Johnny Sands

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJohn Valance "Johnny"•Sands
Used nameJohnny•Sands
Born17 April 1933 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (CAN)
Died31 December 2020
Measurements174 cm / 68 kg
AffiliationsSLSSC, Saskatoon (CAN)
NOC Canada


Canadian speedskater Johnny Sands was a two-time Olympian who made his début at Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956. The Canadian 500 metre record holder fell in the 500 metres and finished 45th in the 1500 metres. Four years later at Squaw Valley in 1960, he improved upon his previous results, finishing 27th in the 500 metres (42.8 seconds) and 43rd in the 1500 metres (2:28.04). In 1962, Sands set the unofficial North American record for 220 yards with a time of 17.9 seconds at Saranac Lake, New York.

Sands started speedskating at age 12 with the Saskatoon Lions Club and dominated his age-group classes for the next 11 years. In 1947, he was just 13-years-old when he won his first Canadian title, over 440 yards in Sudbury, Ontario. He became a four-time Canadian senior champion sharing the overall title, first with three-time Olympian and 1932 Olympic bronze medalist Frank Stack in 1953, and winning three more titles on his own (1955, 1957-58).

A talented athlete, Sands was an avid golfer and played tennis and football, starring as a halfback with the Saskatoon Hilltops (losing in the western final in 1951 and 1952, and winning the Canadian Championship in 1953 against Windsor AKO). A member of the Speedskating Canada (1983), Saskatoon Sports (1992) and Saskatchewan Sports (1993) Halls of Fame, Sands stayed involved in the sport after his competitive career ended, and worked alongside 1932 Olympic bronze medalist and three-time Olympian Leo Sylvestre coaching at the Town of Mount Royal Pleasure and Speedskating Club in Québec.

Sands was one of three children, along with siblings Sandy and Irene, born to Anne and Michael, who came from modest beginnings in the Mayfair district of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Relocating to Montréal, Québec in 1958, it is where Sands met his wife of 57 years, Micheline, and together they had three children (Stéphanie, Mélanie, Eryk) and many grandchildren. After settling in Mississauga, Ontario in 1981, Sands built several successful businesses including a printing brokerage “John Sands & Associates.” On 31 December 2020 at age 87, Sands passed away peacefully in his home following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Personal Bests: 500 – 41.8 (1956); 1500 – 2:20.7 (1956).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1956 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) CAN Johnny Sands
500 metres, Men (Olympic) DNF
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 45
1960 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) CAN Johnny Sands
500 metres, Men (Olympic) 27
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 43