Oct. 24, 2023

Benno Nigg among Calgary’s new Top 7 Over 70 winners

Emeritus professor in Faculty of Kinesiology among recipients with UCalgary connections
Benno Nigg attends the Top 7 Over 70 luncheon in Calgary on Sept. 11, 2023.
Benno Nigg attends the Top 7 Over 70 luncheon in Calgary on Sept. 22, 2023. Courtesy Postmedia

Joining the then young 16-year-old University of Calgary was a gamble for Dr. Benno Nigg, emeritus professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology; he was the director of the biomechanics lab at the prestigious Technical University of Zürich, Switzerland. At 43 years old, he was asked if he would consider immigrating to Canada to start a school for human movement at the University of Calgary. He chose to take the chance.

“The city had put in a bid for the 1988 Olympics, and I love to build things, and this was an opportunity to create a multidisciplinary centre for human moment studies from scratch with the support of the university, and members of the Calgary community. On hindsight I think I made the right decision,” says Nigg.

The Faculty of Kinesiology is now one of the top sport science schools in North America, and Nigg had a hand in it from the beginning, even contributing to the design of a section of the kinesiology building.

“I worked with the dean at the time, Roger Jackson, and the architect, to include multiple areas of sport science research, and collaborative spaces. We made it so when you left your office, you had to meet other people, and if you had a question about human movement, you could likely find the answer within the faculty,” says Nigg.

Other sport science schools have been modelled on this design.

It’s his love of building new things that led to his success with his sports research company and teaching others in the lab at UCalgary how to conduct the necessary research to design an effective sport shoe.

“Many companies come to me wanting a solution for something, and I enjoy developing a product that meets their needs. I like taking theory and applying it in practical ways, and every product we develop has a story behind it,” says Nigg.

Many of the people who are leaders in the sport science industry have some connection to the Faculty of Kinesiology at UCalgary, with many of them going on to work with companies such as Nike and adidas.

Dr. Walter Herzog, PhD, co-director of the Human Performance Lab, and a former postdoctoral trainee of Nigg says, “Dr. Nigg’s research had a profound impact on the national and international biomechanics community, building a world-renowned laboratory for human performance from the ground up.

“One manifestation of his work is the flood of long-distance world records being broken using the revolutionary running shoe design and development ideas that originated in Dr. Nigg’s lab.”

Sometimes the product exceeds all expectations — the shoe company ON is now ranked the fastest-growing sport shoe company in the world thanks to innovations created right on campus in Nigg’s lab.

    Other Top 7 recipients with UCalgary connections:

    • Ron Ghitter, a university donor and past volunteer, served as an Alberta MLA and senator. Now 88, in his spare time he has raised millions to build the amazing Osten and Victor Alberta Tennis Centre in the city.
    • Tom Jackson, Hon. LLD’03, is a 74-year-old actor whose film, TV and music projects include North of 60 and the Huron Carole. He’s now working on a new series, Sullivan’s Crossing, while also creating a detective drama and continuing philanthropic work.
    2023 Top 7 Over 70 winners

    2023 Top 7 Over 70 winners, from left: John Scott, Janice McTighe, Benno Nigg, Tania Willumsen, Mogens Smed, and Ron Ghitter, with a photo of Tom Jackson in the background. The group was photographed at Heritage Park Gasoline Alley.

    Courtesy Azin Ghaffari, Postmedia

    Sign up for UToday

    Sign up for UToday

    Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

    Thank you for your submission.