OTTAWA – Morgan Bird and Tammy Cunnington were among four Canadian Para swimmers whose retirements from competitive sport were officially announced by Swimming Canada this week.
Born with cerebral palsy, 28-year-old Bird competed at three Paralympic Games with the highlight a bronze medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay this past summer in Tokyo. The butterfly and freestyle specialist from Calgary also won two gold at the 2015 Parapan American Games, silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and silver at the 2013 world championships.
“I never pictured being able to call myself a Paralympic medallist,” said Bird, who has a degree in child studies and is taking an online class for adapted physical activity. “Coming out a bronze medallist with my teammates in a relay [in Tokyo] is like the cherry on top of everything.
‘’Just to experience being on the podium with three of my closest friends … you can’t ask for a better ending to a career than that.”
Cunnington, a member of the 2016 and 2020 Paralympic teams, set both Canadian and world records in her category. She swam three events in Tokyo.
“I don’t think it’s ever an easy decision,” said the Red Deer, Alta., resident. “Even when you know it’s time, it’s still hard.”
Also retiring is Samantha Ryan of Saskatoon, who set a Canadian record in finishing fifth in the 100m butterfly at the Rio Paralympics, and Sarah Girard of Montreal who won a bronze at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games.
Lavallière a new assistant coach in Montreal
Paralympian Jean-Michel Lavallière of Montreal, a national team stalwart for nearly a decade, is joining Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre staff in Montreal as its new assistant coach. He will pace the Montreal Olympic Pool deck with head coach Mike Thompson.
“I want the athletes that will be swimming with us, and the athletes on Team Canada and swimming in Canada in general to be more successful than I was,” says the Rio 2016 team member. “One of my biggest abilities is to be able to listen and act on what I heard.’’
Lavallière most recently worked as an assistant coach at the Club de Natation Région de Québec, helping his former teammates Aurélie Rivard, Nicolas-Guy Turbide and Alec Elliot prepare for Tokyo 2020.
In addition to Lavallière, newcomers Tyson Macdonald and Arianna Hunsicker have joined the group of HPC – Quebec swimmers.
Meanwhile, world record holder and double Paralympic medallist Danielle Dorris is now a full-time member of the group as well.
With files from Swimming Canada