September 19th, 2014

Tonight marked the creation of the Canadian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association Hall of Fame. The inaugural inductees were announced in Calgary at the President’s Award as part of the Canadian Swimming Congress in Calgary, the class included Howard Firby, Deryk Snelling and Nick Thierry.

Howard Firby was one of the greatest innovators of stroke technique in the world of swimming. His book Firby on Swimming, which was published in 1975, is considered a classic. His unique outlook on the technical aspects of swimming came from the combination of his knowledge of aerodynamics, which he acquired from serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and his study of anatomy and biomechanics, something he took up to aid his recovery from a bout of polio.

Assisted by his skills as a professional artist Firby had an incredible gift of communicating his thoughts on swimming technique through blackboard drawings and eventually designing a plasticine figure which he would use to demonstrate the specific ways that he wanted athletes to position their bodies in the water.

He began his coaching career in 1948 volunteering with the Vancouver Amateur Swim Club under the guidance Percy Norman who was one of the Canada’s foremost swim coaches having been on the Olympic staff in 1932 and 1936.

In 1956 Firby would go on be the founding father of the Canadian Dolphins Swim Club, which has been one of the most successful and prominent clubs in Canadian swimming history.

During his time as the Head Coach of the Dolphins his teams won six national championships, he had swimmers break over 300 national records as well as swimmers break 11 world records. Some of Firby’s most well known pupils included Mary Stewart, Helen Stewart HuntBill Slater, Margaret Iwasaki, and Jane Hughes. He also guided Elaine “Mighty Mouse” Tanner to three Olympic medals in 1968 along with Ralph Hutton who won a silver at the same games.

Firby was the Head Coach at both the 1964 Olympics and the 1966 Commonwealth Games. He left the Dolphins in 1967 to take a head coaching job in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in 1970 became the technical advisor and director of the Canadian Amateur Swimming Association.

Deryk Snelling took over as Head Coach of the Canadian Dolphins after Firby left in 1967. Snelling took the job after having an extremely successful career with the Southhampton Swimming Club in Great Britain. Snelling coached the Dolphins until 1976 when he took a job with the Etobicoke Swim Club where he coached until 1980. He then went on to coach the University of Calgary Swim Club from 1980-96 when he took over as Britain’s national coach a post he held until 2000.

He returned to Canada after a short retirement in the role of Canadian National Team Development Coordinator.

His best known athletes included Leslie Cliff, Donna Marie Gurr, Bruce Robertson, Bill Mahoney, Wendy Hogg, Mark Tewksbury, and Curtis Myden. Fifty of his swimmers competed at the World Championships, winning ten medals, while 53 swimmers won 65 Commonwealth Games medals.

He swimmers achieved:

  • 10 World Championship medals
  • 38 Pan American medals
  • 65 Commonwealth medals
  • 27 Pan Pacific medals
  • 7 World Records and have won
  • 69 Canadian National Team Championship titles
  • 400 Individual and Relay Canadian National Titles

He was also:

  • Head coach of the Canadian Olympic team four times
  • Head coach of Commonwealth Games team five times
  • Head Coach of one World Championship Team

Nick Thierry is most well known for the incredible work he did as the men behind the records and rankings in the sport. He was the world’s foremost statistician in the sport of swimming. He created and updated the most complete database of results in the sport. Thierry is also well known for the amazing work he did as the creator and publisher of SwimNew magazine, which he created in 1973.

What he is not as well-known for is his successful career in coaching. Thierry began his coaching career as an assistant with the University of Settlement Aquatic Club in 1963. He went on to develop the team into one of the best in Canada winning the men’s team titles at the 1967 and 68 National Championships as well as placing at least one swimmers on every national team from 1965 to 1972.

Nick would leave coaching to work for Swimming World Magazine in 1972, but returned to the deck in 1973 creating SWIMTEC a coach owned swim club in Toronto. He once again retired from coaching in 1976 putting all his energy into SWIM Magazine (which eventually became SwimNews Magazine).


Source : Swim Swam