The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Bob Pirie

Swimming

1939


Action photo of Bob Pirie

Action photo of Bob Pirie

Date
1938
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Faster than Tarzan!

By 1939, Bob Pirie, a swimmer of the Central YMCA of Toronto, held every Canadian swim title from 50 yards to two miles. He also brought home seven medals in six different distances – including 3 gold from the 1934 and 1938 British Empire Games in London, England, and Sydney, Australia respectively.

With this swimming pedigree, Pirie received an express invitation from the Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce to compete in the Hawaiian Championships in June of 1939 where they packed a meet with outstanding swim stars from Japan and the United States.
Bob claimed the 100 metre event and placed second in the half mile.

He outdistanced the field in the 200 metres, smashing the World Record that had long been held by five-time Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weismuller who would later become one of the most famous and memorable actors to portray Tarzan.
An invitation by the Japanese government to compete at their championships in Tokyo followed, but was turned down by the Canada Amateur Swim Association who refused to grant their brilliant Canadian star a permit for the trip. These were the difficult political circumstances of that time.

Pirie extended his stay in Hawaii to swim with the Honolulu team. He returned home to compete at the United States National Championships in Detroit. He was clipped by Nakama and Hirose, two outstanding Japanese-Hawaiian boys he had defeated in Hawaii, in both the 100 and 200 metre races, to finish third. But so close was the 100 metre final, the judges deliberated for forty-five minutes before awarding places. Despite finishing third, Pirie left behind the entire elite American squad who had long been dominant in swimming competitions.

Today his achievements continue to be celebrated by Swim Ontario with The Bob Pirie Trophy, presented each year to the Top Male Swimmer in Ontario.

Unanimous Winner of Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1934
London British Empire Games - Gold medal in 4 x 200 yard freestyle, Silver medal in 1500 yard freestyle, Bronze medal in 440 yard freestyle
1936
Berlin Summer Olympic Games - Participated in 1500 m finals
1938
Sydney British Empire Games - Gold medal in 110 yard, 440 yard freestyle; Silver medal in 1,650 yard freestyle, 4 x 220 yard freestyle, 3 x 110 yard freestyle
1939
US National Championships - 3rd place in 100m and 200m
1939
Hawaiian Championship - 1st place in 100m and 200m, 2nd place in half mile
1939
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1975
Inducted into Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame