T-Birds 5-on-5: Decade of Dominance

Some 125 swimmers will be inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame next week at the 2015 Big Block Awards in the team category. As the largest-ever class of inductees, the recognition will honour the "Decade of Dominance" in which UBC's men's and women's swim teams each won 10 straight CIS Championships from 1998 to 2007. In appreciation of that success, we caught up with five decorated swimming alumni from that era in a special edition of the T-Birds 5-on-5 series.

The panel[/ub_subhead

Callum Ng (CN): 23 CIS medals (17 gold)

Liz Collins (LC): 20 CIS medals (11 gold)

Aaron Blair (AB): 12 CIS medals (five gold)

Kelly Stefanyshyn (KS): 31 CIS medals (18 gold)

Brian Johns (BJ): 34 CIS medals (33 gold)

1) What do you do now that you've retired from your swimming career?

CN: I work in sports media as a writer and broadcaster in Toronto.

LC: director of studies at the Vancouver English Centre.

AB: Oh, you know, things. Lots of biking, skiing, other outdoor activities that I fight for time to do. Work-wise, I'm a strategic business analyst in the oil and gas industry.

KS: I work for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games in venue management. I'm responsible for the new aquatic centre and very excited to catch all the swimming action this summer!

BJ: After working on my Bachelor's degree for eight years and finishing my one-year Master's degree in three years, I decided that I didn't quite spend enough time at UBC yet. Since I retired in 2012 I've been the assistant coach for the Thunderbird swim team under Steve Price.

2) Which swimmer stereotype were you?

CN: Tired. All the time.

LC: The big-shouldered type. I am not even sure what the other stereotypes are so maybe the oblivious one?

AB: In-denial distance swimmer, i.e. the swimmer who is truly a distance swimmer, but loathes the monotony of the lines on the bottom of the pool during their long practices. There is a special (yet painful) place in my heart for the distance lane.

KS: There are swimmer stereotypes? I have no idea ... I liked to pretend I was a sprinter.

BJ: The overworking/perpetually injured swimmer. Annamay Pierse and I used to have a competition to see whose medical folder was thicker due to our abundance and duration of injuries. She was the winner, but I kept it close.

3) Describe the UBC Aquatic Centre in three words.

CN: Dark. Noisy. Marvellous.

LC: Sinkhole, second home.

AB: Flags! Pads! Ropes! Referring to the fact that the rookie swimmers would often need to put in and remove these items before and after each practice. One of the veterans would always need to yell it out to keep them on point.

KS: Early morning flashbacks.

BJ: Self-destruct button? Dibs!

4) Which non-swimming T-Bird, past or present, did/do you enjoy watching the most?

CN: There are non-swimming T-Birds? Kidding. The basketball teams were fun to watch.

LC: Kelsey Blair -- you had to admire her intensity and drive.

AB: I can't pick just one as the honour definitely goes to the UBC women's volleyball team circa 2006. Major shout out to the Cordonier sisters, Shelly Chalmers, Natasha Dauberman, Krystal Gabriel, Maya Miguel and the like. Amazing athletes all around, past and present. We were such fans that a group of swimmers (myself included) flew to Calgary to watch them kill it at CIS one year. I recommend everyone catch a game.

KS: I had some good friends on the field hockey teams -- Steph and Dave Jameson. I enjoyed cheering for them, and it was a nice bonus that they were so good! I watched UBC beat U of T in the women's CIS final in Toronto this year, so that was also a highlight.

BJ: Javy Glatt and Jeff Francis. We all competed for UBC during the same era at an elite level and carried that success beyond UBC. Javy won the Grey Cup, Jeff started game one of the World Series and I made it to the Olympic Final. Not a bad crop of alumni.

5) What's the best April Fool's joke you've played on someone or that you've been the victim of?

CN: What happened in Totem, stays in Totem.

LC: One year at training camp the rest of the team filled the van I was driving with balloons (probably about 100). Emptying my van at 5 a.m. was a special treat. It wasn't April Fool's but it was a pretty funny prank.

AB: We were well beyond April Fool's as our pranks ran all year long. One that comes to mind was that we took [a] fishing line and very carefully tied it around most loose objects in the victim's dorm room. We tied off to all of the items on shelves, desk, dresser, etc and ran the lines along the crease between the ceiling and wall all the way out the bottom of the door. The next morning, we pulled the lines from under the locked door and sequentially every item in their room would jump off the shelf poltergeist style. They flipped and ran out thinking it was an earthquake. Laughs all around.

KS: I fell for my sister's fake Facebook engagement a couple years ago.

BJ: We had a new member of the team that was confused why she was going two seconds slower in one direction down the pool than the other. We were able to convince her that the UBC pool was longer in one direction than it was in the other direction. She asked how we could still hold meets -- we explained that we were allowed to because the 'total length of a lap' was still 100 metres. Some swimmers are not at their most intelligent at 5 a.m.

Check out last week’s edition of the T-Birds 5-on-5 series: March Madness.