Monday, 10 April 2017 00:00

2017 Syl Apps Award - Penny Oleksiak

Penny OleksiakPenny Oleksiak had record-setting Olympic debut at Rio 2016 on several fronts. The 16-year-old became the first Canadian athlete to win four medals at a single summer Games. Those four medals also tied her with Victor Davis as Canada’s most decorated Olympic swimmer of all-time. She set an Olympic record in tying for gold in the 100m freestyle, making her Canada’s first Olympic champion in swimming since Barcelona 1992 and the first woman to earn that title since Los Angeles 1984. She was also Canada’s youngest Olympic gold medallist ever. Anchoring the 4x100m freestyle relay to bronze, Oleksiak and teammate Taylor Ruck became the first ever Olympic medallists born in the 21st century. They added another bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay and Oleksiak also won silver in the 100m butterfly. At 15, Oleksiak had an outstanding performance at the 2015 FINA World Junior Championships, bringing home six medals. Three of those were individual silvers, won in the 50m butterfly, 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle. In the latter she shared the podium with gold medallist teammate Ruck. Oleksiak also contributed to three relay medals, highlighted by gold in the 4x100m mixed freestyle relay. She also competed at the Australian Age Group Championships in 2015, tallying eight medals, including five gold (100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m IM).

Penny Oleksiak

Monday, 31 March 2014 20:00

Alex Baumann

By the time he was seventeen, Alexander (Alex) "Sasha" Baumann owned 38 Canadian swimming records and the world record in the 200 metre individual medley. He won gold medals in both 200 and 400 metre individual medley events at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, lowering his world record in the 200-metre event to 2:02.25 in the process.

At the 1984 Olympics, Baumann was selected as Canada's flagbearer for the opening ceremonies. He won gold medals in the 400-metre individual medley, setting a world record time of 4:17.41, and the 200-metre race, lowering the world mark to 2:01.42. The 400-metre gold was Canada's first in swimming since 1912.

He was named Canada's male athlete of the year for 1984 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was also named as the Male World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine in the same year. In 1988, he was awarded the Order of Ontario.

Baumann won three more gold medals at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in the two individual medley events and swimming anchor on Canada's 4 × 100 m medley team.

Alex was born in Prage ( former Czechoslovakia) April 21st 1964, moving to Canada in 1969, and became involved in competitive swimming, training at Laurentian University.

Baumann moved to Australia to enter graduate studies at the University of Queensland before becoming manager of sport programs with the Queensland Academy of Sport between 1996 and 1997. He then held various positions with the Queensland Government before becoming CEO of Queensland Swimming in 1999.

In March 2009, Baumann swam at the Ontario Masters Swim Championships. It was his first swim meet in 22 years. He continued were he left off, beating the world record in the 200 metre individual medley in the 45-49 age group category by more than 3.3 seconds with a time of 2:12.01.

Baumann is married to Tracey Taggart, an Australian swimmer he met during the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games. They married on 30 April 1988, and have two children.

Published in 1999 Inductees
Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:00

Cindy Nicholas

Quite simply, Cindy Nicholas was prolific. For lack of a better word: incredulous. Her body boasted the stamina of many people, not just her own. How do you account for the fact she retired as the world-record holder for 19 successful crossings of the English Channel? You just shake your head. Nicholas established her first world record 30 years ago this year when she crossed Lake Ontario from Youngstown, N.Y., to the CNE in 15 hours, 10 minutes. "That would have to be the highlight of my career because it was the first time doing a long swim," Nicholas said. "It was so well covered by the media. I became a celebrity over-night. Like wow, I was Super Cindy. When I got up out of the water, I fainted after 10 minutes. I should have sat down for a while and after that, I made that a practice."

In 1975, Nicholas, now a practising lawyer in Scarborough, became the first and youngest woman to swim across the English Channel. "After that swim, I became internationally known," she said. "I was voted Canadian Press female athlete of the year."

