2020-2021 PROFILES

Meet Joy Friesen, Prince Albert Sharks Swim Club

Joy Friesen is a 53-year-old mother of grown twin daughters, as well as two stepdaughters, who swims with the Prince Albert Sharks Swim Club in Saskatchewan and has taught at a post-secondary institute for 2 decades. While she loves her job, it can be stressful.

Joy started swimming with the Regina Optimist Dolphins (ROD) in Regina in 1974 at the age of 6. She swam for her entire childhood and through her teenage years. Joy was named the National Youth team in 1982 at the age of 14. She then earned a swimming scholarship to Brigham Young University in Utah where she attended from 1985-1988. Upon returning to Regina, after the completion of her degree, she began coaching swimming with ROD. Joy briefly swam as a masters swimmer in her early 30s, but once she had children life got the better of her. She returned to swimming in 2015 when she started exploring open water swimming as well as masters swimming.

Joy absolutely loves both for different reasons. Open water swimming is such an adventure and meditative in nature. Her favorite open water adventure to date is the Golden Gate Bridge race which she entered to commemorate turning 50. Joy feels Masters swimming is such a blast and one of her favorite things is the social aspect. Attending meets and meeting and reconnecting with childhood swimming friends is fantastic! Joy has really enjoyed attending the Master Championships the last few years.

Joy likes swimming in the mornings as it fits best into her weekly routine. She loves the feeling of starting her day with pushing herself to make the pace times the coach sets out. She still keeps a logbook where she records her entire workout, pace times, personal bests, just like when she was a kid! Swimming always puts her in a good mood, it is great for her body and even better for her mind! Joy finds that swimming demands a mindfulness that helps her let go of stress and worry and just be in the moment.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for Joy in several ways. Joy’s work became exponentially more difficult and without the physical and emotional outlet of swimming her stress levels peaked. She also felt defeated because she had worked very hard to be consistent in her training. Once swimming was no longer an option, she felt lost. Joy has returned to swimming this fall and while she not in the shape she was pre-Covid-19, she is completely enjoying the benefits swimming has to offer.

Within her club, Joy is the Masters Representative and a certified swimming official. She has found it exciting to see the Masters group expand in the last few years with new members joining with various swimming goals.

“Swimming has shaped pretty much my entire life. The mindset and lessons it has taught me as a child have endured and guided me in many ways. Principles like striving for my personal best, goal setting, hard work, dedication and determination, the power of the mind and attention to detail are all gifts swimming has given me.  Some of the best teachers were my failures in swimming and learning to get back in the pool and try again. Swimming has made me tough and strong and a fighter when life had gotten hard. ” – Joy Friesen

Meet Linda Stanley Wilson, White Rock Waves

Linda Stanley Wilson is a sixty-two year old retired university professor living in beautiful South Surrey British Columbia overlooking the Semiahmoo Bay. When she is not swimming, she is most likely to be in the garden or volunteering in her community. Linda started swimming at the end of high school when her school built a new pool. She loved it so much that she went on to swim at university in Calofirnia, play water polo, and even did some synchro (water ballet, as it was called in the 70s).

After university, she decided to keep swimming, but took up the sport in open water. Living in San Francisco at the time, Linda regularly swam with the San Francisco Dolphin Club in Aquatic Park. Her all-time favorite swim is the Trans Tahoe Relay Race because the water is so clear and blue, but a close second is the Maui Channel Relay Race. Linda just loves open water swimming and swimming in relays! She also coached a high school team during this time and has taught aquatics and outdoor education throughout her life.

Swimming is so important to Linda, that she gave her then-prospective husband a swim test before agreeing to dating. They met at Kits Pool in Vancouver, where he was there just for a tan! He did pass the swim test, but Linda usually considers him more of a deck ornament rather than a swimmer. Their son became a swimmer at an early age and enjoyed a short career in competitive swimming before turning to his real love—math and computers.

Linda moved to British Columbia, about 20 or so years ago, to take a position at UBC. She began swimming in a pool again for exercise and taught aquatics among other courses at UBC. She completed some open water swims and the yearly Polar Bear swim in English Bay. A few years ago, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer and continued swimming through treatment, but decided that maybe she would join a club for the camaraderie and recuperation, she had no intention of competing in pool races.

Linda joined the White Rock Wave because she had heard about the legendary coach, Carole Gair. Linda found it tough to listen to a coach telling her what to do after swimming on her own for decades! She had to un-learn her 1970s stroke mechanics, turns, and starts and learn to decipher the work-out board lingo and squint her old eyes enough so that she could see the pace clock. Linda agreed to swim in some races and found that her favorite thing was still relay races. She was very excited to set a BC record in a mixed 280+ relay and absolutely loves swimming with others!

Linda’s husband (the one who passed that early swim test) had just joined her on the team when they were shut down in March. She bought him a fancy wetsuit and he agreed to join her in open water swimming in early spring and this summer, but now that the ocean is down to about 13 degrees, he is bowing out. Until a local pool opens again, she and several of her swimming partners have vowed to continue swimming outdoors through the winter!! They shall see! They try for a minimum of three swims a week, but Linda will jump in whenever anyone else is up to it (usually sunny days!). Linda recently became the president of her club and is working on getting them some pool time when the one pool in their community opens, potentially, later this year.

Meet Vona MacMillan, Campbelton Aquatika Club

Vona MacMillan is a 52-year-old Family Physician who swims with, and also coaches, the Campbellton Aquatika Club in New Brunswick. Vona has swum all her life for exercise however only began competing when she joined Masters in 2004.

