|Scope & Content||
Frank discussion of sexual orientation; suitable for older classes
01:03Childhood: born in Calgary, started swimming age 4-5, entered competitive club at age 8
02:16Not a very athletic kid, to this day not that interested in sport, calls himself an anomaly; swimming was the sport I could relate to and since he was in a sport dominated community in Calgary, needed a sport to fit in
03:04Childhood idols: family members, not a huge movie or sports fan
03:34How watching the 1976 Olympics affected him: at the right age at the right time, age 8, when your country is the host families take interest in it; remembers his family watching the Opening Ceremonies, remembers watching the swimming events, the Queen and the East German women, something spoke to him very strongly; he came from an non-athletic family, where does it come from?, he took the lead
05:15On first step to the Olympics: was fairly good fairly early, was a fast twitch person which translated into short speed distances; at 10 broke first national record in the 50m freestyle; but between 11 -14 went through a maturing process, difficult time, took many steps backward; at 16 started swimming at a level where it was getting serious, by 17 made national B team, few years where almost didn't make it, almost stepped out of it
(06:12) "to the kids out there trying sport, there is a natural time when you are growing and learning how to manoeuvre your new body. Stick with it. If you are not sure that you like sport but you are not getting the results you want, stick with it because I'm sure it will come back to you."
06:42Where did the motivation come from: rare that I am a gay athlete and speak openly about it; already a double life, discriminated against in school so sport became a real saving place and tried to keep it hidden; sport played a very important role in my life, going through puberty and growing confused about his sexuality, felt general despair, swimming something to hang on to, probably why he kept on going at that time, he had friends, something positive, an important reinforcement at that time
08:35What strokes did you practice: most swimmer train all 4 disciplines; did free style early in his career but found the backstroke at 14 or 15 and it became his specialty; a lot of people have trouble with the backstroke because of not knowing where you are going and it is technically more challenging; he was really drawn to it and fairly good at it; in his era Canada was strong in the backstroke, so if you made top 8 in Canada you were almost guaranteed to make top 16 in the world, if you made the Canadian team in the backstroke you were a contender, lucky that he had a natural inclination with the talent so deep at the time "by becoming a good Canadian backstroker I became a good international backstroker."
09:52First international competition: made national B team in 1984 and went to Australia and New Zealand; fun to be part of the team and travel the world representing Canada
10:31On moving to Australia after retirement: during career went about a dozen time to Australia to compete and train; went after retired to get as far away as possible, where I felt I could recreate a life for myself and just come to terms with being who I was, not just a gay person but in terms of not being famous for awhile; there are a few that it happens to, Ben Johnson in 1988, when he won in 1992 the country was desperate for an Olympic Champion that could be held up to hold all the values they believed in, hard to embody that when he didn't feel that inside, struggles with his sexuality and integrity, very confused time
12:21On keeping his sexuality a secret: in 2006 it would be possible for an Olympian to say I'm gay, there were Olympians in Torino who are gay but didn't feel they could say it at that time; "for me, it was a fear of losing everything", he had seen it happen, saw people run out of sport because they were different; (13:38) that is the downside of sport, it has its upside but where there still needs to be room for improvement is the realization that there is room for everybody, and actually the richness of diversity and the ability to honour everybody on a team is going to make the team better".; there is a feeling have to play at the lowest common denominator and can be the lowest common denominator - straight, white, male , people don't know how to handle different ideas, different cultures and that is a loss for sport
Fear of being different, fear of exposing that, was it just my perception? - when he came out the reaction told him he was thinking the right way to protect his career
15:45How to achieve change, where does it start: change happened for him at a coaching level, not a swim coach but a synchronized swimming coach Debbie Muir who created an environment that was totally empowering and enabled him to trust her and share the burden, just one person knew but it created a space where he could be who he was and be validated and not rejected, it was incredibly empowering
Change has to start at the administrative, official and coaching levels, need to address the message of diversity: we are all equal on the team, if attitude imparted at an early age it will foster an attitude of respect and diversity
17:32Why were you fascinated with the East German women, was it about steroids: in 1976 they had an excellence that was compelling, for a man more in touch with his feminine side, something about the women who were obviously a little more masculine didn't quite correlate to what he saw in everyday life; by 1986 knew there were rumours of drug use, suspected it was going on, but still in awe of their excellence, steroids doesn't always guarantee a win,
(19:06) "I don't think steroids are ok"; most of the women didn't know what they were on, there was a momentum from watching each other win
19:52Were drugs prevalent in your era: personally naive and that served him well, hard to beat someone if you think they have an edge like drugs, psychologically that can be a barrier; suspected the East German women but not the men, they did not have the same results, remembers when Ben was caught in 1988 it didn't even enter his mind he was on steroids; later aware there were drugs in his environment but not systemic use; "for me I just believed everyone was on a level playing field and I could compete with the best in the world".
