Malar's thoughts with Sloans
By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
It has been said that you can see the joy Joanne Malar feels for her
sport just by watching her swim.
"She skips across the water like a stone," said Byron MacDonald, the head
coach of the University of Toronto club.
Malar first took to the pool when she was five weeks old and her love for
swimming has lasted 24 years.
But in all of that time, never has the 25-time Canadian champion entered a
competition with such a heavy heart.
Tara Sloan, a fellow national-level swimmer and one of Malar's best
friends, remains in a medically induced coma at Calgary's Foothills Hospital
with a swollen brain and bruised lungs, after rolling her van on a stretch of
the Trans-Canada Hwy. on Friday near Medicine Hat.
"It's so hard," Malar said yesterday, as she prepared for this week's
Speedo Spring Nationals at the Etobicoke Olympium. "I talked to her mom
(Gayle) on (Monday) night, and that was good. But I just want to be there, to
give them hugs."
One of the most difficult periods of Malar's life came shortly after her
disappointing showing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where the Canadian team's
designated star finished fourth in the 200-metre individual medley, won by the
now-suspended Michelle Smith of Ireland.
For a brief spell, Malar did fall out of love with swimming and
contemplated retirement. That was until April 1998, when she moved to Calgary
to train under coach Jan Bidrman. Despite the fact the Hamilton native had
competed all over the world, until then she had always lived at home. So the
move to Calgary was a big one. But the right one. Heading into this year's
Sydney Olympics, Malar again is near the top of the world rankings in the
individual medley. More importantly, swimming is again a joy.
"Going to Calgary helped me so much (and) what made the move so easy was
moving in with the Sloan family," Malar said. "They treated me like a
That's why competing this week will be so difficult.
"Tara is one of the coolest girls I know," Malar said, her words breaking
off to a whisper. "She loves swimming, but she has so many other passions.
She's so artistic. I always love hearing her voice. She has one of the most
beautiful voices. I can't wait to hear her sing again."
Thankfully, the news out of Calgary is good. Despite her injuries, Sloan,
20, appears to be improving.
"She's really strong," Malar said. "And I know that last thing Tara would
want is for us to be upset. So we're pulling together here as a team."