Canadian Olympic Champion Mark Tewksbury “Honored” To Be Part of Queen’s Funeral

Three-time Olympic medalist Mark Tewksbury will be a member of the Canadian delegation attending Queen Elizabeth II‘s state funeral on Monday.

Tewksbury, the 1992 Olympic champion in the men’s 100 backstroke and a member of the Order of Canada, said he was “very honored” to be among a list of dignitaries Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday who will be in attendance in London.

Other Order of Canada members apart of the delegation are actress Sandra Oh, performing artist Gregory Charles, and Cross of Valour recipient Leslie Arthur Palmer.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 at the age of 96. Her state funeral will be attended by 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey on September 19.

“It’s such an honor, I was very touched [to be invited],” Tewksbury told CBC.

The 54-year-old told CBC that he and the Queen’s “paths crossed a number of times” over the years, though they only met once when she came through the athletes’ village at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia.

“I had that famous minute of small talk,” said Tewksbury, who won a total of four Commonwealth titles across the 1986 and 1990 Games.

“I must admit, I thought ‘Oh, what’s the big deal?’ Because I’d seen it from afar, at the Commonwealth Games in ’86, and she was often in the stands and swimming. But she just had that presence. It’s such a cliche, but I suddenly was tongue-tied, butterflies. There was a presence. She obviously wore her duty so incredibly well.”

Tewksbury said he was at a conference in Manchester when he heard word that the Queen had died on September 8. The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle had given the opening address at the conference four days earlier.

“So, I felt the sadness. And then our event got immediately canceled, because that’s royal protocol. I’m still in a little bit of shock, to be honest,” Tewksbury said.

A two-time Canadian Olympian, Tewksbury won a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, swimming the lead-off leg on the Canadian men’s 400 medley relay.

Four years later, at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, the Calgary native won the gold medal in the men’s 100 backstroke, setting a new Olympic Record of 53.98 to edge out reigning world champion Jeff Rouse of the United States.

The gold medal was Canada’s first of the 1992 Games and its first in the pool since 1984.

Tewksbury also won a bronze medal on the Canadian medley relay in Barcelona, and subsequently announced his retirement from the sport.

After being inducted into both the Canadian Olympic and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, Tewksbury has worked actively in the sports world since his athletic retirement, including a stint as an athlete representative at the IOC.

His most prominent role since retiring from competition came in 2012, when he served as the Chef de Mission for the Canadian Olympic team for the 2012 Summer Games in London.

In addition to his work in the sports world, Tewksbury has also long been an advocate for gay rights, publicly coming out in 1998.

Tewksbury was appointed to the Order of Canada, which “recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” in 2020, for “his athletic excellence and sport leadership, and for championing equity, inclusion and human rights, both on and off the field of play.”

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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