The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Elaine Tanner



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‘Gee whiz. Me? Winning something that Rocket Richard and those people have won.’

Saturday, December 17, 1966

Elaine Tanner, at 15, youngest to win Marsh trophy

By KEN McKEE, Star sports Writer

It wasn’t all that easy to tell Elaine Tanner she had just become the youngest winner in the 31-year history of the Lou E. Marsh Memorial Trophy.

This is awarded annually to Canada’s outstanding athlete, amateur or pro, male or female, in memory of the former Sports Editor of The Star.

Miss Tanner, the “mighty mouse” of our eminently successful British Empire Games’ swim team, won’t be 16 until Feb. 22. Yet already she is a mite (5 feet, 1 inch) of monumental international stature, holder of one world record, co-holder of another, and winner of an unprecedented seven medals – four gold and three silver – at the B.E. splash in Jamaica.


The first call to her Vancouver home arrived around 7:30 a.m. yesterday, but Elaine was long gone, for a 15-wimute workout at the pool. Then it was home, momentarily, for a fast breakfast, and off to school where she’s in grade 10, a straight A’s and B’s student with ambitions for college work in science.

After school? Still no dice. You see, there was another 90-minute swim session.

Finally, the vivacious youngster came on the phone, bubbling freshly as though she’d just bounced out of bed, first thing in the morning.

“Gee whiz,” she yelped, “you don’t mean it. Me? Winning something that Rocket Richard and those people have won. Wonderful. You know, when you’re competing, you just don’t think about things like this.”

It seems that Elaine Tanner thinks of very little, except competing, and winning. She’s never had many losing experiences. First time she swam, it was in a 20-yard free style race, and she won. A little later, not even knowing what the butterfly stroke was, she won a 20-yard swim in that event. Next week, her instructor announced “today, I’m going to show you how to do the butterfly stroke.”

The butterfly stroke, obviously, was a natural for her, and today, her best. She holds the world mark of 2 minutes, 29.9 seconds for 220 yards and the U.S. mark for 100 yards of 58.7 seconds. She was also a member of the Canadian 440-yard relay team which old the world free style mark of 4.10.8.

Elaine has been swimming since she was eight and has no thoughts of quitting.

“I love it. No. I’ve never really got fed up with all the hard work,” she revealed. “My immediate targets are the Pan-Am Games next summer and the ’68 Olympics, but I think there’s a good chance I’ll stay in competition after that, because I intend to go to college. I could still be around for the ’72 Games the way I feel now.”

For 15, Elaine is not only successful, but a very determined young lady. Her thoughts on competition only verify what her record indicates to be fact.

“Nothing is a waste of time, if it serves a purpose,” she asserted. “I’ve never done anything yet that was a complete bore to me.”

That rigorous training program is a case in point. It adds up to six mornings and three afternoons a week, plus 90 minutes, at least on Sunday.

“I’m going to be competing most of February in South African meets, so my training is intensive now,” she explained. And, there’s more. That month off school means extra cramming now, trying to get far enough ahead of her class that she’ll be in good shape for spring examinations.

“I haven’t fallen too far behind before,” she noted, “but if I do, I’ll go to school in the summer with a tutor.”

Boy friends? It seemed pointless to ask. With that schedule, who’s have time for such frivolities.

The final ballot of the award committee was unanimous for the youngster whom one Canadian swim coach, Nick Thierry of Toronto had called “the finest international prospect since Dawn Fraser.” She is the ninth girl to win.


However, the committee of Harry Foster, chairman, Charles E. Ring who presented the trophy in 1937, Oscar Pearson and Charles Higginbottom, gave honourable mention to several other nominees.

These included: Harry Jerome and Abby Hoffman for their gold medal track performances at the B.E. Games; Bobby Hull, named as the nation’s outstanding male athlete in the annual Canadian Press poll; golfers Gary Cowan and Marlene Stewart Streit; quarterback Russ Jackson of Ottawa Rough Riders, the Canadian League’s outstanding football player; and the Canadian international equestrian team.