- from BC Sports Hall of Fame
Tom Johnson always said he’d jump at the opportunity to coach in BC if given the chance. Raised in Montreal, he’d swam at SFU for a year in the early 1970s and longed to return. Already considered one of the country’s top swim coaches by his mid-twenties, the head coaching position for Vancouver’s legendary Canadian Dolphins Swim Club became available in 1979.
Johnson got the job and dove right in, guiding the Dolphins for the next 11 years and the rest was history. Over four decades he wrote one of the most enduring and successful résumés of any national team coach in Canada.
A constant for Canada at international swim events from 1978-2018, Johnson coached Canadian swimmers at ten Olympics, 14 world championships, and 11 Commonwealth Games. To date, over fifty swimmers he developed have represented Canada at the Olympics—many legends in their own right, such as Turlough O’Hare, Marianne Limpert, and Brent Hayden.
His swimmers have also won nearly 200 international medals to date, highlighted by Hayden’s 2012 Olympic 100m freestyle bronze medal and 2007 world championship gold, and Emily Overholt’s relay bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.
From 1990-2005, Johnson served as head coach of UBC’s varsity swim team, leading UBC to 11 women’s and eight men’s CIS championships, and a combined 16 Canada West championships. He also helped set up the National Training Centre at UBC and then served as technical director from 1998-2006. When the National Training Centre program was restarted at UBC in 2016, Johnson was again asked to lead it.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.