Tuesday, June 8, 2010

story: Prophetic Photograph

The first time I entered Percy Norman Pool was on opening day in April 1960. I remember driving over Little Mountain with my parents and looking through the trees before seeing the pool. We were rushing a little to get there in time for the ceremonies. A program of aquatic events had been planned and I was in the first race...the women's 100 m Freestyle.

It turned out to be a significant step in my Olympic journey.

The previous year, when I was thirteen, my mother told me that my best chance to make the Pan American Games team was to finish among the first 4 in the 100 m Freestyle at the trials. This was because the Selection Committee would likely send the top 4 girls for the Freestyle Relay.

You should always do what your mother tells you. And I did!

However, for the 1960 Rome Olympics, my mother predicted they would only send a Medley Relay (a team of four, one swimmer for each stroke). If I hoped to be chosen, I would have to win the 100 m Freestyle.

Well, again, I did as I was told!

Margaret Iwasaki had been alternate for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and was, by this time, the best in Canada for both Butterfly and Freestyle. I was not expected to win this exhibition race at the new pool. But I did! By 1/10th of a second!

And my family, including my sister Helen (1956 Olympics) knew that this boded well for me to make the 1960 Olympic Team.

An interesting note, I think, is that there were only 4 women swimmers representing Canada in Rome and only 10 women on the entire Canadian Olympic Team!

This photograph of the opening exhibition race (taken by Bill Cunningham of the Vancouver Province) was a foreshadowing of the 1960 Women's Olympic Swimming Team.

All 3 swimmers, coached by Howard Firby of the Dolphins, earned a spot on the team.

Myself, Mary Stewart for the 100 m Freestyle; Judy McHale for the 100 m Breaststroke and Margaret Iwasaki for the 100 m Butterfly.

The announcer standing behind us in the photo is Dick Jack who was named as the Swim Team Manager for the Rome Olympics.

By Mary Stewart McIlwaine

Mary taught school in Vancouver for 38 years. She and her husband, Robert, have a son, Edward, and a daughter, Marina.

On June 1st 2010 Mary posed for this portrait at Percy Norman Pool.

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