Then in 1977, she fashioned a two-way crossing of the Channel in a new world record for men and women in just under 20 hours, some 10 hours less than the previous standard. In 1978, she mastered six successful crossings of the English Channel, her home away from home. By doing that, she received the moniker of Queen of the Channel. In the span of four years, she had done five, two-way crossings of the Channel, most by anyone. Nicholas actually began her career in the water as an indoors competitor in the long sprints. From 1962-74, she swam competitively and during that time span, she held 16 Ontario and Canadian age-group records.

"As cavalier as that sounds, I had already been preparing for marathon swimming by training six days a week, four hours a day, doing six or seven miles in a pool," Nicholas said. "Several times, my father Jim would say, "Why don't you swim Lake Ontario like Marilyn Bell?"

Nicholas took up that advice and went on to be a whiz in marathons.

Published in 2003 Inductees
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 20:00

Cliff Lumsdon

Clifford Douglas "Cliff" Lumsdon Jr. (April 13, 1931 – August 31, 1991) was a remarkable Canadian world champion marathon swimmer.

Cliff Lumsdon turned professional when he was 16 and would later say that the only regret in his career was giving up his amateur status before the 1948 Summer Olympics. At the age of eighteen Lumsdon won the world marathon championship in Toronto defeating 46 competitors in the annual 15-mile race at the Canadian National Exhibition with a 7 hour, 54 minute and 55 second swim. He not only won the race but led all laps. Lumsdon was accompanied for part of the race by his fiancée and by fellow Lakeshore swimmer Marilyn Bell, riding in a boat. On the strength of that victory he was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete of 1949. Lumsdon won five world championships earning him the unofficial title of “the King” of professional swimmers.

Lumsdon won the 26-mile Atlantic City marathon in 1956. That same year he became the first swimmer ever to cross the treacherous Straits of Juan de Fuqua between Vancouver Island and Washington State. He retired in 1965.

He coached his daughter, Kim Lumsdon, who was also a top marathon swimmer and accompanied her during her swim across Lake Ontario in 1976. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982. In 1988 a waterfront park in Toronto was named Cliff Lumsdon Park in his honour. Lumsdon died in 1991 at age 60.

Mr. Lumsdon is a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Published in 2009 Inductees
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 20:00

Marilyn Bell

Marilyn Bell Di Lascio, Order of Ontario (b: October 19, 1937, Toronto, Canada) is a retired Canadian long distance swimmer, born in Toronto. She was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario and later swam the English Channel and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On September 9, 1954, Bell started her swim across Lake Ontario from Youngstown, New York to Toronto at virtually the same time as world famous American long-distance swimmer, Florence Chadwick. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto had offered Chadwick $10,000 to swim the lake as a publicity effort for the annual exhibition. Bell, who felt the offer snubbed Canadian swimmers, took on the challenge without pay. After several hours, Chadwick was forced to give up with stomach pains and vomiting while 16-year-old Bell became the first person ever to swim the thirty-two-mile (52 km) distance when she arrived in Toronto the next day. (A third swimmer, Torontonian Winnie Roach, also attempted the swim at this time but failed.)

Bell swam for 20 hours and 59 minutes under grueling conditions before she finally reached a breakwater near the Boulevard Club, west of the CNE grounds. The planned route straight across the lake was 51.5 km (32 mi), but she actually had to swim much further because of strong winds and the lack of modern navigation equipment. Waves that day were almost 5 m high, (up to 15 ft), water temperature was 21 °C (65 °F) and lamprey eels were attacking her legs and arms.

Bell kept up her strength with Pablum, corn syrup, and lemon juice with water, along with heroic encouragement from her boat crew and her coach, Gus Ryder. Radio stations broadcast hourly reports of her progress and rival newspapers published “extra” editions throughout the day. When she finally arrived at about 8:15 p.m., a crowd of 300,000 people gave her an emotional welcome at the Sunnyside waterfront.

The CNE decided to give Bell the $10,000 prize and Bell was later given numerous gifts including a car, television, clothing and furniture.

