Doug Martin was a record-setting swimmer who competed for the Canadian National Swim Team in the 1970s. He swam as a teenager at the Montreal Olympics in ’76.
Martin was born in Windsor on December 14, 1955. He attended Prince Edward Elementary School (Grades 1 to 6), Edith Cavell (Grades 7 and 8), and Riverside High School.
Martin’s competitive swimming career commenced in 1964 when, at nine years of age, he joined the Windsor Swim Club. He switched to the fledgling Windsor Aquatic Club as a high school student, where he trained under coach Lou Pocock. “Doug was probably the most coachable and high motivated athlete with whom I have ever been involved,” Pocock has said on the record. “His biggest asset was to dig down deep inside for the big effort, whether it was at the OFSAA level or Olympics.”
In 1967, at the age of 12, Martin submitted his first record-setting performance in age group competition at the Metro Meet, where he won the 50-yard butterfly competition in 34.2 seconds.
Years later, Martin competed in the first-ever Ontario Games, held in Oshawa in 1973. He won gold medals in the 100-metre and 200-metre butterfly races, earning himself a spot on Team Ontario at the 1973 Canada Games in Vancouver. There, he won five medals: record-setting gold in the 200-metre butterfly, silver in the 400-metre medley, and bronze in the 100-meter butterfly and 400-metre and 800-metre freestyle relays. Later in the year, he was awarded the Premier of Ontario Achievement Awards from Bill Davis, recognizing his “extraordinary prowess and personal determination and significant contribution to Ontario Sport.”
That same year, Martin accepted an athletic scholarship to Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. He swam for coach Paul Savage between 1973 and ’77, during which time he was a member of three NAIA Championship teams and a three-time All-American selection. He took the ’75-76 season off in order to concentrate fulltime on training for the ’76 Olympic Games in Montreal.
During his time at Simon Fraser, Martin set three NAIA records and five Canadian records. These marks included Canadian records in the 100-metre and 500-metre freestyles (set in 1974) and the 1650-yard freestyle (’75). His 1650-yard time, in particular, beat the previous mark by a staggering 34 seconds. He also set NAIA records in the 800-yard and 1500-yard freestyle relays and the 1650-yard freestyle (all ’75).
Martin was a member of the Canadian National Swim Team from 1974 to ’76, during which time he consistently placed in first or second in freestyle and butterfly events in Canada. Martin qualified for the ’74 Canadian Nationals in Ottawa, where he won gold in the 1500-metre freestyle. His 16:22.65 time was a Canadian record that shattered the previous mark by 13 seconds. He also took the bronze medal in the 200-metre butterfly.
At the 1975 World Championships Trials in Winnipeg, Martin claimed silver and bronze medals in the 200-metre butterfly and 1500-metre freestyle respectively. He went on to race at the World Championships in Cali, Colombia, where he finished 14th in the 200-metre butterfly.
Also in 1975 were the Pan Am Games Trials in Calgary. Martins won a silver medal in the 1500-metre freestyle and a bronze in the 200-metre butterfly. At the Games proper, held in Mexico City, he placed 8th in the 1500-metre freestyle and 9th in the 200-metre butterfly.
Martin realized a lifelong goal by competing at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, where he finished 22nd in the 200-metre butterfly. His time of 2:06.01 was his fastest ever morning swim. Known for having longer hair than most swimmers, he surprised several spectators by shaving his head for the event. While in Montreal, Martin was accorded the rare honour of meeting Queen Elizabeth and her family aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Only one other swimmer received such an invitation.
Back home, Martin was recognized as the Windsor Kinsmen Athlete of the Year.
Shortly after the Montreal Olympics, Martin composed a letter to his mother and father that we’ve recorded for posterity. “How do you show your appreciation,” he wrote, “to those who gave their time, those who made you get up on the mornings you would rather have stayed in bed, those who gave you that needed support when you were down, those who instilled the self-confidence necessary for world class performances, those who gave their patience and total support? How do you thank those who gave so much, asking so little? How do you thank those who helped make a dream come true?”
Martin retired from swimming in 1977, at age 21, as the holder of multiple Canadian records. The swimming community remembers him as a perpetual “dark horse” who qualified for national teams from lanes one or eight – the unfavoured outside lanes. In the pool, Martin was known as a “negative splitter” – a swimmer who preferred to move at a consistent pace or gradually pick up pace over the course of a race. The ability to effectively swim in this manner tends to have a huge psychological effect on opponents, causing them to look over their shoulder in anticipation of a surge. Negative splitters have the capacity to control a race despite not leading it.
In May, 1980, Martin was diagnosed with diabetes and required to administer daily insulin injections. As of 2015, he resides in Vancouver, where he works for IBM as a marketing representative in the General Computer Systems Division.