“Randy Bennett and Jozsef Nagy honored as Coaches of the Year”

Toronto, ON – Olympic Bronze Medalist Ryan Cochrane and Beijing Finalist Annamay Pierse were awarded the Omega Swimmers of Year title tonight during Swimming Canada’s annual Big Splash Awards Gala in Toronto. Paralympic Swimmers Valerie Grand’Maison and Benoit Huot also received the prestigious Team Aquatic Supplies Swimmers with a disability of the Year award for their outstanding showing during the Paralympic Games.

“It is truly an honor to receive this award especially during an Olympic Year,” said Ryan Cochrane. Before the awards gala presentation began, over 200 swimmers, coaches, parents and volunteers sat on the edge of their seat as they viewed a 10-minute video on Canada’s highlight moments in the pool for 2008. Following this heart pumping presentation, Canada’s Olympic bronze medalist Ryan Cochrane took the podium and inspired the room with his words.

“To get an opportunity to speak in front my peers and inspire young ones to come after us veterans was just icing on the cake for me tonight,” added Cochrane.

Annamay Pierse’s high-energy personality bode well with co-MC Benoit Huot’s charismatic charm as they lead the evening with great stories of how Canada battled their way through the water in Beijing. Special presentations were made to Swimmers and Coaches for their outstanding accomplishments during the 2007-08 season.

“I was so excited to receive the Top female of the year award,” said a smiling Pierse who is originally from Edmonton, AB. “My coach Jozseph and I worked so hard at perfectioning my stroke in the past year that it all paid off. I’m so pumped to get in and make the World Championships Team next summer.”

The Canadian Paralympic swim team completed the Games in Beijing with 23 medals (seven gold, seven silver and nine bronze). Top honors were presented to Benoit Huot and Valerie Grand’Maison of Montreal.
“Competing at my 3rd Paralympic and finishing with 4 bronze medals around my neck was a great feeling. I’m truly honored to receive such a award and co-host the Big Splash Gala,” said Benoit Huot.

Grand’Maison collected an impressive assortment of hardware during the Games. With 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze, this 19-year-old swimmer with a visual impairment wowed fans during the Games. “I was the underdog coming into the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Now that the world has seen what I can do, they will be trying to catch up to me. I’m really motivated about surprising the World again by going faster,” said Grand’Maison.

The 2008 Big Splash Awards Gala ended with a walk down memory lane, as Swimming Canada presented a video reel of great Canadian swimming moments as part of it’s 100 year anniversary celebration.

“It’s now time for you (pointing at all the swimmers in attendance) to add your mark to our history,” said Swimming Canada CEO and National Coach Pierre Lafontaine. “Go Canada Go!”

Full list of Awards presented at the Big Splash

Female Youth Swimmer of the year
Savannah King, UBC Dolphins
CSCTA Youth Swimmer of the year
Claude-Yves Bertrand

Male Youth Swimmer of the Year
Hassaan Abdel-Khalik, Etobicoke Swimming
CSCTA Youth Coach of the year
Kevin Thorburn

Female Junior Swimmer of the Year
Savannah King, UBC Dolphins
CSCTA Junior Coach of the Year Claude-Yves Bertrand

Male Junior Swimmer of the Year
Matthew Swanston, Newmarket Stingrays
CSCTA Coach of the Year Alan Swanston

Open Water Swimmer of the Year
Jarrod Ballem, University of Calgary Swim Club
CSCTA Open Water Coach of the Year
Mike Blondal

Female Team Aquatic Supplies Swimmers with a Disability of the Year award
Valérie Grand’Maison, CAMO Natation, coached by Pierre Lamy

Male Team Aquatic Supplies Swimmers with a Disability of the Year awards
Benoit Huot, CNPPO, coached by Benoit Lebrun

CSCTA Coach of the Year, Swimmers with a Disability
Pierre Lamy, CAMO Natation

Omega Female Swimmer of the Year
Annamay Pierse, UBC Dolphins
CSCTA Female Coach of the Year
Jozsef Nagy, Vancouver National Training Centre

Omega Male Swimmer of the Year
Ryan Cochrane, Island Swimming
CSCTA Male Coach of the Year
Randy Bennett

2008 Speedo Golden Kickboard Breakout Performers of the Year
Lindsay Seemann
Amber Thomas