Philip Delesalle was Canada’s greatest male gymnast … period. His achievements include an impressive list of firsts, including five consecutive Canadian championships between 1976-80. Delesalle was only twelve years old when he competed at his first Canada Winter Games in 1971, and two years later, at age fourteen, was provincial and national junior gymnastics champion. In just his second year as a senior gymnast, Delesalle captured the Canadian senior championship, and in the same year, competed at the 1976 Olympics to finish 22nd overall, Canada’s best gymnastics placing ever.

In 1977, Delesalle was the first Canadian gymnast invited to the World Cup, a competition whose selection criteria stipulated a top-ten world placement on an apparatus. He placed eighth overall. Although he missed the worlds in 1978 because of illness, Delesalle took home gold as all-around champion at the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

It has been said of Delesalle that no gymnast worked as hard to perfect his sport. While preparing for the 1979 world championships, he would work a full shift on the “green chain” in a Port Alberni mill, then train for three to four hours in the evening. On weekends, he would travel back to Victoria to continue his training.

His hard work and determination resulted in his placing twelth overall at the world gymnastics championships in Fort Worth, Texas, the highest standing for a Canadian to that date. It was evident that during this competition that Delesalle had reached the top, sharing scores in five of the six individual events with the top five gymnasts in the world, and performing to a fourth place finish in the finals.

Delesalle succeeded in leading his team to a berth at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Unfortunately, because of Canada’s boycott of the Olympic Games that year, Delesalle was unable to realize his goal of an Olympic gold medal. He retired at the height of his career, following his fifth consecutive Canadian Championship, and third perfect-ten score for the pommel.

In 1992, the gymnastics world honoured Delesalle by naming the pommel horse move he introduced in 1979, the “Delesalle” after him. And, as a fitting acknowledgement of Delesalle’s contribution to men’s gymnastics, the Canadian national senior all-around champion is presented with the Philip Delesalle Award.