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Daly, Keevil

The RCAF's Champion Bodybuilder and Weightlifter

From 1951 to 1960 the RCAF had a champion bodybuilder and weightlifter in its ranks. Keevil Daly was born in British Guiana on 21 December 1923. During the Second World War he served on board the RMS Lady Nelson, a CN Steamship that the German submarine U-161 partly sank while the ship was alongside in the port of Castries, St. Lucia. Fifteen passengers and three crew were killed but Mr. Daly escaped injury. While in British Guiana, he began bodybuilding and weightlifting.

After the war, Mr. Daly moved to Harlem, New York. In one of his first weightlifting competitions, the World Championships in Philadelphia in September 1947, he took home a silver medal in the light heavyweight division (82.5 kg) for British Guiana. In the same period he participated in several bodybuilding competitions, the two sports being closely linked at the time. In 1947 he took first in the Mr. New York State and the Mr. Metropolitan competitions. Part of the latter's prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Chicago where he placed ninth in the Mr. America competition. Some observers then and now noted that Mr. Daly should have placed higher but that racism played a role in where he finish. This did not stop him however.

Mr. Daly was interested in more than just being a bodybuilder or weightlifter. He applied to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto in 1948 and was accepted. Graduation from Ryerson also brought big changes in Keevil's life. He acquired his Canadian citizenship and in September 1951 he was accepted into the RCAF in Montreal as a radar performance checker. After training at the technical training school at St. Thomas, he was posted to No. 4 Aircraft Control and Warning Unit, a radar unit in February 1952, located at RCAF Station Uplands in Ottawa.

In the lead-up to the Empire Games in Vancouver, held in July-August 1954 (now named the Commonwealth Games), Leading Aircraftman Daly was the featured name at the preparatory competitions and at local events in Ottawa. In Vancouver, he was a member of the eight-man Canadian weightlifting team. On Monday, August 2nd Leading Aircraftman Daly lifted 880 lbs (399 kg) in the combined event to achieve Canada's first gold medal of the games. This was a new personal best and an Empire Games record. (He was one of only two Black-Canadians on the team, the other being boxer Sonny Forbes.)

A big change in his life occurred in July 1955 when he married Vivian Martha McGuire, a fighter control operator in the RCAF. They would have two daughters together. This was at a time when inter-racial marriage was still frowned upon. This was a therefore a significant event for them both. Leading Aircraftman Daly would also have to learn a new trade. The trade of radar performance checker was terminated and became a part of radar maintainer.

By now Leading Aircraftman Daly had become famous and was the featured name at events he attended. He was, however, only an alternate for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, when Canada only sent a four-man weightlifting team. The RCAF regularly flew Leading Aircraftman Daly to Europe to compete. He placed quite well in competitions there. In 1956 they posted him to the base at 4 Wing in Baden-Soellingen, West Germany. By this time injuries and age had began to take their toll and he was finding it harder to place near the top of the competitions.

In August 1960, having returned to Canada, Leading Aircraftman Daly took his release from the RCAF. He now took on the role of sports trainer in Canada and the United States, where he and Vivian (and their girls) moved in 1961. They divorced in 1976 but after 1991 became good friends again. Keevil Daly died in Sunnybrook Veterans' Hospital, Toronto on 28 June 2011 after a long battle with myelofibrosis, an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer.

Keevil Daly left a lasting legacy in Canadian sports and the RCAF, as both a weightlifter and bodybuilder. He was a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and an outstanding bodybuilder. He represented Canada and the RCAF very well in all the events in which he competed. In November 1971, Mr. Daly was named to the newly-founded Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame, one of 11 individuals so honoured along with the 1948 RCAF Flyers Olympic Hockey team.

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