Clifford Barry, Canadian Olympian and Coach of Victor Davis, Dies at 75

Clifford Barry

Clifford Barry, Canadian Olympian and Coach of Victor Davis, Dies at 75

Clifford Barry, a significant figure in Canadian aquatic sports, has died at the age of 75. Barry was a multi-sport standout, as he starred athletically as a two-time Olympian in water polo, and then found success as an Olympic coach in swimming.

Barry represented Canada in water polo at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and at the 1976 Games in Montreal. He was the team captain during his first Olympic appearance. Following his water polo days, Barry shifted his attention to the deck – and to swimming. He was a three-time Canadian Swim Coach of the Year (1982, 1984, 1986) and guided the career of Victor Davis, an inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Barry is a member of the Canadian Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame.

Mentoring Davis was the highlight of Barry’s coaching career. Davis first won a world championship in the 200 breaststroke in 1982, then won that event at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where Davis also claimed the silver medal in the 100 breaststroke. Davis was the world champion in 1986 in the 100 breaststroke and took silver in the 200 distance.

“In my younger years, I was a competitive swimmer, but then I started playing water polo,” Barry once said. “After playing water polo, I went into coaching swimming. I loved the water and I loved people a lot. I had coached before, working in a boys’ club and also (coaching) little kids. I knew I liked it and I knew I wanted to be near the water. There were no coaching jobs in water polo at the time, so someone told me there was a (swim coach) job in Guelph. They hired me and that’s where I met Victor Davis.”


  1. avatar
    Simon Deschamps

    Toutes mes sympathies à son épouse et sa fille.
    Tout un gentleman!

  2. avatar

    A sad day for Canadian swimming. Clifford was a great coach and just a wonderful person. Every time I saw him, long after I swam for him, he made me feel just as welcome as he did the first day I swam under his guidance. He inspired me in many ways while I swam; inspirations that stuck with me. My sincerest condolences to Susan and Carling, and everyone who loved Clifford.
    Anyone who swam among our group in Pointe-Claire in the late 80s will surely remember “next goal wins” and those late summer/early fall pre-swim soccer matches that dragged on sometimes past sunset. That was just one of the ways he brought occasional light-heartedness into it that made it easier to be pushed hard when the time was right.

    • avatar

      What a great Man , what a great loss…
      My sympathy to you Susan and your daughter Carling

  3. avatar
    Peter Charron

    I knew Cliff as a friend in his later years. Surely one of the the marks of a truly great man is the humility that kept had Cliff being just a guy and not the man with the impact on his sport that he did have. We have lost another great one!

  4. avatar
    Natalie Deschamps

    He is one of the VERY few coaches of his time who respected his athletes, taking himself neither for god nor for an expert who always knew everything, while knowing how to be demanding when necessary. I’ll miss him, and I’ll miss the great chats we had in the early ’90’s sipping a coffee after his morning workouts! A perfect gentleman!

    • avatar
      Karin Helmstaedt

      Chère Nathalie, quelle triste nouvelle mais je suis heureuse de te/vous lire et de voir que nos souvenirs de Cliff sont les quelque part les mêmes…such an inspiring coach… I can still hear his raspy voice and his laugh! Mes condoléances les plus profondes pour sa famille, ainsi que pour la famille de la natation…il va leur manquer. Meilleurs voeux de Berlin, Karin

  5. avatar
    Gabor Zinner

    I was a contemporary of Clifford as a water polo player. I played with and against him as early as in the 1960’s and as as late as within the past decade at the World Masters.

    Clifford was by far the best player in Canada when I was at my peak. He had a strong work ethic as a player, an almost super human level of fitness and a fine touch with the ball which also included a blistering shot.

    Beyond that, he was a sweet soul. I don’t recall ever seeing him angry or in conflict with anyone.

    I will miss him. May he Rest In Peace.

    Gabor Zinner

    • avatar

      We only just recently renewed our acquaintance after many years. I am grateful for this.
      Hats off to an extraordinary Canadian!

  6. avatar
    david Middleton

    A very fine gentleman. Enjoyed working with him during his stint as the head coach of Etobicoke Swimming.

  7. avatar
    Lubo Spisak

    My deepest condolences to Susan and the family.
    Cliff was a fabulous human being, i spent very precious times with Cliff ať the Olympium pool doing laps and workouts ať the Mississauga gym.
    Very friendly, funny and loving Friend and person.
    What a great loss, Cliff you have gone too early, see you in heaven,
    Lubo Spisak