By Scott Taylor
Curlers and golfers are often inducted into various Halls of Fame while they’re still competing. Hey, it’s curling and golf, right? Sports for life, as they say.
It’s more likely that athletes who compete in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, rugby etc. etc. are long retired when they get themselves inducted into whatever Hall they’ve been inducted into.
Not Wanda Guenette.
On Saturday night at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg, Guenette was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. She gave her induction speech, accepted the honour and then made it clear that she’ll be playing volleyball, representing Canada at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
“It’s kind of bizarre,” Guenette responded when asked about her induction. “I retired in my 20s, back in the 1980s, and then I came back. Now I’m playing Masters all over the world. I’m still having fun.”
One might argue that Guenette, now 52, is a better player today than she was in her 20s. The daughter of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver, the late Ernie Pitts, Guenette was/is one of the greatest female athletes in Manitoba history.
This is a woman who could do it all, but she dominated volleyball. She played the indoor version of the game through the ’80s and ’90s and won a CIAU (now CIS) championship at the University of Winnipeg. She was named an All-Canadian in 1983 and made three consecutive Pan Am Games appearances in the ’90s, plus a trip to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She transitioned into the outdoor beach game in the 2000s and played on the professional tour.
“I first started to play organized sports when I was 12, in Grade 7 at Monroe Junior High,” said Guenette. “Girls didn’t have any opportunity to play organized sports ‘till junior high and I did everything – basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, fastball, track and field, field hockey, everything I could play, I played.
“I went to Miles Mac still hold the provincial high school record in the high jump. I asked somebody at the MHSAA what the record was and they said 1.70 metres. I jumped 1.76. I think all my records in track are still there.”
Guenette went on to play volleyball for a year at the University of Winnipeg then joined Canada’s national junior team in Toronto. After a year with the national team, she returned home and won a CIS championship at the U of W and then moved to Montreal and retired from volleyball.
“In 1989, a friend of mine in Toronto called and said, ‘Do you want to come with me and play pro in Europe? They’re looking for a middle player and you’d be great.’ I said I hadn’t been playing and she kind of laughed and a month later I got on a plane and went to Europe.”
After the 1996 Olympics, she became a full-time beach volleyball player and was successful all over the world.
“I’m kind of retired, I guess, because I don’t play against the kids anymore,” said Guenette with a laugh. “I just play Masters. The next big event is the 2017 World Masters Games in New Zealand and I can’t wait. I’m still having so much fun. I’m still dancing.”