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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 18 | November 15, 2001

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 titles.

Above all, they will remember him for his leadership and selfless attitude.

"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 varsity athlete.

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 other universities.

"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 education.

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 over.

"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.

See also

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/.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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