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21 June 2021 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Alex Baumann on Edmonton 1983 Summer Universiade: “It absolutely prepared me for the ‘84 L.A. Games”

Canadian swimming great Alex Baumann credits the invaluable experience he gained at the 1983 Edmonton Summer Universiade in sufficiently preparing him for his success at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.


Baumann, then 19, swam to gold medals in both the 200 and 400-meter Individual Medley events in Edmonton, an impressive performance in his home country that he duplicated just over one year later on the world’s largest sporting stage.


“It really was a stepping stone for me – I think the year before the Games in 1983 was critical for me to perform well,” Baumann tells Brian Pinelli, referring to the Edmonton 1983 Summer Universiade in the latest edition of the FISU University Legends Interview Series.


“We had some good competition there as well – Ricardo Prado, who was the World Record holder in the 400 Individual Medley at that point in time competed, and it was a healthy competition between us that set me up for 1984.”


Baumann broke two Universiade records at the first Summer University Games ever hosted by Canada in June of 1983. He fondly recalls serving as Canada’s flag bearer, an honor he was also bestowed in Los Angeles. 


“I do have fond memories – I remember coming in fairly late to Edmonton because I wanted to ensure that I had enough rest and I was a flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony, which is an incredible experience particularly in your home country,” Baumann said.

“It was a great atmosphere and I think Edmonton put on a great show as well,” said the Canadian swimmer from Sudbury, Ontario.


Baumann says that his studies in political science at Laurentian University in the lead-up to both Edmonton 1983 and Los Angeles 1984 complimented his athletic accomplishments.


“For me, still attending university while training for the Games, whether it be FISU or the Olympic Games, was critical because it kept my mind off thinking about swimming 24 hours a day – it gave me that kind of distraction that I needed,” Baumann revealed.


Baumann’s Olympic gold medals were the first claimed by a Canadian swimmer since George Hodgson, who also won two events at the 1912 Stockholm Games. The young swimmer’s performance captivated the predominantly winter sports nation and Baumann was voted Canada’s Male Sports Athlete of the Year for 1984, ahead of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.


“It was an honor – you don’t compete for those honors, but it certainly is nice to be recognized because you still have the at dichotomy between professional sport and really amateur sport, its probably not as amateur anymore, but it still comparatively is,” Baumann said.


Baumann, who retired from competitive swimming in 1987, has occupied a variety of leadership positions overseeing high-performance athlete programs in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Currently, the 57-year-old Canadian is the Chief Executive Officer of Swimming Australia.


Residing on Australia’s Gold Coast outside of Brisbane, Baumann is faced with the immense challenge of readying the country’s highly regarded swimmers amid a pandemic for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games.


“As we get to a Games, whether it’s FISU or an Olympic Games, we know there are always going to be distractions and you have to deal with these distractions,” Baumann said, while noting Australia’s swimmers are the number two ranked in the world, only trailing the United States.


“There are some lessons to be learned, even though it has been a difficult roller coaster for a lot of our athletes and coaches – we hope to do well in Tokyo.”


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Written by Brian Pinelli


Photo Courtesy of : Swimming canAda and swimming australia