An Inspiring swimmer, and his personal cheerleaders
Hugh McGregor of the Victoria Crystal Silver Streaks started swimming as a teenager in Regina. He held his first provincial junior swimming record as a 15-year old and continued his success until age 19. His swimming career was interrupted by the war. After 30 years in the Navy, retirement meant he could get back into the pool. Today, at 92 years young, he says “No matter what happens, I will swim,” and remains “thoroughly convinced that it extends your life.”
Hugh's initiation to Masters Swimming was at his first meet, the Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in Victoria in 1995. Simpler times, he found out about the meet only two weeks shy of its start. He registered with MSC over the phone that very day, with a promise to put the cheque for his affiliation fees in the mail. His 200m backstroke at those Nationals yielded him a surprise Canadian record (3:51) – but he recalls that he didn't even win his heat! He experienced a more common rookie plight at that meet – his goggles slipped down around his neck when he dove in for the 800. He left them there and swam the whole race that way!
When he first joined MSC on a whim, Hugh swam solo at his local pool and still happily does that today rather than practising with a team. But he founds meets a little lonely as an 'unattached' swimmer, and didn't hesitate when the Silver Streaks invited him to swim with them. He loves the newfound team camaraderie and the option to car-pool to competitions. And he hasn't lost his autonomy, so it's the best of both worlds. He swims at a time that's convenient for him, and he sets his own workout, which is typically 1500-1600m in about 45 minutes. Most of his swim is front crawl and backstroke, with some pull buoy work thrown in for good measure. He finishes things off with a combination of leisurely breaststroke and backstroke, but notes that these days his entire swim feels like a warm-down!
Another highlight in the water was at CMSC in Edmonton in 2004, when he celebrated turning 85. He did so by taking a whopping 12:46 off the record in the 1500. Once again, he had no idea it was was happening until it was done. Having aged up again for Etobicoke in 2009, Hugh had an extra reason to set his sights high. After his first swim, he climbed out of the pool, having just set the first of what would be many records that weekend. He says himself that he was “pretty damned excited”, and making his way up to the stands he found his family members decked out in special t-shirts proclaiming them to be “Hugh's Crew”, and he was presented with his own t-shirt. He was “amazingly surprised” by their uniforms and his granddaughter's unexpected presence (a student at McGill, she made the trip just to cheer him on.)
|The original Hugh's Crew, CMSC 2009 Etobicoke.|
L-R Rick Offord, Roberta Offord (the creative genius behind the navy caps), Kate McGregor, Hugh McGregor, Diana McGregor, Gerry McGregor.
Gerry McGregor was the mastermind behind Hugh's Crew. (I can still hear his rallying cry of “C'mon Hugh! Go!” during each of his Dad's races) “That son of mine,” Hugh chuckles, “he's got clever ideas like that!” What started small began to snowball, and grew to include friends, the son of Hugh's best friend and teammate from high school, and even new fans that latched onto the group in the stands!
|Hugh receives an affectionate hug from Gerry in between races.|
Photo: Diana McGregor
Gerry talks about his father's commitment to his sport, but also to his family and friends. Every day, Hugh has lunch with his wife, who is afflicted with Alzheimer's and is currently in a long-term care facility for her Alzheimer's disease. (3 days a week he goes straight there from the pool.) Gerry's dedication to his Dad is evident, and feels that the t-shirt's slogan of “90...is only a number” sums up Hugh's positive attitude perfectly. Gerry says the plan was always to “keep crossing out the previous number with Dad's current age,” as they did in 2010 in Nanaimo. The 'Crew' grew by 2 members for that meet, as Hugh's supporters included his daughter Wendy and granddaughter Aimee.
At CMSC 2010 in Nanaimo, Hugh's Crew shows off its new members!
Back: L-R Wendy Boothroyd (Hugh's daughter), Jennifer Levett
Front: Aimee Boothroyd (Hugh's granddaughter), Hugh McGregor, Gerry McGregor
Hugh swims about three meets per year, keeping it limited so he doesn't have to travel too much. His plan is that 2011-2012 will feature two big ones – BC Provincials in Victoria, and CMSC in Kelowna over the May long weekend. He will be joined by a number of his teammates, but says he doesn't expect Hugh's Crew to be there at Nationals this time around. Sounds like they might be recruiting new members!
Robyn Ouimet is a Masters coach and swimmer on sabbatical as she is a new Mom (expect her daughter's MSC debut in 2029.) Robyn freely admits to being a Hugh's Crew groupie.