In 1955 she became the youngest person to swim the English Channel and in 1956 she swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the Pacific Northwest coast. She retired that year from swimming.

Published in 1997 Inductees
Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:00

Vicki Keith

Vicki Keith (born 26 February 1961 in Winnipeg, Manitoba), has held at least 16 world records and has received over 40 honours and awards. Her marathon swims crossed many of the world's most challenging bodies of water.

Constantly surpassing the records of other swimmers as well as previous records of her own, Vicki has become, to many, the face of marathon swimming both here in Canada and around the world. Her most recognised accomplishments include becoming the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes in 1988 (completed in two months) and for being the only person to complete the 104 km double crossing of Lake Ontario.She came out of retirement to attempt a new world record on August 5, 2005. Her goal was to swim 80.5 km (50 mi) from Oswego, New York to Kingston, Ontario. However, her attempt was cut short due to high waves. Just before leaving the water, she was averaging only one kilometre an hour because of waves more than three metres tall. If Keith had continued, the wind and waves would have added 30 more hours to her expected 48-hour swim.

Two weeks after her unsuccessful attempt, Keith was back in the water. This time the route was a shore line swim in Lake Ontario from Point Petre in Prince Edward County to Lake Ontario Park in Kingston. She completed 80.2 kilometres, setting a new world record for distance butterfly and a second world record for the longest continuous open water swim, when she completed the distance in 63 hours and 40 minutes (over 2½ days). The swim originally was predicted to take 48 hours but Keith had to fight high winds and waves, strong currents, cold temperatures, and hallucinations as she pushed beyond what most believed feasible to accomplish her goal.

Vicki has been appointed as a member of the Order of Canada, in recognition of her outstanding achievements and service. In 1996 she was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, and in 1998 she had her most famous arrival and departure point renamed after her. The headlands of the Leslie Street Spit in Toronto, are now called Vicki Keith Point.

To date, she has raised over $1 million CAD to support programs for children with physical disabilities. Retired from marathon swimming, Keith has coached 16 athletes with a disability to the National level in competitive swimming, and 6 athletes to world records in marathon swimming.

Published in 2005 Inductees
Monday, 31 March 2014 20:00

Victor Davis

Talk about intensity in an athlete. Take the late, great Victor Davis, one of Canada's most legendary swimmers, and one of the latest inductees into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

"The one thing I can think of that would depict Victor's character as a competitor is the one from the 1984 Olympics," recalled former teammate Alex Baumann, himself a member of the OSHF. "Victor was narrowly beaten in the 100-metre breaststroke on the first day. He was very disappointed with the result even though he did his best time by a considerable margin. "It is my feeling that this result, however, spurred him on to bigger and better things for the 200-metre breaststroke. You could tell before the race that no one was going to beat him. He demolished the field in the first 100 metres and broke the world record by over one second - a record that stood for many years." Typical of Davis, a defeat, according to Baumann, was just a temporary setback. The loss (well, he still captured the silver medal) in the 100 just made him more intense and more determined to win a gold in the 200.

Davis' roots were in Guelph with the Dolphins Swim Club. Davis was the winner of seven Canadian national swimming titles and holder of seven Canadian, four world and one Commonwealth Games record. He was also a member of the 4x100 medley-relay team at the 1984 Olympics. "The other story I can think of is one that happened about two weeks prior to the '84 Olympics at a training camp in San Diego," Baumann reflected. "Victor sprained his ankle after a workout. Everyone thought that this would be an impediment to his preparation. "The fact that the injury healed very quickly proved to me that the mind is stronger than the body. He was so determined to compete and win at the Olympics that he wouldn't let anything get in the way of that goal. An injury like that for most people would have upset preparations."

Davis was killed in a traffic misadventure in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., on Remembrance Day, 1989. Davis' brain was damaged beyond repair and in the end, he donated his heart for an organ transplant.

Published in 2002 Inductees