Bird plucks gold from Olympic pool

Jan 09, 2003, vol. 26, no. 1
By Howard Fluxgold

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For Gwen Bird (left) the 2002 holiday celebration began a little early. In November, the head of collections management at the library returned home from the Olympic pool in Sydney, Australia with a bag full of medals.

Bird competed in four swimming events in the Gay Games in the 40-44 age class and came away with medals in each event. She won gold in the 800-metre and 1,500-metre freestyle, silver in the 400-meter freestyle and bronze in the 200-metre freestyle.

Bird says the level of competition was so high that although she set a provincial record in the 400-metre event, she still only finished in second place. “It was highly competitive, but it was in a spirit of friendly competition,” says Bird. “It wasn't aggressively competitive.” In all, 1,400 athletes from around the world took part in the six-day event.

Bird paid her own way to Sydney, but was thankful for the backing from her SFU friends. “My colleagues in the library were fantastically supportive,” Bird recalls. “They watched my results online and had a big celebration when I returned.”

Winning medals is nothing new for Bird. When the games were held in Vancouver in 1990, she took home five medals from both individual and relay events.

Bird says she trained five days a week for the games but has cut back since she returned home. Still, she is making plans to enter swim meets in the spring. “I do it because I love it. It's great for fitness. I'll probably enter some local meets then go to the provincials in Kelowna in April. The meets help motivate me to train,” Bird notes.

Bird began swimming in high school in Ontario and continued with the varsity swim team at Cornell University in New York state where she completed her undergraduate degree. She earned her masters of library science at UBC and was college librarian at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in Merritt before coming to SFU in 1999.

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