An interview by Kerry Smith of Technosport Ottawa – August 22, 2011
Lynn Marshall is one of seven inductees to be honoured by the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) annual ceremony on Friday evening, September 16, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, Jacksonville, Florida, in conjunction with the United States Aquatic Sports Convention. Lynn becomes the second Canadian Masters swimmer to be inducted into the IMSHOF, and is already a member of the Masters Swimming Canada Hall of Excellence.
Since 1986 Lynn Marshall, of Canada, has been among the world’s Top 10 Masters swimmers every year and has set five long course and 23 short course FINA Masters World Records. She has done all this while being a full-time professor at Carleton University. I sat down with Lynn in Ottawa on August 10, 2011 to discuss her life and athletic career.
Q1. Congratulations on your induction into the ISHOF. How did you first find out and how do you feel about the induction? Are family members planning to be there?
I was about to have cataract surgery, and I got an e-card from Bonnie Pronk congratulating me on my induction into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame. I hadn’t even been notified. The Hall of Fame contacted me the next day. My parents are planning to be there; they live in Victoria B.C.
Q2. What influence has your family had on your athletic career, and how have they influenced your attitude and way of thinking about training and competition?
My parents are very supportive of whatever I want to do. As kids, they wanted us to be able to swim so that we had confidence at the cottage and learning to sail. My parents are still active; mom at 75 and dad at 80; they still go hiking. All our family members are activeâ€”sailing, curling, tennis, cricket, figure skating, etc. I was born in England and came to Canada with my parents as British subjects who could live and vote in Canada back then. When the law changed, my sister my parents and I became Canadians. My parents are supportive. My parents became involved in swimming because they didn’t just want to be spectators. They became meet officials. They were never competitive swimmers.
Q3. You have been a masters swimmer since 1986. What changes and/or improvements have you seen in the sport? What do you see as the sport’s strengths and weaknesses? What improvements would you like to see?
I turned 25 in 1986 when I lived in Manchester, and a friend encouraged me to become a masters swimmer. What has changed is that there are many more teams and swimmers. In Manchester, I trained with an age group team and competed as a masters swimmer under a team based in London. Now there are teams in almost every major community. Strengths inclusiveness. You meet people from every walk of life. What is very interesting is seeing people in their life outside of swimming. It is a supportive atmosphere with no pressure to compete unless you want to. The social aspect is important as is the health aspect of regular exercise. As for weaknesses, the size of competitions can get out of hand, making it hard to stay on schedule. That in turn can lead to making it difficult to swim really well, for instance, when you share lanes and can’t use the starting block in longer events. Sometimes you swim late into the evening. Those things can make it difficult to swim your best and perhaps set records. It seems that the sport has grown bigger and faster than facilities and organizations can accommodate. Improvements: One thing that I think would be nice is to have all swimmers have three timers, not just the people who are trying for a record setting swim. Either it is an official swim or it isn’t. Having officials calling for a third timer and having people asking what time you are going for, just before you swim, is distracting and causes unnecessary stress.
Q4. In your profile, you list the accomplishment of a 1st Dan Black Belt in Judo. Tell me about that? How has it influenced your swimming?
When I went to Manchester for grad work, the swim team was kind of Mickey Mouse. If I wanted to train seriously, I needed to swim with an age group team. Socially, I needed some activity with adults, so I joined the Judo group and in about two and a half years, I attained the black belt. I had the advantage that there were fewer women in judo and I was bigger than most and my weight was an advantage, particularly once I got them down on the floor. I broke my neck in 1993 and I donâ€™t do judo now. I broke it during a triathlon. I was leading the race at the beginning of the cycling leg and following a police car when an elderly man drove out between me and the police car and he slammed on the brakes when he saw the police car. I braked, but not in time to avoid slamming into his car.
Q5. You also list flying trapeze in your profile. How does that figure into your life?
I went to the Dominican Republic with a group of Carleton Masters women, where it was an activity at the resort. When we got back, I traveled to Montreal to do it but it was difficult to keep up the schedule, so I dropped it.
Q6. Aside from your academic pursuits, you list reading is important to you. What role does it have in your life and athletic pursuits?
I don’t have a TV, so I read for entertainment, to relax and to get ready to sleep. Reading about swimming is helpful. I subscribe to a couple of swimming magazines, and I try some of the techniques myself and sometimes I get the swimmers I coach to try them.
Q7. In swimming, what was your proudest moment so far? What was your most discouraging moment?
The highest point for me so far was the five kilometre open water swim that I won in the 1992 Worlds in Indianapolis. As a woman, I was not allowed to be seeded in the first two waves. I came in first overall by eight seconds, beating all the men and women. It was interesting because I became an instant celebrity for the rest of the week with people coming up to me asking for my autograph. It was a relief, though, to go home and back to life as usual. The lowest point was in July 1993 after I broke my neck in the triathlon. I went home after the triathlon in Kingston, Ontario, and the hospital visit not knowing that I had a broken neck. They misread the X-ray. I got a call from the Kingston hospital the next day saying that I had to get to a hospital immediately. Then, I was lying in my hospital bed and overheard the interns in the hallway say, Yeah, she used to be a really good swimmer.â€ My heart sank. My freestyle has never been the same as I don’t have as much neck mobility, but it worked out in the end.
Q8. Would you summarize for me your philosophy of life and sport? As far as sports goes, even if you swim for fitness, you need to have goals. At Carleton, where I coach, I try to reward people for their goals whatever they may be. If getting your name in the newsletter as having perfect attendance is your goal, I encourage it. The goals don’t have to be super lofty; the main thing is to have goals that help you be active. It has to be something convenient and that you enjoy. As for life in general, you have to figure out your focus and, as life changes, figure out your priorities and set your goals.
Q9. Who are your swimming and sports idols?
It was great to hear last year that Bonnie Pronk would be the first Canadian inducted into the International Masters Hall of Fame In 1980, Vladimir Salnikov broke the 1500 meter long course freestyle barrier of 15 minutes. He missed the 1984 games due to the Russian boycott, but in 1988, when he was 28 years old, everyone said he was too old to compete at the Olympics. The USSR officials said that if he wanted to compete, they would send him. He didn’t break his own record that year, but he won again. When he walked into the athletes village cafeteria late that evening, everyone stood up and applauded him. It was so poignant that it brought me to tears, and to this day thinking about it still does. Tom Watson, at over 60 years of age won the Masters Golf tournament. Anyone who is older and accomplishes something tremendous impresses me. June Krauser, an American masters swimmer, inspires me. In her 70s and 80s, she tried to beat her times in at least one event each year. Not only did she swim all strokes, she swam the toughest events including the 400 metre individual medley, and the 800 and 1500 metre freestyle events.
Q10. What’s the next challenge for you?
I got the news of the induction on the day of my cataract surgery, which took me away from swimming for three weeks. I have only been back in the pool for two and a half weeks, so I have to get back into shape. I missed the 1500 metre short course at provincials by 1.9 seconds, so I have to get ready to try again. Part of the challenge is to find a meet that has optimal circumstances, that is, it allows a start from the block, assigns one swimmer per lane and has cool water. It is surprisingly rare.
Thank you, Lynn, for taking time for this interview and again, congratulations on your induction.
Summary of Lynn’s Masters Records as of August 1st, 2011
Since 1986, Lynn has set many World, National, and Provincial records in a variety of events in age groups 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, and 50-54. 2011 (50-54 Age Group): This year Lynn has set 13 new World Records in 11 different events. One (SCM 100bk) has already been broken, so she currently holds 10: SCM: 400fs, 800fs, 200bk, 200fl, 400IM; and LCM: 400fs, 800fs, 1500fs, 200bk, 400IM. She has also set 34 new National Records in 19 different events: 200fs, 400fs, 800fs, 1500fs, 200bk, 100fl, 200fl, 200IM, and 400IM, both SCM and LCM; plus SCM 100bk. And, she has set 59 new Provincial Records in 31 of the 35 different events (all except for 50br and 100br, both SCM and LCM).
Pre-2011 (25-29 through 45-49 Age Groups):While many of her old records have been broken, Lynn currently holds one 45-49 World Record: SCM 1500fs. She also holds 46 Nationals records and 76 Provincial records set in 2010 and before.
Kerry Smith swims with Technosport in Ottawa. He is a corporate communications consultant and life coach. He is a former figure skating champion and coach, whitewater kayaker and instructor, and now does occasional workshops on butterfly stoke.