Honor Synchronized Swimmer
FOR THE RECORD: 1973 WORLD
CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (team); 1978 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (duet); 1976 PAN
AMERICAN GAMES: silver (team); 1976 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (team);
1977 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (duet); NATIONAL TEAM COACH AND OLYMPIC
COACH: 1988 - present.
Coach Debbie Muir of the Calgary
Aquabelles had a knack for pairing the two most synchronized swimmers on her
team when she paired Michelle Calkins with Helen Vanderberg to win the 1978
World Championships duet in Berlin, Germany. It marked the first time that
Canadian synchronized swimmers had won a World
Duet Championship, an important milestone in the evolution of
synchronized swimming in Canada. In 1977, Michelle and her Hall of Fame partner
Helen were named to the Elaine Tanner Award as Canada's best young female
athletes of the year by Sports Federation of Canada. And all this before
synchronized swimming became an Olympic sport!
In 1969, Michelle won the '12 and
under' Alberta Provincial Figures Trophy and was on her way to synchronized
swimming stardom. By 1971, she was a member of The Aquabelles Junior National
Team Champions and in 1973 a Canadian Junior National Solo Champion. From 1973
to 1978, she won seven Canadian Senior National Championships in duet, team and
figures events. Her first international competition was winning the silver medal
in the 1973 First World Championships team event in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She
won the silver in the Mexico City 1975 Pan American Games team event. The Pan
Pacific Championships of 1976 and 1977 were the warm up to the gold medal
performance of the 1978 World Championships. All this was before synchronized
swimming was an Olympic event. Also during 1978, she performed in a
demonstration of synchronized swimming at the Edmonton Commonwealth Games before
synchronized swimming became an official Commonwealth Games event eight years
later in 1986.
Michelle's success was by virtue of her
exacting technical skill. Her and teammate Helen's 1978 combined figures scores
were 87.30, a full 2.70 points above the duet silver medalists. She performed
creatively and with intensely dramatic routines. Michelle, with partner Helen,
instigated the great success of their home club in Calgary culminating ten years
later in another goal medal duet win, this time by Carolyn Waldo and Michelle
Cameron at the 1988 Olympic Games.
Michelle's passion for synchronized
swimming never diminished and she is now the head coach of her Aquabelles as
well as serving as a Canadian National Team coach since 1988. She was the 1996
Canadian Olympic coach when Canada won the silver medal in the team event.
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