Ruth Kerr was the first Windsor-born athlete to compete at an Olympic Games. At her peak, she was Canada’s leading woman swimmer and held several Ontario and Canadian records in her sport.
Kerr was born in Windsor on March 8, 1916.
Kerr first learned to swim during summers spent at her family’s cottage at Honey Harbour in Georgian Bay. Kerr’s parents were instrumental in forming the Border Cities Swimming Club in 1930. Before long, the organization had grown into arguably Canada’s largest swimming club, and Kerrs’ daughter had become one of shining lights.
As a teenager, Kerr wasted little time before establishing herself as one of the Canada’s elite woman swimmers. The Swimmer, the official publication of the Canadian Amateur Swimming Association, identified the Kenney Collegiate student in 1932 as Canada’s leading woman in her sport.
Kerr held several records in the early days of competitive women’s swimming in Canada. At one momentous Kennedy meet, Kerr swam her way to five Canadian records. Most impressively, in the 300-yard freestyle event, Kerr swam a 4:05.4, shaving a colossal 5.6 seconds off Irene Pirie’s Canadian record time.
Kerr famously represented Canada at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Canadian women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team, for which she swam the third leg, missed out on a bronze medal by one position. Kerr also competed in the 400-metre freestyle competition and in the 100-metre backstroke event. She was only 16 years old, making her the youngest member of Canada’s Olympic contingent that year.
Kerr also competed in the inaugural Canadian National Exhibition Marathon Swim. She placed second in the long-distance open-water race.
Kerr, only the second woman admitted into the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame, was also inducted into the Ontario Aquatic Hall of Fame on September 21, 2013. She was admitted under the label “Pioneer Swimmer.”
Following her swimming career, Kerr worked for many years as a teacher.
She passed away on June 17, 1974.