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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

MARK TEWKSBURY

Inducted in 1995

Member Details

Date of Birth: February 7, 1968
Place of Birth: Calgary, Alberta
Sport: Swimming
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1988

Olympic Games, Silver medal - 4 x 100m medley relay

1991

World Aquatic Championships Silver medals - 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke

1992

Barcelona Olympic Games, Gold medal - 100m backstroke

Barcelona Olympic Games, Bronze medal - 4 x 100m medley relay

Honoured Member MARK TEWKSBURY
Inspire

Story

With his wide grin, infectious personality, and Canadian maple leaf tattooed above his heart, Mark Tewksbury swam his way into Canada's hearts in 1992, restoring some of the country's sporting pride that had been tarnished four years earlier in Seoul. But Tewksbury's enduring legacy may be the character that he revealed after his competitive career ended and the work that he does providing sporting opportunities for gay and lesbian athletes. Tewksbury began swimming at age five to escape the Dallas, Texas, heat while his family was temporarily relocated from Calgary. Back in Alberta two years later, he began swimming regularly at the Cascade Swimming Club. It was after a move to the University of Calgary Swim Club, where he trained under coach Deryk Snelling, that Tewksbury's technique and results improved to make him a world-class swimmer. In 1985, at age 17, he represented Canada in international competition for the first time and improved his world ranking in the 100m backstroke - the event that would become his specialty - from 54th to fourth. The following year, he returned from the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh with gold medals in the 100m backstroke and 4 x 100m medley relay. In 1987, he won a gold and two silver medals at the Pan-Pacific Games and finished the year ranked number two in the world. Hopes were high for the 1988 Olympics, but the entire Canadian team struggled in Seoul. Tewksbury finished fifth in the 100m backstroke but did swim the initial backstroke leg on the silver-medal winning 4 x 100m medley relay team. Tewksbury spent the next quadrennial focusing on the 1992 Olympics by honing his technique, improving his times, and setting numerous world records along the way. After silver and bronze medals at the 1989 Pan-Pacifics, he repeated his double gold medals at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. In 1991, he won two silver medals at each of the World Aquatic Championships in Australia and the Pan-Pacific Championships in Edmonton. Tewksbury was also setting world records in meets around the world. In March 1991, at events in Germany and England, he twice broke the world short course record in the 100m backstroke. A year later, at the 1992 Canadian Winter Nationals in Winnipeg, he again broke his own world record - twice in two days. Over his career, Tewksbury set seven short-course world records in the backstroke, six at 100m and one at 200m. Tewksbury's training, which focused especially on his starts and turns, peaked for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But he entered the pool in the 100m backstroke expecting stiff competition from his chief rival, Jeff Rouse of the U.S., who held the long-course world record and had defeated Tewksbury at the World Aquatic Championships. The Canadian needed every last stroke to win the gold medal, coming from behind to defeat his rival by .06 seconds, setting a new Olympic record in the process. Tewksbury, who also returned from Barcelona with a bronze medal in the 4 x 100m medley relay, capped the year by winning the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year and was also awarded two major male athlete of the year trophies, the Lionel Conacher Award and the Norton H. Crow Award. He retired from competitive swimming in 1992 having won 21 national championships - eleven individual and ten relay - and was named Swimming Canada's male swimmer of the year four times. Tewksbury turned to motivational speaking following his competitive career - after an educational sojourn to Australia - but remained involved in sports activism and administration. He was a member of the IOC Site Inspection Commission in 1996, evaluating the eleven bid cities for the 2004 Summer Games. Tewksbury publicly came out as gay in December 1998 and in February of the following year resigned from his positions with the IOC. He continued to fight for athletes' rights and clean Olympic sport by co-founding OATH (Olympic Advocates Together Honorably), an independent, athlete-led movement committed to the spirit of ethical sport. In 2001, he was part of Montreal's bid for the 2006 Gay Games. Internal divisions led to a split within the gay sport movement, but with the support of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, Montreal hosted the first World Outgames in 2006, with Tewksbury as co-president of the organizing committee.


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