Despite having taken a break from competing for over 40 years, Nancy Nelson has never been very far from a pool.
During her teenage years, in the 60s, Nancy was a competitive swimmer at national level. After retiring, she ran a kids’ summer swim team, coached the Westmount Y Masters team for a little while, and volunteered as an official during local Masters’ meets. Not being in the pool didn’t mean she was taking it easy: gymnastics, diving, running, biking, skiing, softball, she did it all—but swimming has always been her favourite and most competitive sport. Her family has always pushed her to do sports, and that’s something she taught her 4 children as well. She encouraged them to do at least one sport per season, and any time anyone in the family had a game or a meet, everyone would make sure to at least drop by for a little bit.
In 2014, when Masters Worlds were in Montreal, Nancy enrolled as an official. She decided to swim the 50 meters freestyle in-between her sessions as an official, and she was instantly hooked. She thought, “Why not?”, and a year later, she was back in the pool with a Masters team. Her best events are 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, but she can also swim a decent 100 and 200 IM, despite having an “abysmal breaststroke kick” (her words, not ours!).
Last summer, Nancy decided to represent Canada during Worlds in Budapest. She brought Canada flag lapel pins with her and made sure to give them to everyone: timers, officials, other swimmers, volunteers, and even her waiters when she’d go to a restaurant. Her oldest daughter went with her, and they had a blast in Hungary.
When she’s out of the pool, Nancy works as a student advisor at McGill, where she feels privileged to be working with bright young people from all over the world. She also rides her bike everywhere, and attends her kids’ and grandkids’ sporting events.
Nancy doesn’t plan on quitting competitive swimming again anytime soon. She loves the camaraderie on her team, to race, and to win, but most of all, a British swimmer she met in Budapest last year sum the swimming experience up the best possible way: “The best part is being able to say, ‘I’m just an international athlete, no big deal…’”.