keith.jpg
keith-fly2.jpg

Vicki Keith
A Canadian Marathon Swimming Legend
and Inspirational Speaker

Vicki Keith is one of Canada's best known marathon swimmers. She has set so many world records that it is hard to decide which of her achievements is the most important: the first double crossing of Lake Ontario, the first person to swim all 5 Great Lakes, the first person to swim Lake Ontario (and many other bodies of water) in the grueling butterfly stroke, the most number of Lake Ontario crossings (five), or her mind numbing five and a half days of swimming in a pool. But more than that, she has dedicated her swims and her life to the coaching of disabled children.  

Her swims include (see list of Vicki's swims)

Vicki has also been the recipient of over 40 awards and recognitions including: 

  • Order of Ontario, 1990

  • Order of Canada, 1992

  • Swim Ontario Hall of Fame: Inducted as Athlete in 1993 

  • Cliff Lumsdon award of SSO, 2000.

  • International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame - Honor Swimmer (2003)

  • Four plaques erected in her name.

In the black and white photo, Vicki is captured by Steven Siewert (copyright) of the Sydney 'Sun Herald' during her 13.5 hour butterfly circumnavigation on 13 May 1989 of what she called Sydney's playground - 14 miles of Sydney Harbour and Darling Harbour. After swimming in a shark cage for about the first two hours of her Sydney Harbour swim, Vicki could no longer stand the restriction "Because butterfly is such a wide stroke my fingers were being cut on the mesh. My feet, too. It was like a cheese grater." Then, in Darling Harbour, she encountered pollution in the form of an oil slick. As she stepped ashore at Watsons Bay, an Australian reporter (Patrick Connelly of Wide Water swim magazine) described her as "resembling the business end of a dipstick"!

Vicki completed five successful Toronto-related crossings of Lake Ontario, including the only successful two-way swim to date, and the only crossing using the butterfly stroke in 1989. In 1988, Vicki completed a major swim on each of Canada's five Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario) - all in the same year.

The following year, Vicki went on to conquer the English Channel with the first ever crossing using the butterfly stroke with a time of 23:33. Also in 1989, she crossed the Catalina Channel from Catalina to the mainland in butterfly in a time of 14:53:26 in September.

Vicki's dream has always been to make a difference in other peoples lives, so, in 2005, when the need for new opportunities for children with disabilities in Kingston, Ontario became apparent, Vicki came out of swimming retirement, and spent 63 hours and 40 minutes in Lake Ontario, completing 80.2 kilometres butterfly, setting 2 world records and raising over $200,000 for the Kingston Family YMCA This brought her lifetime fundraising total to over one million dollars!

In 1998, the city of Toronto honoured her by naming the point of Leslie Street Spit after her. The plaque is located at 43 deg. 36' 56" N, 79 deg. 20' 34" W.  

Vicki continues to train disabled swimmers and provides numerous Inspirational Talks. One of her notable achievements was the training of quadruple-amputee Ashley Cowan to swim Lake Erie. In 2012 Vicki released a video of one of her inspirational talks that focused on the determination and achievement of Ashley Cowan.

keith-1.jpg