Already as a teenager, Myrtle Cook-McGowan demonstrated strong athletic skills and practised several sports such as tennis, hockey, cycling and canoeing. Surprisingly, at the age of fifteen, this young lady was a member of the women's national track and field team. In July 1928, at the Olympic trials in Halifax, the sprinter achieved the spectacular time of 12 seconds in the 100 metre dash. She thus broke the world record by two tenths of a second, but for unknown reasons, this record time was never made official.
A few weeks later, in Amsterdam at the first women's Olympic track and field competitions, she was designated the favourite to win the 100 metres. Unfortunately, she was unable to prove her great speed as she was disqualified after two false starts. Still, she made a name for herself in the 4 X 100 metres with her teammates Jane Bell, Ethel Smith and Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld by winning the gold medal in a record time of 48.4 seconds. With Ethel Catherwood, gold medallist in the high jump, and Jean Thompson, these four athletes made up the "Matchless Six", a group of six Canadian women who made track and field history at these Games.
Returning to Canada, Myrtle Cook-McGowan successfully pursued her career, taking part in 60 and 100 metre competitions until 1931. In short order, she scored Canadian, American and international records.
During her lifetime, she was interested in the development of women's sports organizations. In 1923, she founded the Toronto Ladies' Athletic Club, the first athletic club for women in Canada. Several years later, she directed the Toronto Canadian Ladies' Athletic Club and soon founded a branch in Montréal. It was here that she created the Mercury Athletic Club along with Hilda Strike, the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic 100- metre silver medallist.
In 1929, Cook-McGowan moved to Montréal when she married the journalist Lloyd McGowan. She began a journalistic career at the Montreal Star with "In the Women's Sport Light", a column dedicated to women's sports, which she wrote for more than forty years. Cook-McGowan was a pioneer in the field, and this platform went beyond simple sports reporting enabling her to promote the cause of women's sports. With her presence in various activities she was an active advocate for female participation in all kinds of sporting events.
Following the 1928 Olympics, she was involved at the national level on committees for the COMMONWEALTH GAMES, the British Empire Games and the Olympics. During her long career, she took part in eleven Olympic Games as an athlete, trainer, manager and journalist with great enthusiasm.
In 1949, she was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. Six years later, in 1955, she was enthroned in CANADA'S SPORTS HALL OF FAME and in the TEMPLE DE LA RENOMMÉE DU PANTHÉON DES SPORTS DU QUÉBEC (Québec Sports Hall of Fame) in 1974. Athletics Canada awards the Myrtle Cook Trophy for Young Athlete of the Year.
Myrtle Cook-McGowan, known as the first Lady of Sports in Canada, passed away 18 Mar 1985.