An icon in her native Canada, Ernestine Russell quickly gained national and international fame in 1956 when she competed as Canada’s only gymnast at the Melbourne Games as a high school student. Three years later, she won five gold medals at the Pan American Games, which she added to her six AAU National Championships.
Following competition, she coached at Michigan State and Clarion State College. There, her teams went 58-0 in dual meets and won two conference titles. She took a job offer at the University of Florida, accumulated a .794 win percentage, and appeared in 11 consecutive NCAA Championships. In her tenure, Russell compiled a record of 243-48.
She also coached the 1980 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team in Montreal and was twice named Coach of the Year.