Outstanding volunteers, official receive awards

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CALGARY – Swimming Canada handed out three annual awards and its President’s Award Friday as part of the Canadian Swimming Congress in Calgary.

The awards were given during the Swimming Canada and Canadian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association Awards and Recognition Reception at the Westin Calgary Hotel.

Swimming Canada presented its President’s Award posthumously to coaching pioneer George Gate.

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. Gate, who died last month at age 89, inspired countless other coaches and swimmers to excel over a career that spanned decades. Gate is an honoured member of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence.

Originally from England, Gate was head coach of the Ocean Falls Amateur Swimming Club in British Columbia from 1950 to 1964. The list of swimmers he developed includes Ralph Hutton, Allan, Ron and Sandy Gilchrist, Jack Kelso, Lenora Fisher and Richard Pound, a 100-metre freestyle finalist who later became an influential IOC executive and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Gate moved to Montreal in 1964 and continued to affect not only swimmers, but other coaches working for him. As a coach, Gate was ahead of his time in both training and sports psychology.

“George made such a lasting contribution to our sport, not only by his own accomplishments, but also all those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Swimming Canada President David de Vlieger, who presented the award to Gate’s son Bill. “Canadian swimming continues to be led by people who worked with George and his influence is felt at all levels. His legacy isn’t just what he did, but what others continue to do.”

Jim Boire received the Volunteer of the Year Award, recognizing important contributions over the previous 18-month period. Boire, who serves as meet manager for the Saskatoon Goldfins, worked tirelessly to help find solutions for the air quality and water issues as the Shaw Centre.

His engineering background proved invaluable in working with a consultant and engineering company hired by the City to undertake the air handling system upgrade in time for the Canadian Swimming Championships in July.

The Volunteer Contribution Award, which recognizes long-term contributions and promotion of Swimming Canada’s overall goals, consistent with the vision, mission and core values of Swimming Canada, went to Swim Alberta President Doug Bird. Bird has been on the board since 2000, including 10 years as president, and has been volunteering for more than 25 years in a variety of roles, from volunteer official to committee member to board member to Chair of Swim Canada’s Presidents Council. He has also been appointed Competition Coordinator for a number of national championship meets.

Although his children no longer swim, Bird still supports the University of Calgary Swim Club as advisory referee and mentor to developing officials, and was previously a board member and served in other volunteer roles. He has also served on the board of directors for the Lindsay Park Sport Society, including chair of the board. He was also a driving force in the addition at the Talisman Centre, including a secondary 50-metre pool.

Meanwhile, Annette Gillis took home the Ken Filippelli Award for Excellence in Officiating, given to someone who exemplifies the true spirit of the sport of swimming, demonstrating fair play, integrity, respect for others and a commitment to swimming.

Gillis has been involved in swimming for more than 30 years. She began officiating while her children were swimmers and grew increasingly involved over the years, becoming a Master Official in 1996. Gillis has also served on a number of boards for local and regional swimming organizations. She spent 10 years on the board of directors of Swim Alberta and as chair of the Alberta Officials Committee.

She remains involved at the national level with the Officials, Competition and Rules Committee with Swimming Canada. She was also Technical Rules Chair for Swimming Canada and has served as Competition Coordinator for a number of Swimming Canada designated meets. Internationally, she was appointed as a FINA referee in 2007, and is also a Level 1 International Paralympic Committee Swimming International Technical Official.

Meanwhile, the CSCTA also launched its Hall of Fame at the awards reception. Canadian coaching legends Deryk Snelling, along with the late Howard Firby and Nick Thierry, were inducted as the inaugural class of the CSCTA Coaching Hall of Fame.

The five-day Canadian Swimming Congress, which runs through Sunday in partnership with Swim Alberta, brings together hundreds of coaches, officials and swimming leaders for meetings, education and awards.

The event continues Saturday with a joint breakfast keynote from international climber and inspirational speaker Warren Macdonald, followed by the Annual General Meetings of Swimming Canada and Swim Alberta.

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