The Sports Peakbox: swimming

Learn more about SFU’s aquatic activities

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A shot of a swimmer heading back into the water after taking a moment to come up to the surface during a butterfly stroke.
Your water-related questions, answered! Photo: Gentrit Sylejmani / Unsplash

By: Sara Wong, Arts & Culture Editor

Welcome to The PeakBox. My name’s Sara, aspiring mermaid and your host for this week.  In this segment, The Peak answers student submitted questions about sports at SFU. This week, we focused on swimming.

1) How is SFU doing so far this season?

SFU’s swim team has been very successful so far. At the Logger Relays, which took place last month in Washington state, the team won first overall. Out of nine races each, the men won five and the women emerged victorious in every event. The Logger Relays also marked head coach Demone Tissira’s debut with the SFU team, making their first place finish even more special. 

2) What kind of races can swimmers compete in?

The cornerstones of competitive swimming are backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. Backstroke involves swimming on — you guessed it — your back, with a flutter kick and alternating arm movements. Meanwhile, breaststroke and butterfly are swum facedown. In the former, you move your arms in a semicircle motion while your legs perform a frog kick. The latter uses a dolphin kick as you simultaneously throw your arms forward out of the water. Freestyle allows competitors to choose what stroke they want to swim.

A combination of the aforementioned four strokes is called a medley. Swimmers participate in these categories either as individuals or in teams during relay events. For each style, the length varies between 50–10,000m

3) How do swim meets operate in the NCAA?

In addition to the race events listed above, the NCAA has categories for the following:

  • Backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly: 50m
  • Individual medley: 100m
  • Freestyle and medley relays: 4×50m

There are also events measured in yards instead. “In USA swimming competitions, swimmers compete in yards during the school year and meters in the summer.” The former is often referred to as a short course season, where the pools are 25 yards in width. This is the standard in NCAA swimming competitions. 

4) What are some swimming records at SFU?

On the SFU Athletics swimming and diving website, you can find a list of the top five fastest swim times, broken down by category and gender binary (men and women). The most recent number one records were achieved in 2020 by Collyn Gagne and Antonio Morino of the men’s team. Gagne completed the 400 yard individual medley in 3:47.36 and Morino swam the 200 short course metre breaststroke in 2:12.98. 

Meanwhile, the longest-held record so far is in the women’s 200 yard freestyle relay, which was won in 1995 by Karen Chow, Ala Ferguson, Sharon Turner, and Diana Ureche with a time of 1:35.18. Also of note are Jessie Gibson (11) and Adrian VanderHelm (10), who hold the most individual records.

5) Have any SFU swimmers competed in international competitions (Olympics, etc.)?

A handful of SFU swimmers have competed at the Olympic level! One of them, Bruce Robertson, was the first medalist from SFU. He won silver in the 100m butterfly and bronze in a 4×100m medley relay at the 1972 games in Munich. Freestyle swimmer Gary Macdonald added to the total with his silver medal during the 1976 Olympics. Other Olympic competitors include Doug Martin (1976) and Diana Ureche (1992).

SFU swimmers have also placed well in the Pan American Games. In 2003, Kathleen Stoody earned three medals — one silver and two bronze — competing in the 4×100m medley relay and the 100 and 200m breaststroke. 

6) Can students go swimming in the leisure complex pool?

Yes, SFU and FIC students can use the Aquatic Centre. However, you have to reserve a slot online first. This also means your recreation membership must be active. Instructions on how to register for both can be found online. The Aquatic Centre is open until 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. Some of the sessions are for women only. For more details, and to learn more about SFU Recreation’s health and safety protocols, visit their website