21:49In 1988 won a team relay medal but not an individual one, was that discouraging: it was devastating, the team was flat & down; new technology in the underwater dolphin kick which they chose to ignore and then found everyone else was using it; he out touched the other Canadian so earned a spot on the relay team and a chance at a medal, winning gave him a taste of what it was like to win, to see it was possible; to be with Victor Davis, who was a great leader, he feels Victor's legacy is his Gold medal and that his legacy is Curtis Myden's medals, it is the sustainability that counts
24:271992 Barcelona: was a medal favourite going in, likely a silver or bronze, gold wasn't supposed to happen, the American swimmer was 1.2 seconds ahead of the rest of the world at that time, he had a magnificent year, attributes it to the understanding of the knowledge of achievement, what it really takes to achieve, started from a devastating position of being so far behind and turning out to be a Cinderella victory coming from behind, set a new Canadian record three times and the Gold, big day with a big process behind it
25:56To what do you attribute it: the team was bombing, attribute it to the incredible concentration of coach Debbie Muir, talks about swimming coach Derek Snelling who coached him to 4th in world, had excellent synchronized swimming coach in Debbie who taught him the underwater dolphin kick and really took responsibility for own programme, wise enough to recognize when another's agenda or insecurity was getting in the way, "I was strong enough and had such a vision and so clear on how to break that down and what I had to do" that physically and technically ready, mentally prepared, will and state of mind; on Day 6 Canada had no medals, pressure on the team, everyone fell apart but had to deal with it, still stay strong and still believe that despite his friends no reaching their dreams, he was still going to reach his; he had done everything possible and on July 30 was able to connect
28:23On retiring: never swam again after Barcelona; spent 2 ½ years on a media and marketing blitz, one of the first crossovers into public speaking and whole new career opened up, regrets not doing that one last World Cup circuit, he lost his team mates, coach, way of life for a life on the road, very isolating, led him to ultimately walking away from that life and went to Australia
29:55On being managed in the business world: had good management; what was terrible was the secret, exponentially more difficult to deal with, being held up for the Olympic values, being gay was undermining some of those things, at same time had morality clauses in the contracts that if he was exposed he could lose it all, finally reconciled "You can have integrity and be gay and be involved in sport. These things are not mutually exclusive".
(31:01) "When you allow people to be themselves, when you allow for honesty, respect, integrity and fair play, then you are upholding the Olympic values. I think that it is an interesting thing for coaches, administrators and people in sport to look at. If you don't have an inclusive space, then really the Olympic values aren't able to thrive because the whole point is to celebrate humanity."
32:16On deciding he need time alone: my life isn't worth this, better to be alive to enjoy it so checked out for awhile, came back because recruited to be on the IOC stream by the then head of the COC, didn't work out; still stays active, hasn't swum in over a decade, as an athlete can't try other sports for fear of injury, now can try the other sports
35:14Life lesson: not one lesson, so interconnected, learn to win, learn to lose, embrace contradiction, want to win but its about participation, you want to win but sometimes you lose, the biggest lesson come from win/lose, sport allows for that
36:00What the world of sports means to Canada: it has a place but not sure what that place is; certain sports are part of the Canadian psyche, compares us to Australia, we don't have institutionalized support across the country to truly be a sport crazy place; the positive is that sport gave me a home, gave me belonging
37:30Do you learn more from winning or losing: "The win is wonderful. There is a glow but the glow doesn't last that long. In a sense you're only as great as your last great performance. The lose hurts and the pain sticks and that is where you tap into one of the most fundamental aspects of achievement, which is asking yourself questions because it forces you to do some self-examination. When you're winning it's very easy to keep going on and take things for granted. But it's a that soul searching, self-examination and awareness of asking yourself questions that I think is probably the most beneficial and it comes from losing."
38:28On the importance of sport: most people start in sport because they dream of being great. The harsh reality is that not many are going to get there. Hopefully along the way everyone understands it's just a great experience, so much fun to be pursuing a goal, that the goal doesn't have to become a medal or a trophy. It's about improving on what you did so it becomes a measurable, a personal result as opposed to an external one.
|Year Range from||1986|
|Year Range to||1992|
aquatics - swimming
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona
1988 Olympic Games Seoul
1986 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh
1990 Commonwealth Games
1991 World Championships