Passages: Kevin Thorburn, Etobicoke Director of Swimming, Dies at 63

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Kevin Thorburn, the director of swimming and high performance coach at Etobicoke Swim Club in Ontario, passed away Tuesday at age 63.

Etobicoke announced Thorburn’s death on its Facebook page:

“It is with heavy hearts that we regret to inform you of the sudden passing of Head Coach Kevin Thorburn. Our thoughts and condolences are with Coach Thorburn’s family and friends. As the head of the ESWIM family, he will be deeply missed – Kevin Thorburn – 1956-2020”

Thorburn coached 18 Canadian champions, including Olympians Brittany MacLean, Amanda Reason, Rylie Mants, Jenna Gresdal and Alexa Komarnycky. He was a member of the Canadian staff for the Olympics in 1996, 2012 and 2016. He’s also coached at three World Championships (Long- and Short-Course), two Commonwealth Games, three Pan Pacific Championships and three Junior World Championships, including as the head coach in 2006.

MacLean posted a lengthy tribute to Thorburn on Instagram that reads in part:

“Kevin, you shaped me into the person I am today. For over 20 years, you have led Etobicoke Swimming to excellence far beyond the 8 lanes of the Olympium. …

“Thank you for instilling in me the importance of my impact on the next generation and keeping me involved with the team throughout my retirement. ESWIM was the only club I ever represented, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This team truly means the world to me, and you connected us all through hard work and a sense of purpose.”

 

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My heart is heavy today as we mourn the loss of one of best on the pool deck. Kevin, you shaped me into the person I am today. For over 20 years, you have led Etobicoke Swimming to excellence far beyond the 8 lanes of the Olympium. You had the experience, knowledge, and pride for what you did and everyone that was coached or mentored by you, could see that. You brought me from my first national standard, through two Olympic Games, and finally we got to share that podium together. I’m forever grateful for the lessons I learned, lifelong friends I met, and places I went due to the opportunities you gave me. Thank you for instilling in me the importance of my impact on the next generation and keeping me involved with the team throughout my retirement. ESWIM was the only club I ever represented, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This team truly means the world to me, and you connected us all through hard work and a sense of purpose. I’m so thankful for the journey we went on together. You were more than my coach; I trusted you with my dreams, and they were all exceeded. Your swimmers were your family, your passion, and the cause of a few greys. Here’s to every 2’s warmup, every Friday that Bog tried to convince you for a get out swim, and every joke we didn’t laugh at until you told us that we should. I miss you already. #EswimForever #Lane2 #DJKtrix

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Georgia junior distance swimmer Olivia Anderson, another of Thorburn’s swimmers at Etobicoke, shared this remembrance with Swimming World:

It has come as a shock to us all. Kevin has had an impact on so many kids, developing them into great swimmers and hard working people. I along with a number of people would say that Kevin had a large impact on the person that I am today both in and out of the pool. Kevin helped me grow up and he was there for a lot of the big moments of my life thus far. I will miss his jokes that I didn’t always understand, his detailed stories about swimmers I had never met, and the way he got more excited about my races than I did.

He genuinely cared about his swimmers and he taught us what high performance swimming looked like from a young age. The number of people who are affected by Kevin’s passing is a testament to the impact that he had on Canadian swimming. I am forever grateful for my time with Kevin and the journey that we had together.  

Per his bio, over the last 25 years, Thorburn had helped 12 high school swimmers reach the open international level, more than any other coach in Canada.

Etobicoke, based outside of Toronto and one of the top clubs in Ontario, has been a big part in the recent resurgence of Canadian swimming. Thorburn contributed heavily to that, coaching the University of Georgia trio of Meryn McCann, Sofia Carnevale and Anderson and men’s swimmers like Ruslan Gaziev and Tristan Cote.

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