Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian diving's godfather honoured

Pan Am club naming its meet after Baird

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PRIOR to 1968, the sports of diving, swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo all came under the umbrella of the Canadian Amateur Swimming Association. That situation didn't sit well with the divers, synchronized swimmers and water polo players.

Due to the driving force of Winnipeg lawyer Vaughan Baird, in 1968 the Canadian Amateur Diving Association became the first incorporated aquatic sports division in Canada. Further efforts by Baird resulted in each of the four sports being given autonomy within the Aquatic Federation of Canada. No longer would they be subservient to swimming.

"In 1968, we got our charter from Ottawa and we were all put under the AFC as equal partners and we have all flourished under it," Baird said.

Before this major victory, swimming controlled all aquatic sports.

"Diving was allowed to have only one male and female at an international competition," said Baird, 82. "They (swimming) ruled out divers in preference to swimmers. They had 42 votes and diving, synchronized swimming and water polo had only one each."

Winnipeg diver and Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame member Judy Moss was selected to compete at the 1934 British Empire (Commonwealth) Games in London, Baird recalled.

"Swimming struck her off the roster in favour of a swimmer, but the Winnipeg Winter Club raised the $300 required to send her anyway. She won the gold medal on the three-metre board, and swimming ended up with egg on its face."

This weekend, the Pan Am Diving Club will hold its annual invitational meet at the Pan Am Pool. At the same time, the club will honour Baird by renaming its event the 2010 Vaughan Baird Polar Bear Classic. Competition runs Friday through Sunday.

Pan Am Diving Club founder Nancy (Robertson) Brawley grew up in Winnipeg and honed her diving skills at the Pan Am Pool before going on to compete at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and the 1972 Munich Olympics. A gold-medal winner on the tower at the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, Brawley has fond memories of Baird.

"He was a fantastic influence for our sport and is the reason that we are a strong, independent governing body today," Brawley said by email from her home in Saskatoon. "His contributions through the creation and development of the Aquatic Hall of Fame Museum of Canada is phenomenal."

Baird, who became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1992, has one more fight to finish. In 2007 the Hall of Fame launched a lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg for forcing it to leave the Pan Am Pool, its home since 1967. The trial is scheduled for Sept. 20 to Oct. 8.

"I certainly intend to be there," Baird said.

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2010 C4

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