I’m not sure if it’s a west coast swimming tradition or something practiced everywhere every time swimming people get together to hand out trophies but the women at last Saturday’s Swim BC Awards Banquet were all dressed beautifully in their best dresses and heals while the men ironed their favourite sports t-shirts. I wore my favourite LBD from the Truro, Nova Scotia Walmart which was paid for by the good folks at Air Canada that one time they lost my luggage. It travels well. I jammed in as many things as any reasonable person could into the 27 Hour visit I spent in Vancouver last weekend. Went for lunch at The Naam restaurant in Kitsilano a few short blocks from where I lived when I was little. My dad said we went there a lot but I was only five but I didn’t remember anything. They didn’t seem to remember me either. We then raced across the bridge to North Vancouver to challenge the Grouse Grind which is a 2,800 metre Stairmaster up to the top of Grouse Mountain followed by a skyride down. Zipped over to River Rock in Richmond for the Swim BC awards dinner and caught up with a lot of good people I hadn’t seen in a while. Loved every single minute of the night. Hillary gave a beautiful speech talking about Randy’s legacy while Ryan sent in a video where he briefly talked about the next couple of years. Emcee Chris Hindmarch-Watson even replayed the video then assumed out loud that this was represented concrete evidence that there’s no retirement plans in Ryan’s future. Let’s hope he’s right. No one’s ready for a post Ryan world. Mike asked if I’d come back to help run a clinic sometime this season and I said yes immediately. Overall it was a wonderful night with the BC coaches.
Joan McLagan was introduced as the newest member into British Columbia’s swimming hall of fame. She’s 94 years old (those in charge sure made her wait a long enough for HOF entry) and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When she was first introduced many of us discreetly took out our phones assuming it would be the dull part of the night. Away went the phones when she mentioned Hitler in her first sentence. During the 1936 opening ceremonies all athletes walked past the dignitaries and gave the traditional Olympic salute with a fully outstretched arm to the side and how to many it resembled the Nazi salute. For decades she had to explain that the athletes weren’t being respectful to Hitler, it was just the Olympic salute. Travel to Europe was by boat and the athletes all had to pay for their own food during the journey. Remember that being poor in the 1930s was unlike being poor in any other decade. By chance she ran into a family friend in Montreal prior to her journey who bought her a white dress which was required for the trip and he gave her some spending money. During the Olympic trials she was only selected because the parents of another swimmer from Victoria who won her event wouldn’t let her go to Europe (can’t believe she didn’t forge the permission papers and go anyway) so they selected Joan since she was the next fastest swimmer. Smells like politics to me….wonder what Swanston would have said if the internet existed then. Training on the ship was challenging since they only had a small pool so they tied ropes to the swimmers while they trained. The journey the following year to the Empire Games in Australia was equally interesting as it took 25 days to travel to Hawaii, Fiji then Sydney. In Sydney she set a world record in the 50m breaststroke. The actual trip sounded awful and I’ll never again complain about not getting an aisle seat. I met her briefly afterwards and congratulated her on her achievements. I must say, even at 94, like most former swimmers, she looked pretty fit and had an interesting story to tell. I wish I had more time with her.
Big plans for day 2. Skytrain downtown then a quick run around Stanley Park. Plans thwarted again with security, police, barricades, helicopters, military and detours. My parents and I didn’t realise the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Vancouver so we skipped the run and waited with thousands of others to get a glimpse of Princess Kate and guy whose picture will someday be on our money. I managed to get a pretty good picture as they were getting into their car. Not 100% sure why we insist on putting people from another country on our money but we’re Canadians and that’s how we roll. No one from Sunday’s crowd seemed to care though. Then headed back to YVR then MSP. Sad to leave Vancouver because even though I don’t remember living there, it feels like home to me. The clock is winding down on how long they’ll let me stay in Minneapolis. They’ve already let me stay an extra year because of the Olympics and I’ll probably figure out how to extend it through the end of next year. Still, I find myself thinking a lot about my post Minnesota life. I’ve been to a lot of places and I certainly feel a gravitational pull back to Vancouver. A lot will change in the next two years though.
Looking forward to the Minnesota Alumni meet this week here in Minnesota. Since it’s my 5th year here, there will be swimmers from my freshmen class coming back. My friend Jillian Tyler will be inducted into the Gopher Swimming Hall of Fame. Jill might not have the same life stories as Joan McLagan but she has a pretty interesting story to tell herself. She’s my all-time fave and I’m looking forward to standing up and clapping for her when she get inducted.
September 30, 2016