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Canadian Olympic Swim Team (and former T-Bird) coach Tom Johnson says UBC swimmers will make a splash in Beijing - photo by Martin Dee
Canadian Olympic Swim Team (and former T-Bird) coach Tom Johnson says UBC swimmers will make a splash in Beijing - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 7 | Jul. 3, 2008

Achieving Excellence One Lap at a Time

By Catherine Loiacono

Under the guidance of head coach Tom Johnson, the 2008 Canadian Swim Team’s chances for Olympic success look good. And UBC’s swimmers are expected to bring home medals.

This veteran swim coach -- who spent 16 successful years coaching UBC’s Varsity team -- has completed a few laps of the pool himself. Johnson placed 19 swimmers on the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Canadian Olympic teams.  He was a member of Canada’s coaching staff at eight Olympic Games, nine world championships and eight Commonwealth Games. His clubs won 15 national team titles and 21 Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships.

Johnson believes his UBC Olympic hopefuls -- Brian Johns and Brent Hayden, who are part of the 27-member team, are primed for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and will return with medals in hand.

“Patience, concentration, perseverance and self-discipline are the four fundamental tenets to achieve Olympic success,” says Johnson, who also heads the National Aquatic Centre at UBC. “These 27 athletes are committed to their sport and continuously demonstrate that they are comfortable being uncomfortable. They have what it takes to make the podium.”

As UBC’s Varsity Swim Coach, Johnson was instrumental in developing UBC’s reputation as a top destination for athletes wanting to pursue higher education and high performance sport. “The same principles required in sport apply to academic and career success,” says Johnson. “At UBC, we have been able to create an opportunity for prospective students to follow more than one passion and be successful in both.”

Johnson’s work led to Swim Canada designating UBC’s Aquatic Centre as one of nine high performance centres in Canada in 1998. “We used an integrated approach and collaborated with community programs including the UBC Varsity Team, the National Team and the Pacific Dolphins,” says Johnson. The UBC Aquatic Centre remains one of only two National Aquatic Centres in Canada following some structural reorganization after the 2004 Athens Olympics.  The other is in Montreal.

Johnson says the Beijing Olympics will be more challenging and competitive because more nations have put a priority on swimming. However, he feels the unrealized potential at the last Olympics combined with the renewed focus on sport in advance of 2010 is helping coaches, athletes, administrators and the public at large to better  understand what it takes to win.

According to Johnson no career is a linear progression. “Athletes must realize that they will not swim great all the time but need to swim great at the right time,” says Johnson. “That is what the Olympics and life are all about -- being the best you possibly can at the right moments.”

The best advice Johnson has to offer aspiring athletes and students is to live their dream, be present in the moment and value the journey.  “Only then will they be able to experience and appreciate the highs and learn from the lows.”

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Last reviewed 02-Jul-2008

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