Running her own family medicine practice, which aIso includes hospital call obligations, she organizes her schedule to fit two swim practices in a week with her club. She does extra workouts on her own when she can and also completed a few swims in the Bay of Chaleur during the pool closures this past spring and summer. The Bay of Chaleur is a bit of a misnomer as it’s average water temperature in July and August off the shores of Campbellton is only 14º C.

As the present coach of the team Vona keeps track of all swimmers distances and times swum in workouts. She presented her swimmers, at the end of the last season, with a medal, individualized with their distance swum on the back. The distance swum is also converted into how far they have swum in a southerly direction from their home pool. Vona also submitted the participation of herself and her team mates in the Swimming Canada Monthly Challenges during the 2019-2020. Vona contributes to the Campbellton Aquatika Club as a member of their executive for the past several years and as a level III certified official taking time to train and encourage new officials.

In the masters’ program Vona learned all the strokes, turns and starts. She has competed in both the pool and open water at regional and national meets. The great coaches over the years, particularly those who encouraged participation in competitions and team mates who also competed have made competitions a fun activity which brings their team closer. Vona’s favorited part of a swim meet is when she is in the water competing in her events. The second is the social activities that follow. The warm-up period tops the list of least favorite part of a swim meet. Vona plans to compete in the next World Masters Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Passionate about the SPCA, she has two SPCA rescue dogs, she participates in the annual Restigouche SPCA fundraiser golf tournament which was started by her husband.

Living an active lifestyle that includes biking, walking, hiking and skiing, Vona describes swimming as ‘her everything’.

“It’s my form of exercise, my stress relief, my clear my mind activity, my social outing. I get stress relief and exercise from swimming. I continue swimming because I crave it.” – Vona MacMillan

Meet Detlev Grabs, Mégophias Trois-Rivières

Detlev Grabs is a 60-year-old who swims with the Mégophias Trois-Rivières. Detlev is a professor of anatomy at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), the appointment which brought him to Canada 13 years ago. Always more interested in science and sport, he will refrain from playing the flute or singing for us.

Detlev was born in East-Berlin and grew up in the German Democratic Republic where sport had an extraordinary value. He felt he fit right in. Detlev learned to swim at age five and started competing 2 years later. Through the GDR’S excellent recruitment program, he was chosen to attend a special sports school in Berlin at age 11. From there on he was destined to train hard and accomplish his school duties at the same time.

As a junior, he competed on the national and international level and in 1976 joined the senior National Team for the European Cup in Italy. He remained on the National Team until his retirement from competitive swimming in 1981 at age 21, at the European Championships. The highlight of his swimming career was the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

23.07.1980 – 23.07.2020
It’s been 40 years that my teammates Jörg Woithe, Frank Pfütze, Rainer Strohbach and myself won the Olympic silver medal in Moscow in the 4×200 free relay in 7:28.60 for the GDR. Some facts:
– we lowered our national record by 8.34 seconds
– we beat Brazil by 0.7 sec and if we would have been 2.23 seconds slower we would have finished 7th
– behind us were Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, Australia and France
Still a proud but distant memory.

Translation: Two pictures that tell a lot: Detlev Grabs of the GDR and Australian Mark Terry follow the battle of the final swimmers (left picture) in the 4X200m freestyle relay and their consecutive reactions after the final touch (right picture).

He worked at universities in Germany (Charité/Berlin), the USA (Yale/New Haven) and Switzerland (University of Fribourg) before becoming a full-time professor in Quebec.

During these years he continued to swim occasionally as time and opportunity were limited.

Since 2008 the pool has been just 3 minutes from his UQTR laboratory there was no way to bypass this opportunity to return to swimming. And while already being in the water multiple times a week, why not re-enter the competition scene as well. Detlev trains three times week between 2 and 3 km each session. Since the UQTR pool is in reconstruction workouts are between 7 and 9 pm, his wife accepts this crazy schedule that keeps him in shape.

Detlev had many swimming goals for 2020, his first year in the 60-64 age group. He did break 5 provincial records (QC) in the winter of 2020 and 2 Canadian long course records, in the 200 free and 200 back, in February 2020.

“Certainly, in this particular year everything was cut short. We stopped swimming in March as all of you and beside some dry land training and some lake sessions it took until September 8th to be back in the 25m pool. We will see what that means in the future. But we are back in the water, everything else will also fall in place. Until then, keep swimming and enjoying the challenges and the camaraderie around the pool. We will see each other in one of the next competitions to come.” – Detlev Grabs

Meet Shane MacMillan, Barrie Trojans Masters Swim Club

Shane MacMillan was swimming before he could walk. He has always felt more comfortable in the water than on land. Summers were spent swimming in the lake at the family cottage. He completed his Red Cross badges quickly and was poised to become a lifeguard. Life took at turn when Shane was fifteen, he was struck in the head with a bat and suffered a traumatic brain injury which still affects his life today at age 46. Following the brain injury Shane was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition where the myelin sheath that covers nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of the nervous system to communicate, leading to a range of physical and mental issues, causing significant physical disability.

Subsequent to his injury, Shane followed the path of alcohol and substance abuse which lead him to altercations with the law. His renewed faith, substance-free lifestyle, including smoking cessation after many years and a return to the pool in his forties, as a member of the Barrie Trojans Masters Swim Club, have enhanced every aspect of his life from motivation, health, finances and family life.  A recognized PARA swimmer with an S10 sports class designation, Shane is setting his sights on international Paralympic competition. The return to swimming through the Masters program has been a logical step on this path providing coaching and competition opportunities which respond to his present needs and abilities.

Today the husband and father of two girls is a firm believer that swimming has been a healer for him and his renewed life.