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Wednesday, March 8, 2000
PROFILE: Joanne Malar
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.

DIFFICULT

"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 daughter."

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."
Joanne Malar in the news
Malar, Limpert a contrast in styles
Malar finishes seventh in 400 IM
Happier Malar ready for Sydney
Malar in pictures
Disappointment
7th in Sydney
Kisses for her fans
Reacting to her time
Thumbs up, new uniform
With Mike
Celebrating a win
Bronze 4x200m team
Blowing a kiss
Backstroke practice