Victor Davis (CAN)
Honor Swimmer (1994)
FOR THE RECORD: 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m breaststroke), silver (100m breaststroke, 4×100 medley relay); 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver ( 4×100 medley relay); THREE WORLD RECORDS: 200m breaststroke; 1982 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m breaststroke), silver (100m breaststroke); 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m breaststroke), silver (200m breaststroke); 1982 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (200m breaststroke), silver (100m breaststroke), fourth (200m individual medley); 1986 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (100m breaststroke, 4x100m medley relay), silver (200m breaststroke), fifth (200m individual medley); THIRTY-ONE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: breaststroke, butterfly, individual medley.
Once in a lifetime comes a swimmer who can psyche himself up to unbelievable heights in the big meets and bring his whole team up with him. Such a man was Victor Davis, born October 2, 1964 in Guelph, Ontario. He started training full time at age 12 with his one and only coach and mentor Clifford Barry of The Guelph Marlins.
Just three years later, Davis burst on the scene at the 1981 Canadian Nationals and beat Canada’s favorite Graham Smith in a come from behind victory in the 100 meter breaststroke. This was his first of 31 national titles.
At the 1982 World Championships, Victor Davis told the world swimming press, “My strategy is to go out smooth in the first 50, be in touch with the field at the 100, them leave ’em all behind.” It was as though Davis had seen a videotape of the race before it ever began. He broke David Wilkie’s 1976 Olympic world record in his next race. It was his first of three world records in the 200 meter breaststroke event (2:14.77). He also won a silver in the 100 meter event, just a fraction of a second behind his arch rival Hall of Famer Steve Lundquist (USA). Throughout their illustrious careers, these two great swimmers called each other “The Ultimate Animal.”
At the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Davis won a gold in the 200 breaststroke and a silver in the 100 breaststroke. The headlines described him as an intensely determined, fierce competitor.
Despite a difficult year getting psyched for the 1984 Los Angeles Games due to a bout of mononucleosis, Davis’ cockiness came back. “It’s true what they say – you never know how much you’ll miss something until you don’t have it. Now I know, and I’m hungrier than ever to get back to it.” In peak form, Victor Davis broke his own world record in the 200 breaststroke during the Olympic heats and again in the finals, bringing it down to 2:13.31. In addition, he took two silvers, in the 100 breaststroke and 400 medley relay.
At the 1986 Commonwealth Games, Davis was a double gold medalist in the 100 breaststroke and 400 medley relay and won a silver in the 200 breaststroke. At the World Championships, also in 1986, he again won the gold in the 100 and silver in the 200 meter breaststroke events. He made Canada proud once again at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as his fastest 100 meter split time in history enabled his Canadian medley relay team to capture the silver.
Victor Davis was named Swim Canada’s Athlete of the Year three times in 1982, 1984, and 1986. He was inducted in the Canadian Amateur Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1990, just one year after he retired from swimming and a few month’s after his tragic death.
Victor Davis’ enormous popularity with Canadians was perhaps due as much to his cocky flamboyance as to his astonishing talent. In a country noted for its reserve, and a sport where most of a swimmer’s life is spent with his face in the water, Victor Davis was always different and never dull. He was an inspiration to every Canadian and an exciting challenge to every swimmer