Joanne Malar is a competitive swimmer who has been through a lot of ups and downs throughout her career. Through the bad times as well as the good, Joanne has displayed the qualities of a good leader and role model.
Joanne Malar has been swimming since the age of seven, when she joined the Hamilton Wentworth Aquatic Club in Hamilton, Ontario. Her coach, Gaye Stratten, has been alongside her every step of the way and says that he knew she had potential from day one.
When Joanne first started swimming, she began training in the juniors group and quickly moved up to higher group levels as she practiced more and more and her swimming improved. Her first competitions were at a local level and she enjoyed them very much, but wanted more competition which drove her to win. Seven years after she began swimming, at the age of 14, Joanne qualified for her first ever spot on the Canadian National Team. This achievement was huge and she was becoming better known around Ontario and Canada from it. This recognition, she said, caused her to feel stressed and made her feel that she had to win, and she was extremely disappointed when she didn’t. Many people said that they saw a huge change in Joanne’s attitude towards the sport at this time and that the stress and pressure caused her to mature and have to make big decisions on her own. She, at first, didn’t know if she could handle the stress, and at one time wanted to give up. Joanne instead, chose to continue her swimming career and has made great progress over the years.
As the years have gone by, Joanne has been through many competitions and has been very successful. In her first Olympic Games in 1992, at the age of 17, Joanne turned out 11th in the 400 IM. This was a great experience for her, but again she was upset because of how she had placed. From there, she came back home to train and did so until 1994, when she competed in the World Championships in Rome, Italy. There, she placed 4th in the 400 IM and placed in the top ten in two other events. This win gave Joanne a big boost and really got her pumped up. In 1995, again at the World Championships, Joanne placed 1st in the 400IM and also 1st in one other race. At this same time, she was also competing at home, in the Canadian Nationals where she was placed 1st in 8 events and 2nd and 3rd in six other races. At this time her career had taken off and it was right before the 1996 Olympic Trials. At the Trials, Joanne placed well and had made it to the Olympics in 6 events. At the ’96 Olympics, held in Atlanta, Georgia, Joanne did extraordinarily well and came home very happy. “Although I didn’t place,” she said, “my heart was in it and that’s what matters.”Her whole life and attitude had changed all due to this one event taking place. After the Olympics, Joanne landed a contract with Salon Selectives Shampoo Company to endorse their shampoos and conditioners. During this time, Joanne led a ‘superstar’ lifestyle. This contract lasted for a little while and when it came to an end, Joanne was devastated. She had been living the ‘high’ life since she had started the commercials and now without them she felt she had nothing. This sent her on an emotional roller coaster. At times, she just wanted to give up her whole career and quit just like that, while at other moments she was pushing herself harder then ever. This wasn’t healthy for her mind or body and she needed help. With the support of her family, friends, and coach, Joanne got over this obstacle in her life and got back on track.
Joanne is expected to be a favourite at the next Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000. All of her faithful friends and fans are looking forward to seeing her perform and hoping for a great outcome. Also, many young people, girls and boys alike, will be watching their favourite swimmer, whom they rest their faith and hard work upon, on the television, quietly cheering her along.
Joanne Malar is a great role model for young people pursuing a career or future in competitive swimming. I, myself, have had many of the same experiences with chioices on giving up and quitting. In my case, though, I had no one to look up to, no one there to say that they had been through it too. I think, if I had had someone there who had experienced these same choices before, I would still be swimming today. Joanne, has been through a lot in her swimming career, but got through it all and is still very strong and proud today, and that is why I think she is such an amazing role model and athlete.