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Alex Baumann


Giving back to Canada in and out of the pool: Swimming champion Alex Baumann

Shortly after the Prague Spring of 1968, in which Czechoslovakia began to move out of the influence of the Soviet Union, a young Alex Baumann and his family left Prague and came to Sudbury, a city not far from the shores of Lake Superior in Ontario.

In Sudbury Alex took to swimming at a young age, where he soaked up every opportunity to get into the pool. Incredibly, at the tender age of just ten years old, he was training twice a day. Hard work, determination, and discipline were bedrocks of Alex's success, which he believes were fostered by his family's eastern European cultural values. As an adult, Alex reflects on his drive and motivation as being quite precocious - but this was all part of his drive to be the very best in the world.

The most successful year in the pool for Alex was 1984, at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. The now proud Canadian was one of our country's medal hopefuls, and was honoured with the flag bearing duties at the opening ceremonies. For Alex, it was "a once in a lifetime opportunity." It was not all smooth sailing however, as his father and brother passed away leading up to the Games. Overcoming this adversity, Baumann brought back two gold medals and a world record in the 400m medley for Canada.

Not only did Alex master all of the swimming strokes in the pool, he also had much to give to the sport outside of it. His pursuit of excellence continued as he has worked abroad as the CEO of Queensland Swimming in Australia, and also for High Performance Sport New Zealand. In Canada, his pursuit of excellence and drive to win was a perfect fit to lead Canada's Road to Excellence program for the summer Olympic sports. In a truly international life and career, Alex became a real champion for Canada and the sport of swimming, in and out of the pool.

head and shoulder photograph of Alex Baumann
Alex Baumann was born in Prague and immigrated to Canada with his family when he was five. He started swimming at age nine in Sudbury, Ontario where he had access to a new facility and a coach. He had a defining moment when he started winning competitions and setting records for his age group. He realized that he would have to work hard to continue his success, setting small realistic goals for each training session and long term goals as well.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Alex Baumann carrying Canadian flag
Alex Baumann was chosen to be the flag bearer for the Canadian Team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He went into these Games as the world record holder for both the 200 and 400 IM and carried a lot of pressure to win an Olympic gold medal, the first for Canada in swimming since 1912. He had to block out the media or he would have started to believe it was easier to win than it actually was. His focus and discipline helped him to win two Gold medals and set two world records at these Olympic Games.
Collection: CP Archive Photo/Dave Buston

photograph of Alex Baumann wearing swim cap
Alex Baumann had to overcome adversity during his career, including injury and the loss of his father. "Adversity is part of sport, it is part of life and if you can overcome that adversity it makes you a much stronger person. And these are skills that are important in life as well."
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Alex Baumann holding gold medal
For Alex consistency is the mark of a true champion. He used the experience of attending the Commonwealth Games and the World University Games as a stepping stone to competing at the Olympic Games. He realized from competing at these large multisport events how to deal with pressure, that you can only control the situation around you and that the key was to focus on what you wanted to achieve.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

two Olympic gold medals 1984
These are Alex Baumann's two Olympic gold medals. "The drive certainly came from swimming. It came from what my coach imparted as well, all the disciplined approach, the approach that if you work hard you'll have success as well. I'm very goal oriented and even if there are obstacles I feel that you overcome your obstacles and achieve your goals and move on to the next goal...I believe you have to be honest, prioritize and make hard decisions."
Collection: Private Collections Alex Baumann

photograph of George Hodgson wearing bathing suit
George Hodgson was Canada's only Olympic gold medal winner in swimming until 1984. During his brief competitive career which lasted for three years he never lost a race. At the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm he won two gold medals and set world records in both the 400m and 1500m freestyle races. Alex Baumann considered Hodgson's feats to be an inspiration in his drive to win Olympic gold.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

head and shoulders photograph of George Gate
George Gate was born in 1924 in Carlisle, England and immigrated to Canada in 1947 after serving in the British Royal Navy during World War Two. He was the manager of the Ocean Falls swimming pool in Vancouver where he developed and taught innovative swim techniques. He later moved to Montreal to manage the Point Claire Pool, where he was a pioneer in establishing coaching models that are the cornerstone of the sport. His philosophy was to always aim for excellence.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of George Gate surrounded by swimmers on pool deck
By the end of his long and distinguished coaching career, George Gate had trained 33 elite athletes and fourteen national swimming and diving coaches. He was also a pioneer in water safety and establishing lessons for novice swimmers, the disabled, those in rehabilitation and the elderly. Although he could be a stern disciplinarian who had high expectations he was always very proud of his athletes' accomplishments.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Jerome Drayton wearing laurel wreath
Jerome Drayton was born Peter Buniak in Germany in 1945. He had a solitary, tough childhood growing up in a group home until he immigrated to Canada with his mother in 1956. Even in Canada he had a difficult time and was often referred to as a "DP" or Displaced Person. He started running in high school, which led to his becoming a marathon runner. He later changed his name to reflect two of his running heroes Canadian Harry Jerome and American Paul Drayton. He brought focus, single-mindedness and a competitive nature to his running that led him to being one of the world's top athletes.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Jerome Drayton breaking finish line in Boston
When Jerome Drayton won the Boston Marathon in 1977, running as compared to today, was still in its infancy. It was an era when training, diet, shoes, physiotherapy and other support was much less than it is today. The Boston Marathon did not even have water stations. As an amateur he was not paid to compete and he trained outside of his work hours. His dedication to training and his ability to concentrate made him an exceptional runner.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

white mesh race singlet with maple leaf and CANADA
This race singlet was worn by Jerome Drayton at the Fukuoka and Boston Marathons. The Fukuoka Marathon was considered to be the unofficial World Championship. Drayton won this race three times in his career, competing against the elite of the world. In 1975 he set a Canadian record time, which has lasted despite the fact that the science of running has improved. His record time has proved to be the inspiration and motivation in Canadian marathon running today.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

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