photo credit: Ashley Russo
In December 2012, Paul Duffield became Canada’s first (and still only) ice swimmer by swimming a mile in the frigid Okanagan Lake. September 7th, 2014 he tipped the other end of the temperature scale. Duffield completed what he believes is the first recorded solo marathon swim in Osoyoos Lake, reputed to be Canada’s warmest lake, from Oroville, WA to Osoyoos, BC. Duffield researched and planned the swim for over a year and couldn’t find another recorded swim between the two cities.
The USA-Canada swim took Duffield 5 hrs 45 mins to complete.
My name is Leon, and like Hugh, I am a member of the masters swimming community. Hugh and I connected at the pool when I was coaching the Victoria Crystal Silver Streaks. Above my desk at home, I have a photo of Hugh and his relay team mates, Steve, Jim and Peter, taken on the day they set a National record in the 4 x 50 free relay in Duncan on January 29, 2007.
News of Hughʼs passing spread quickly through the swimming community as he was well known for his participation at mastersʼ swim meets and for his record setting swims. I was officiating at an open water event on Sunday, and many of the competitors spoke to me about Hugh. Disbelief was the common thread as all of us expected Hugh to be at the next swim meet setting records. The regard that the swimming community had for Hugh is evident by the number of swimmers here
Hugh was an example of what masters swimming is about and proof that age ” is only a number.” Of course I am referring to the shirts that Hugh and “Hughʼs Crew” wore at meets. He was passionate about swimming and he enjoyed the friendship and respect of swimmers of all ages. He rarely missed a Silver Streaks social event or an AGM. His swimming goal was to be better than he was
the day before but he never took his eye off the record book, in which his name appears often.
Hugh mostly trained on his own at Saanich Commonwealth Place, close to his home. When officiating at an age group meet, Iʼd often see Hugh standing on deck in his swim suit, goggles in hand, waiting for the break between heats and finals so he could get in his training laps. Yesterday at the a meet at SCP, I told folks about Hughʼs passing and they remembered him. At the completion of the mornings heats, I did as I always do; I looked for Hugh to give him the signal that it was okay to dive on in.
We should all be so lucky to have the support crew that Hugh had at swim meets; his family. Hugh was fortunate that family love is not considered to be performance enhancing, although I believe otherwise because when he was racing you could feel the energy from the McGregor clan sharing his lane.
I would like to close by borrowing from Hughʼs obituary: His passing has left a void. He has left an inspiring legacy. He was a loving, gentle man, and his was a well lived life.