Michael Torsney is a vigorous 85-year-old, who trains and competes with the determination of a youngster. A Burlington resident since 1959, he has been an enthusiastic athlete and administrator with a passion for water sports.
For Mike, it all began in the sixties. In that era, Burlington did not have the pool facilities to allow him to pursue his interest in water polo. He commuted to Hamilton to train and compete at the Jimmy Thompson Pool. As a member of the Hamilton Water Polo Club, he was a powerful force both in the pool and “on deck”. He assisted in the selection and preparation of the team that represented Canada in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Over the years Michael Torsney has earned recognition as an inspiring leader by many that he coached and mentored.
As Burlington’s population increased a greater need for more adequate swimming facilities paralleled that growth. In 1972, along with friend and colleague Len Whiteman, Mike founded the Burlington Water Polo Team. They encouraged local youth to join their team and soon created a team that was strong enough to qualify for the 1972 Canadian Water Polo Championships. Also, in 1972 Mike was elected as the President of the Canadian Water Polo Association. He was charged with the responsibility of organizing, planning, and preparing Canada’s first entry into the Olympics.
Mike wasn’t satisfied with administrative duties and realized his competitive urge was not fulfilled. He was motivated to train more efficiently and effectively, not only for his health and well-being but also to compete as a Master swimmer. At the age of 48, Mike competed in his first World Championships in New Zealand as a member of the Canadian relay team winning two gold medals. The butterfly, arguably the most demanding stroke in the sport, and the backstroke are Mike’s specialties.
Mike has competed in eight International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Masters Championships since 1978, medaling in seven of them. Here is an example of a typical year for Michael Torsney: in 2005 at the Worlds Masters Championships in Edmonton, Mike set two national records while winning four medals. Competing in the 75 to 79 age group the 75-year-old Mike eclipsed the Canadian standard in the 100-metre fly, earning a bronze medal; in this same meet he won silver in the 200 metre fly, gold in the 50 metre fly, and capped it off with silver in the 200 metre backstroke.
Over his career, Mike has established numerous Provincial and national records. In the winter Mike competes for the St. Petersburg, Florida Masters and has earned individual “All American Honours”.
Michael Torsney inspires us with his dedication to his sport and to life. He is all that a Burlington Sports Hall of Fame inductee should be. He represents this select group of athletes and builders with dignity and respect.