Before Brad and Kaetlyn: Meet Newfoundland's earliest Olympians

Before Brad and Kaetlyn: Meet Newfoundland's earliest Olympians

As fans cheer on figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond, the most recent Olympic gold medalist from Newfoundland and Labrador, we take a look at the earliest athletes to test their mettle on the world stage.

Robert Fowler – marathon 

Robert Fowler, born in Trinity Bay in 1882, was the first Newfoundland-born athlete to compete in an Olympic Games. He moved to the United States as a teenager, and ran the marathon with the American team at the St. Louis Olympics in 1904. 

A medal wasn't in the stars for Fowler; in fact, he didn't even finish the race due to a challenging combination of heat and dust.

"The marathon was the most bizarre event of the Games. It was run in brutally hot weather, over dusty roads, with horses and automobiles clearing the way and creating dust clouds," wrote Larry Dohey, the Rooms' director of programming and public engagement, on his website, Archival Moments.

Fowler was on the American team, but according to Dohey, didn't claim citizenship until 1906 and still carried the Dominion of Newfoundland passport while he was competing at the Games.

"Fourteen out of 32 people did not finish that race," said Joan Sullivan, an author who has researched Newfoundland's early participation in the Olympics.

"His real claim to fame is with the Boston Marathon. He ran that nine times and always had good times with that."

Eric Mackenzie Robertson – marathon

Eric Mackenzie Robertson was born on Maxse Street in St. John's in 1892, and was the first Olympian born and raised in Newfoundland.

He joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment when the First World War broke out, and was shot in the leg on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. As part of his recuperation, his doctor in London recommended he try running.

Robertson joined a running club, and decided he would try to represent Newfoundland at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.

Sullivan said the International Olympic Committee wouldn't recognize him as a Newfoundland athlete, because there was no official committee to confirm his amateur status and running times.

He ended up participating as part of the British team, finishing in last place with a time of three hours and 55 minutes.

Sullivan details Robertson's journey, and his difficulties later in life, in her novel The Long Run.

"He remains the only person from an independent Newfoundland to show up at the Olympics trying to represent Newfoundland," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Harry Watson – hockey

Harry Watson was the first Newfoundlander to compete in the Winter Olympics, in Chamonix, France, in 1924. He was born in St. John's, but moved to England as a child, and later to Winnipeg and Toronto.

He won a gold medal as captain of the Canadian hockey team.

According to Hockey NL, Watson led the Canadians, scoring 36 goals in five games. In a 30–0 sweep over Czechoslovakia, he scored 13 times.

Watson was inducted into the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

Since those early Olympians, numerous Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have gone on to represent the country in a wide range of sports, including race walking, baseball, rowing and athletics. 

Curler Brad Gushue and his teammates Mark Nichols, Russ Howard, Jamie Korab and Mark Adam took home the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics with a 10-4 victory over Finland. 

The province's most recent medalist, figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond, won gold with Team Canada this week in South Korea. She also took home a silver medal from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Osmond will next skate in the women's singles event, which begins Feb. 21.

Liam Hickey of St. John's will also compete in PyeongChang as a member of Canada's sledge hockey team at the Paralympic Games in March.