Mark Tewksbury discusses his Silver medal in the 100m backstroke at the 1991 World Aquatics Championship in Australia. Tewksbury hires coach Debbie Muir to help him reduce his time for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. He discusses his race day nerves, his surprise to win Olympic Gold, and being an amateur athlete winning the Lionel Conacher Award.

Creator: Bruce Weir

© 2012, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.


Transcript

(Mark Tewksbury) About 18 months before the Olympics I seemed to be a fingernail away from my dream. I was six one-hundredths of a second behind the World Record Holder Jeff Rouse at the World Championships in Australia. About six months later he smashed the World Record. He dropped 1.2 seconds from that time that we had swam at the World Championships. I’d been thinking 55:1, 54:9 where I think the World Record would be is has been demolished. So I had to absolutely go back to zero, even in terms of what was possible. Not just for me but for a human being to swim a hundred metre backstroke.

(Stadium Announcers) Representing Canada, Mark Tewksbury.

(Mark Tewksbury) I happened to run into one of the world’s greatest underwater technical experts, Debbie Muir, she saw that 30% of my race was swam under water, 50 metres off the start, 50 metres off the turn. I was spending probably less than 1% of my training time on that. And so just from pure mathematics she started to see okay, if I start to bring you some of that expertise to the area you’ve done nothing in, 30% of your race is a lot of room to improve. And so that started the hope.

(Announcer) There’s a lot of Canadian fans here tonight cheering on Mark Tewksbury but also a strong American contingent is cheering for their World-Record Holder, Jeff Rouse.

(Mark Tewksbury) I was terrified of Jeff Rouse. I’d never spoken to him in my whole life. I had to have a complete mental program just for dealing with Jeff at the Olympics.

(Announcer) Jeff Rouse has a phenomenal start in lane four, Mark will be behind and have to play catch up.

(Mark Tewksbury) Everything that day felt right, everything. The very last test to get to this stadium for my final, I got on a bus and it was 90% the American swimming team who are my two major competitors in the final. And myself and my team manager and all our Canada gear walking up the aisle with everyone turning and looking at us and pretending not to, you know and just thinking I can’t turn around and get off this bus.

(Announcers) … he touches in second place, he’s ahead of the other American. A little bit weak off the turn there as you noticed. Again Rouse has phenomenal turning ability. He’s out in front. Mark has to play catch up again, but he’s good at that, he’s got to pick it up right now. Here we are 25 metres left, the men’s 100 metre backstroke. It is between Rouse and Tewksbury. Here comes Mark Tewksbury to the final 5 metres. Rouse and Tewksbury, it’s going to go to the wall, and on the wall, …..Tewksbury! He’s done it. Olympic record.

(Mark Tewksbury) It’s just a natural reaction to see your name blink first it meant I’d won a race. Then the shock came because it was when I sort of landed on the lane rope that I realized, oh my God I won the race, like this is the Olympics. This is the dream.

I remember exactly where I was when I got the call about the Lionel Conacher Award. I remember being struck because it was the Canadian Press that tends to cover more professional sports. I believe it was Mario Lemieux in those days that was the superstar hockey player, but I thought, really nice honour for an amateur athlete, a swimmer to be awarded this very prestigious award over some of the professional athletes.


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