Stellar student in the swim of things
Student `example of all the great things that can happen in university
sport,' says coach
by Don Wells staff writer
With the graduation of Faculty of Arts student and varsity swimmer
Mark Versfeld, UBC will bid adieu to one of the most outstanding
athletes in its 86-year history. But it won't just be the 28 international
medals his coaches and teammates will remember him for the 11 national
Above all, they will remember him for his leadership and selfless
"As team captain, it was the little things he did that were noticeable
-- posting team goals, getting the guys together to visit a sick
teammate and always offering to assist the coaching staff in any
way possible," says UBC head swim coach Tom Johnson. "He is an example
of all the great things that can happen in university sport."
The 25-year-old Economics major and native of Fort McMurray also
set an example in the classroom.
In each of his five years at UBC he was named a Royal Bank Academic
All Canadian for maintaining a grade point average in excess of
80 per cent in a course of full-time study while competing as a
His crowning academic achievement occurred just weeks ago, when
he was honoured as Western Canada's top Royal Bank Academic All
Canadian for 2000-2001, selected from a list of nominees from 11
"UBC had everything I wanted," he says when asked why he chose
UBC over the multitude of Canadian and US schools that tried to
recruit him. "It was a respected school and had the best atmosphere
in Canada to train."
The year after he came to UBC, the men's swim team won the first
of four consecutive national university championships. Between 1997
and '99 he won silver and bronze medals in backstroke at the Pan
Pacific and World Championships, two gold at the Commonwealth Games
and earned a spot on Canada's 2000 Olympic team.
He wrapped up his university swim career last March by winning
the Bobby Gaul Trophy as the most outstanding graduating male athlete.
He holds a total of five UBC records, as well as one Canada West,
one Canadian and one Commonwealth Games record.
He also contributed to community activities undertaken by the
Thunderbird Athlete's Council, including visits to Lower Mainland
elementary schools designed to encourage kids to pursue sport and
His wide-ranging curiosity also compelled him to pursue other
non-sport activities, including serving as vice-president of an
investment club he helped form. Somehow he has found the time to
dabble as a painter.
Versfeld remains uncertain about career plans, but says his broad-based
education will equip him for life after his competitive career is
"Before I decide, I'll want to take a big breath and make sure
it's the right thing," he says. "I feel like I've been given all
the tools to go in any direction."
For the time being, that direction is Manchester and the 2002 Commonwealth
Games where he will close out his competitive career, and one of
the most remarkable chapters in UBC sport history.
War crimes prosecutor
receives degree Nov. 22
A PhD in breakthroughs
The schedule of ceremonies for the Fall Congregation can be found
on the UBC Ceremonies & Events Web site at http://www.external-affairs.ubc.ca/ceremonies/.