The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Carolyn Waldo

Synchronized Swimming


Photo of Carolyn Waldo

Photo of Carolyn Waldo

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

SYNC or SWIM – The 1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul, Korea

Carolyn Waldo was given the honour of being Canada’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, her last synchronized swimming competition. For the little kid who had been obsessed with the dream of wearing a “Canada jacket” and representing her country, this was going to be a show-stopper.

The stage is also set for what could be her most meaningful victories. The favourite for two gold medals in the solo and duet competitions alongside partner Michelle Cameron, there is some undeniable tension. Earlier in June at the Pre-Olympic meet in Seoul she lost to Tracie Ruiz-Conforto, the gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics who came out of retirement in 1986. Carolyn’s first defeat in four years, it was a difficult pill to swallow. In the duet, Carolyn and Michelle won by the slimmest of margins over the very capable American Josephson twins.

Highly respected Canadian coach Debbie Muir remains optimistic, and Carolyn, a great competitor, is actually pleased to see Tracie back in the hunt. Her victories hadn’t felt complete knowing that Tracie had beaten her in 1984.

In the first stage of the Olympic solo showdown, Carolyn opened up an almost 3 point lead over Tracie in the compulsory figures which count for fifty-five percent of the swimmers final score. It was deemed insurmountable. Rather than play it safe and ‘back in’ to a victory, Carolyn went for broke in her freestyle routine. She spent the first 44 seconds of her routine underwater before she came up for her first breath. She completed every element to near perfection and scored one of the highest aggregate totals in synchronized swimming history. The gold medal was very convincingly hers.

The very next day she joined Michelle Cameron on the podium to claim her second gold medal after the pair claimed the duet title over the once again hard challenging Josephson twins.

A superb athlete who made enormous sacrifices over many years, putting in six hours a day, six days a week, at the gym and in the pool, Carolyn Waldo became the first Canadian woman to win two gold medals in a single Olympics.

What could top that? Perhaps Carolyn’s most stunning victory was a psychological one. You see, she almost drowned at the age of three. That experience led to a hatred of the water and a life-long phobia of drowning. At ten, still unable to swim, and tired of the taunts of being called “chicken,” she entered the water terrified, holding her breath while floating on her back to avoid submerging her face. That’s when she was spotted by a lifeguard that also happened to be the local synchronized swimming coach. She didn’t know it then, but she was gifted with natural floatation and her first strokes were a ‘sculling’ stroke, the backbone of synchronized swimming. The coach invited her out to practice. Somehow, she found the courage to rise to the top in a sport that could only intensify a fear of water. People can accomplish the most amazing things and Carolyn Waldo is a splendid example!

Waldo is winner of Marsh Trophy as top athlete Adobe PDF Transcript


Olympic Games – Silver medal, solo
Paired with Michelle Cameron -Gold medal, duet, Rome and Spanish Opens
1985 – 1988
Velma Springstead Award
Commonwealth Games - Gold medal, duet
World Championships - Gold medal, duet and solo
1987 –1988
Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy
Olympic Games - Gold medal, duet and solo
Lou Marsh Memorial Award