Alberta Olympian and former Stettlerite Susan Sloan Kelsey says that she is “honoured” to be recognized by the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, May 30 for her contributions to swimming.
“It was a real honour and I was humbled to be included in such a great group of athletes, builders and coaches,” Sloan Kelsey said. “It was really fun to be there with my family and some friends from Stettler.”
The ceremony took place in Red Deer and while Sloan Kelsey said she was a bit hoarse, she prepared a speech and said it was wonderful to be honoured that way.
Sloan Kelsey’s successful swimming career began in Stettler, when her father – the mayor at the time – was instrumental in getting a swimming pool built in town in 1967. She said that everyone joined the swim team, so that’s what she did. And she continued to swim in Stettler until she moved away to Vancouver at age 17 to train for the Olympics.
“It was great, early on, being from a small town,” she said. “But later on in my career I needed the support of teammates, and that’s why I moved to Vancouver to have a bigger city.”
At the Olympic trials in 1976, she came first in the 100 metre butterfly and set a record for the Canadian Commonwealth Games. She ended up winning bronze with the relay team. That bronze medal was Canada’s first while hosting the Olympics.
“It was very exciting and I was so happy that my mom and dad could come to Montreal and be in the stands, so I was excited to share it with them,” she said.
Now, she still swims as often as she can, but is focused on her family (she has two sons) and in contributing to swimming in other ways – for example, by helping out with a triathlon.
“I’ve always been involved in mentoring and helping young kids and putting back what I can into the sport,” she said.
There are many aspects she loves about swimming, but said that setting a goal and accomplishing it was “huge.” She also just likes being fit in general and making friends throughout her career.
While she admits that there are moments where it got difficult, ultimately everything works out.
“When you’re training and you’re dead tired and you have doubts and you wonder why you’re doing it, you turn around and realize that it was all worth it,” she said. “So of course there were definitely moments that it was hard, but you struggle through them and come out the other side.”