The pinnacle of competition in sport is the Olympic Games. Melanie Mackay set her sights on being an Olympian and she did just that. Born and raised in Burlington, the Nelson High School alum began swimming when she was 9 years old, after the first BIG Games in 1969. As there was not an indoor pool in Burlington then, the first Burlington Y Aquatic Club swam once a week at the James Street Y in Hamilton, coached by 2 “moms,” Kay Ferguson (1948 swimming Olympian) and Jackie Crans. When the Burlington Y opened its doors, the team then moved to the first indoor pool in Burlington. Melanie continued to improve as an age grouper finishing 7th at the Nationals in 1974, but when there was not enough pool time in Burlington to continue her intensive training, Kay suggested she swim with Oakville Aquatic Swim Club where she was mentored and coached by the highly respected TOM ARUSOO – himself an Olympian – a 1968 Olympic swimmer.

Arusoo believed that this special 14-year-old had the raw talent to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. He shared with his young protégé what was required to reach the penultimate as an amateur athlete: commitment, perseverance, and sacrifice. Melanie was prepared to take up the challenge. She trained relentlessly, achieving remarkable results – particularly in her specialty – the 200 metre breaststroke – ultimately fulfilling her Olympic dream at the tender age of 16.

Melanie’s road to the 1976 Olympics includes: 

  • Bronzes at the 1975 Canadian National Championship-Summer and Winter Canadian National Team to Britain (1975) and Holland (1976)
  • Ranked 19th in the FINA World rankings in 1976
  • 3rd at the 1976 World Championships and the 1976 Canadian Olympic Trials where her “Dream Came True” as she was named, as a 16-year-old, to the Canadian Olympic Team.

This 1976 Olympian was awarded an NCAA Swim Scholarship to the University of Alabama where she was named All-American at the Nationals University swimming championships. She went on to complete her university studies at the University of Western Ontario where she won and set a new CIAU record in the 200 breaststroke and was named to the Western Swimming Hall of Fame.

Melanie continued to swim competitively into the early ’80s but soon turned her attention to coaching, passing along her skills in support of up-and-coming swimmers. Throughout the balance of the ’80s and until now Melanie can be found on the deck of a pool sharing her passion for swimming and guiding the next generation of swimmers in this province. She traveled to Windsor, Peterborough, Hamilton, and Etobicoke to work with young aquatic competitors. Melanie is currently Head Novice Coach of OAK which over the 15 years she has worked there, has developed into one of the largest and most successful Age Group Teams in Canada.

Melanie is also an active member of our local community. She gives generously of her time and skills while volunteering at schools in Burlington. For her enduring commitment to swimming both as a competitor and one who has given back so much to our kids, our community, and our country we welcome Melanie MacKay into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame.