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45 Years For The Fort McMurray Swim Club

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A celebration of swimming was held at MacDonald Island on Saturday, October 22nd. The Fort McMurray Mantas Swim Club hosted a 45th Anniversary Celebration & Awards Night for team members, families, alumni, coaches, executive and a special guest – Canadian Olympian Yuri Kisil.

The day kicked off for the Club’s competitive swimmers with an afternoon pool learning session with Yuri Kisil. Being in the pool with an Olympian was a special experience for the young swimmers. Especially one who stands 6’6” and has raced head to head against Michael Phelps!

The evening banquet was opened with an address by Club President Craig Ewashko who reflected on four and a half decades of swimming in Fort McMurray and the impact the club has had on children in this community over the years. It has taught them discipline, hard work, perseverance and being part of a team, setting them up with the essential elements to be healthy, athletic leaders throughout their lives. 

Following a buffet dinner guests viewed an epic historical film taking viewers through each decade of the Club’s rich history. It was founded in 1971 by a small group of volunteer parents following the completion of Centennial Pool. From there numerous photos and newspaper clippings were shown of the early club swimmers and their awards and successes. The 1980s highlighted the growth of the club and the swimming success attributed to the coaching of Don Wilson and his assistant the late Randy Bennett who started in Fort McMurray and became the national coach of the Canadian Olympic swim team for the London 2012 Olympics. 

There was a summary of the successes and record setting performances of Mark Versfeld and Jennifer Button who would both go on to participate in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The swimming records of future Stanley Cup Champion Nolan Pratt were also on display. The three provincial champion’s banners and the successful 15 year program led by coach Rick Burton were then featured along with photos of the provincial & national level achievements of Karina Klein, Katelyn Cachia, and Danielle Newton. The final portion reviewed the move to MacDonald Island and the current generation of swimmers as well as the Club’s success under former head coaches Andro Iordanishvili and Alex Godbeer. 

Yuri Kisil then spoke about his development as a young swimmer, various injuries and setbacks in his career, before he underwent an explosive physical growth period matched only with his equally explosive achievements in the pool. He described his triple medal performance at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, his FINA World Championship debut, winning a bronze medal as part of the inaugural mixed 4x100m freestyle relay. At the 2014 Canadian Olympic Trials, Kisil was the youngest Canadian man to ever post a sub 50-second time in the 100m freestyle. He raced in both the 50m and 100m freestyle events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In his Olympic debut at Rio 2016, Kisil advanced to the semifinals of the 100m freestyle and the final of the 4x100m freestyle relay. He answered a lot of questions from the audience about what it was like to race against Michael Phelps, be at the Olympics and his ambition to compete in Tokyo 2020. Afterward he posed for photos and graciously signed autographs for the swimmers and families. He also passed around his medals from the PanAm Games and World Championships which was a thrill for everyone to hold.

The evening was closed with a season summary and outlook by current head coach Mark Chantaj before he announced the 2015-2016 season award winners.


Mighty Mantas Most Dedicated:

Kiara Newman and Ashlin Rusnell

 Mighty Mantas Most Improved:

Gabrielle Landgraf


Manta Rays Most Dedicated:

Maya Slee

Manta Rays Most Improved:

Anika Ewashko


Junior Group Most Dedicated:

Naomi Slee

Junior Group Most Improved:

Anastasia Eric


Senior Group Most Dedicated:

Alicia Nash

Senior Group Most Improved:

Dylan Rogerson


Fireworks were in order at the end of what was a wonderful celebration of swimming and achievement in sport as the Fort McMurray Swim Club reached its 45th year as one of the longest running sports clubs in our community.