey was almost unheard of in those days, but that didn't stop Williams from taking to the ice. She honed her racing form on home ice before taking the Games by storm.

"We were well-prepared," she said, remembering the curious looks she had her teammates attracted during dry-land training sessions in the the summer month. "People kind of laughed because we were preparing for a winter sport in the summer."

Carrying the torch

Now, three decades removed from her successful run at the NL Winter Games, Williams was to play a small part last week in the kick-off to the 2012 summer sporting extravaganza, which is being co-hosted by Carbonear and Harbour Grace this week.

Williams was scheduled to be a part of the Summer Games torch relay on Friday, Aug. 17, and is also one of the 500-plus volunteers who will help ensure the games run smoothly.

The last time the games were held in this region, Williams was coach for the host girls' softball team.

"It's an honour for sure," Williams said of the opportunity to carry the torch. "It's in my hometown and it's nice to be recognized for your accomplishments.

"I'm going to take my time and let the children enjoy it."

The tradition of carrying the torch for the lighting of any sporting event has long been reserved for persons who have achieved a certain level of recognition in sports or otherwise, and Williams certainly fits the bill.

To go along with her exploits in sports, Williams is a volunteer firefighter with her hometown Brigade, serving as chief from 2005-2011.She made history as the first female volunteer in the long and storied history of the brigade, and is also thought to be the first female fire chief in the history of the province.

"I took great pride in that position, and respect the very long history of the brigade," Williams told The Compass in 2011. "Being chief was a very enjoyable experience."

In 2008, she also received the Mayor's Award of Recognition, an award designed to honour outstanding contributions to the Town of Harbour Grace.

Williams is not the type to seek the spotlight, but appreciates being recognized for her efforts.

"It's nice to certainly give back as much as you've received," she said.