Lac Megantic organizers among award honourees

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OTTAWA – As part of the 2013 Annual General Meeting weekend Swimming Canada took the opportunity to recognize some of the outstanding achievements of its members.

Leading off the awards presented Friday at the Galarie St. Laurent + Hill, the 2013 President’s Award was presented to La Traversée internationale du lac-Mégantic Organizing Committee. Organizing a major swimming event is a challenge at the best of times, but La Traversée internationale du lac-Mégantic faced incredibly difficult circumstances this summer.

A devastating train derailment took the lives of 47 community members on July 6 and destroyed the downtown core. With lac-Mégantic scheduled to host the FINA Grand Prix Open Water event Aug. 10, the organizers were faced with the loss of their offices, and a community in mourning.

The organizers, led by President Francois Lessard, Vice-President Kevin Laflamme, Administrators Serge Rosa and Marco Audet and Secretary-Treasurer Dominque Jean, were able to rise from the grief and host a successful international event. In honour of the way the community pulled together, Swimming Canada has acknowledged the organizers with its President’s Award for 2013. This recognition is awarded at the discretion of Swimming Canada’s president to athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, sports leaders and builders who have made a significant and profound impact on the development and capacity of swimming in Canada.

Three other Swimming Canada awards were handed out during the organization’s Annual General Meeting weekend.

Lynn Laprade of Gatineau, Que., received the Ken Filippelli Excellence in Officiating Award for exemplifying the true spirit of the sport of swimming, demonstrating fair play, integrity, respect for others and a commitment to swimming. The longtime official and swimming volunteer officiated 16 meets in the past year alone, including Swimming Canada’s World Championships Trials, and the FINA World Junior Championships in Dubai.

The Volunteer Contribution Award went to Christian Blais, for long-term contributions and promotion of Swimming Canada’s overall goals, consistent with the vision, mission and core values of Swimming Canada. Blais began serving on the board of directors of Club de natation Mégophias (Trois-Rivières, Que.) in 1999. He has also served in various roles on the board of the Fédération de natation du
Québec (FNQ). He stepped down from FNQ in June 2012 to be even more active in the organization of the 15TH FINA World Masters Championships to be held in Montréal summer of 2014.

Finally André Despatie (St-Hippolyte, Que.) was recognized with the Volunteer of the Year Award for contributions over the previous 18-month period. In particular, Despatie was president of the FNQ board of directors in 2012-2013 and was the Co-Chair of the Montreal 2013 Canadian Age Group Championships organizing committee. The event, which is the preeminent age group championships in the Canada, hosted more than 1,000 athletes, 250 coaches and 400 volunteers/officials for the six-day competition. 

These individuals and the committee are just the tip of the volunteer pyramid that helps Canadian swimming to operate. Roughly 39,000 volunteers are needed each year to operate more than 1,300 competitions hosted across the country. 

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