The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Graham Smith

Swimming

1978


Photo of Graham Smith diving into the pool at the Olympics

Photo of Graham Smith diving into the pool at the Olympics

Date
1976
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

An Unforgettable August!

Talk about taking the plunge. Canadian swimming sensation Graham Smith had something very special in mind for the Commonwealth Games taking place in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, in August of 1978. A year out, Smith and his hard-driving coach Don Talbot, quietly mapped out a strategy to win six gold medals, in a pool about a kilometre away from where he grew up, which just happened to be named after his recently deceased father, Donald F. Smith.

With six events and four heats he would dive into the pool bearing his father’s name ten times. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Andrew, and Graham’s brother George, a winner at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland, would be presenting medals at three of these events. As the official ‘clerk of the course’ Graham’s mother would be greeting him ten times for his lane assignment. His seven brothers and sisters, world-class swimmers among them, would cheer from the stands.

Graham approached the games with a Zen-like, ice-cold demeanour, and meticulous preparation. With his father’s spirit and his family’s presence looming large in the facility, he needed to focus on the task at hand.

One-by-one he began his gold medal count. With the 100 and 200 metre Breaststroke, the 200 and 400 metre Individual Medley and the 4 X 100 Freestyle Relay secure, the historic sixth gold medal would be contested in the 4 X 100 Medley Relay, the final swimming event of the Games. The Donald F. Smith facility erupted as Graham Smith helped power his team to victory and an unprecedented six gold medals at one Commonwealth Games. The memory of receiving medals from the Queen, Prince Andrew and his brother still send shivers up his spine. He proudly anchored a Canadian team that put away the powerful Australian swimming contingent for the very first time at a Commonwealth Games.

Just days later, it was off to The 1978 World Aquatics Championships in West Berlin, West Germany. Held in the same Olympic Stadium and outdoor pool as the 1936 Olympics, Graham Smith could feel the eerie history and ghosts of Hitler’s Olympics.

In the 100 metre breaststroke, Smith misjudged his timing at the final touch of the wall and lost by the razor-thin margin of 4/100ths of a second. He was crushed; the silver medal was a letdown. In the 200 metre Individual Medley, the top eight swimmers in the world were on the blocks. Smith held the world record until only weeks before when a Russian broke it, only to have an American break it shortly after. It was anybody’s race. Smith was third last at the half-way point with his specialty leg to come. He shot to the front in the breaststroke. In the last leg, the freestyle, his nemesis, he could hear every one of his 53 Canadian teammates uncontrollably rooting him on. He charged to victory and reclaimed the world record to become the new World Champion. On this unforgettable August day, in the 200 metre Individual Medley, there was no question – Graham Smith was the best in the world. From an unparalleled hometown achievement to the top of the world, it is a month he will never forget.

Swimmer, skier share Lou Marsh Trophy Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1973 - 1982
Member, National Swim Team
1976
Montreal Olympic Games - Silver medal, 4 x 100m medley relay
1978
Commonwealth Games – Six gold medals
1978
World Aquatic Championships - Gold medal, 200m individual medley
1978
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1978
Lionel Conacher Award
1978
Norton Crowe Award
1979
NCAA triple crown (three individual gold medals, one relay medal