Aquatics Canada Aquatiques Names Brent Hayden, Maggie MacNeil Athletes of the Year

Maggie MacNeil; Photo Courtesy: Michael P. Hall/Swimming Canada

Aquatics Canada Aquatiques Names Brent Hayden, Maggie MacNeil Athletes of the Year

Aquatics Canada Aquatiques on Thursday released its annual ACA Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in Canadian aquatics. The two top awards, for male and female athlete of the year, went to Olympic swimmers Brent Hayden and Maggie MacNeil.

Hayden, swimming in his fourth Olympics after a seven-year retirement, finished ninth in the men’s 50 freestyle in Tokyo. He was part of the men’s 400 freestyle relay that finished fourth in Tokyo and set a national record. At 37, he is the oldest man to break 48 seconds in the 100 freestyle in history.

MacNeil was one of Canada’s stars of the Tokyo Games. She won gold in the women’s 100 butterfly. She added silver in the 400 free relay and bronze in the 400 medley relay. She added a short-course world record at Worlds in December.

The ACA team of the year is the diving duo of Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu. The pair won silver in Tokyo in the women’s 3-meter synchro. They also won the same event in the 2021 World Cup.

Ben Titley is the ACA coach of the year. In his role as head coach of the High Performance Centre in Ontario, Titley’s pupils in the run-up to Tokyo include MacNeil, Penny Oleksiak (whose three medals in Tokyo give her seven, the most by a Canadian Olympian), and Kylie Masse (who won silver in both Tokyo backstroke events). Titley also coaches Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith, Taylor Ruck and Sydney Pickrem.

Swimming Canada High-Performance Director John Atkinson is the sports executive of the year. He helped Canada tie for fifth in total swimming medals in Tokyo (six) and finish second in gold medals (seven) and tied for third in total medals (15) at Short-Course Worlds.

The Aquatics Canada Aquatiques Officials Award of Excellence goes to Marie-Claude Deslieres, who served as a water polo referee at the Tokyo Games, her third Olympics.

Cheryl Gibson is the Volunteer of the Year. A long-time Swimming Canada board member, Gibson left her position as the organization’s president in 2021 when she was appointed to the FINA Bureau.

The ACA’s Media Award went to Radio-Canada’s Roseline Filion, a two-time Olympic diving bronze medalist who covered the Olympics from Tokyo and provided remote coverage of the Paralympics.

Three individuals were added to the Aquatics Canada Aquatiques President’s Honor Roll: Lisa Schott (Artistic Swimming), Conrad Hadubiak (Water Polo) and Ed Evelly (Swimming).

Schott is a long-time ACA president and chairs FINA’s Technical Artistic Swimming Committee.

Hubiak ended an eight-year stint as Water Polo Canada president in 2021. He was on the board dating to 2009 and helped Canada return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

Evelly has spent five terms (22 years) on FINA’s Technical Master’s Committee, serving two terms as the honorary secretary and two as the board’s chair. The former president of Swimming Newfoundland and Labrador and 12-year board member of Swimming Canada has volunteered for 38 years.

The ACA nominated water polo coach Claude Lavoie for its hall of fame. He coached the first Canadian women’s water polo team at an international event in 1977 and brought them to the 1978 World Championships in Berlin (as an exhibition sport). He lobbied FINA to recognize women’s water polo starting with Worlds in 1986 and was part of the push for Olympic inclusion, which happened in 2000.

Lavoie was on event organization committees for the FINA Cup in 1983, the first Women’s Junior World Championships in 1997 and the 2005 World Championships.

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