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Sunday, June 25, 2000

Swimming memories flood to mind
Canadian Olympic teams have always been able to depend on thrilling performances by our swimmers.

The names of Alex Baumann, Victor Davis, Anne Ottenbreit, Elaine (Mighty Mouse) Tanner, Bruce Robertson, Leslie Cliff, Nancy Garapick and others flashed in front of my eyes as I tried to recollect their achievements.

With the Sydney Olympics fast approaching and the recent impressive performances by our swimmers at the Canadian championships in Montreal, it became quite evident that a new group of talented Canadian swimmers is on the horizon. Led by Calgary's Curtis Myden, Joanne Malar of Hamilton and Marianne Limpert of Fredricton, our hopes for the future are bright.

However, they won't be the only Canadian swimmers we can pin our hopes on in Sydney. Others, such as Andrew Hurd of Oakville in the 1,500 metres; Calgary's Morgan Knabe in the 100 and 200 breaststroke; Kelly Stefanyshyn of Winnipeg in the 100 and 200 backstroke, as well as Brian Jones of Richmond, B.C., in the 200 individual medley and Rick Say of Victoria in the 200 and 400 freestyle, could do reasonably well.

As names from the past swam down my memory lane, the names of Robertson and Cliff are still the two who bring out a smile on my face when I begin thinking about the Olympics. Particularly the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.

It was not an occasion for smiling when Palestinian terrorists gunned down 11 members of the Israeli team and were themselves later destroyed. But what made me smile was the aftermath of Robertson's and Cliff's silver medal-winning performances, something that could happen for Canada in Sydney.

Cliff had collected the silver medal for her second-place finish in the 400-metre individual medley. She was about to pass the drug test when she realized that Robertson, who won a silver in the 100-metre butterfly, hadn't shown up at the doping centre. She knew that all medal winners had to pass the doping test.

Normally, 17-year-old girls might panic under the circumstances. Not Leslie Cliff. She motioned to Canadian teammate Ralph Hutton to go and find Robertson, while she entered the testing room to offer a urine sample.

Like a veteran actress, she began feigning an inability to perform the task. At first she asked for a soft drink, only to sip on it slowly. She pretended to try the test again, but was unsuccessful. Frustrated officials brought her a case of soft drinks. She sipped away, but still no luck.

Meanwhile, Hutton and a couple of other Canadian swimmers took off for downtown Munich to find Robertson, who was celebrating his silver medal in a pub and forgot about the doping test. The laboratory staff was getting nervous because they normally closed at 10.30 p.m. That night, the clock showed nearly midnight.

Fortunately, the Canadian search party located Robertson in the Hofbrauhaus, Munich's famous beer tavern. He was in a happy mood, thanks to the medal and--a few beers. The search party rushed him back to the doping centre, where he gave the wanted sample. They found no illicit drugs, only traces of beer.

Meanwhile, a contended Leslie Cliff didn't have to put her kidneys and bladder to a further test. She knew Robertson was clean and beer wasn't on the banned list. Her test, of course, was negative.

Even veteran reporters heaved a sigh of relief when Robertson showed up and passed the test, because an American, Rick DeMont, didn't and became the first swimmer in history to get nailed.

DeMont won a gold medal and had it taken away for using a drug to battle asthma, something he admitted on his entry form and what his doctor confirmed. It didn't help him, though.

Wonder if, for a change, any of our swimmers will put us to a test in Sydney.