Donovan Tildesley will be representing Canada in the Paralympic Games for the third time this summer - photo by Martin Dee
UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 7 | Jul. 3, 2008
Sep. 11, 2008
UBC alumnus Donovan Tildesley, Canada's flag bearer for the Paralympic Games, won bronze in 400-metre S11 swimming in Beijing.
Sep. 4, 2008
Donovan Tildesley has been named by the Canadian Paralympic Committee as Canada's flag bearer for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. As flagbearer, Tildesley will lead the Canadian Paralympic team of 143 athletes into the Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest, for the Games Opening Ceremony. The XIII Paralympic Games run September 6-17, 2008.
Tap and Rope Guide Swimmer to Victory
By Brian Lin
At age 24, new UBC grad Donovan Tildesley has broken two world records, won a dozen gold medals in international swim meets and is part of Team Canada for the third time in the Paralympic Games in Beijing this summer.
The Vancouver native is also a motivational speaker and part owner of a small radio station in Whistler, B.C.
Tildesley, who was born blind, won a bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics and two silver and one more bronze medal in Athens in 2004. He’s currently the No. 2-ranked swimmer with a disability in the world in the 400-metre freestyle.
“Competing in the Paralympics was one of the most amazing experiences in my life,” says Tildesley, who began racing at age nine with the help of his father and coach Hugh, a former competitive swimmer.
Hugh is also Donovan’s “tapper,” charged with the vital task of tapping his son on the head with a pole when he’s one stroke away from the wall.
“The questions I get asked most is how do I avoid swimming into the wall, and how I swim in a straight line,” explains Tildesley.
Using the lane rope as a guide, Tildesley must keep his arms straight and centred as to keep on course. “As I get tired, keeping my arms symmetrical becomes more difficult, but that’s part of the sport.”
Since graduating from UBC this spring with an English degree, Tildesley has been busy speaking at schools and community events on behalf of the RBC Olympians Program. “I love it as much as competing in the pool,” says Tildesley. “It’s a chance to step outside myself and tell my story.
“If I can enrich, inspire or help change someone’s life, that makes me happy.”
Another thing that makes Tildesley happy involves skis and may not be everybody’s cup of tea. “There’s nothing more thrilling than being on top of Spanky’s Ladder on Blackcomb and making the 500 vertical feet drop.”
Now imagine doing that with your eyes closed.