‘The greatest swimmers of all-time’ is a conversation that will typically shine light on the names of Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, and Ian Thorpe. These athletes have dominated at an international level for years and were the “one to beat” every time they stood on the platform. But there is one Canadian who is not only worthy of being recognized as one of the most talented swimmers in Canadian history, but across the world.
Michael Edgson was born in North Vancouver but spent most of his time growing up in Nanaimo. He was an all-around athlete at a young age and was involved in hockey, soccer, and gymnastics before realizing swimming was better suited for his visual impairment. He was right, as shown by his overwhelming level of success at the Paralympic Games.
While Edgson raced against both able-bodied swimmers and athletes with a disability, he found his groove in the B3 classification at the Paralympic level. While he started to swim at the age of 11, when he was a 15-year-old at the 1984 Paralympic Games he made a name for himself in Long Island. Edgson swam to four gold medals, three silver medals, and a remarkable four world records. It was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a world class career for the native of British Columbia.
At the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea he became a household name. Edgson dominated against the best of the best from across the globe. He swam in nine races and could not be beat. When all was said and done, he brought home nine gold medals and had his name etched beside four world records. The 19-year-old was selected as the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies in appreciation of his unbelievable performance.
In 1992, Edgson continued where he left off in South Korea. Despite being past his prime at the Games in Barcelona, he won another four gold medals, one silver and added another world record for Team Canada. It would be the last time Edgson swam at the Paralympics, but his accomplishments were not forgotten.
He was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2006, Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence in 2009, the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2011, the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Greater Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
Edgson is the Canadian record holder for most Paralympic gold medals with 17 and for most gold medals won at a single Games with 9. Those numbers in itself are enough to be considered one of the most talented swimmers the world has ever seen.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murnaghan // Canadian Paralympic Committee