Cliff Barry, Coach of Victor Davis and Mike West, Dies at 75

Canadian Olympic water polo player and swim coach Cliff Barry died on Saturday. He was 75 years old.

Barry was a member of the Canadian Olympic men’s water polo team at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. Those were the team’s first two Olympic appearances, where they placed 16th and 9th, respectively, and were part of just four ever Olympic appearances for Canada.

After he retired from water polo, Barry became the coach at the Region of Waterloo Swim Club in Waterloo, Ontario. There, he coached two of Canada’s most famous swimmers: Victor Davis and Mike West.

At the 1984 Games, Barry guided Victor Davis to Olympic gold and a World Record in the 200m breaststroke and two silver medals in the 100 breaststroke and 4 x 100 medley relay.

At those same Olympics, Barry coached Canadian backstroker Mike West to a bronze medal in the 100m backstroke and a silver medal in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

Four years later, Cliff was hired as the head coach of the Pointe-Claire Swim Club. In 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Games, Barry coached Davis to another silver medal in a legendary 4 x 100 medley relay performance alongside Mark Tewksbury, Tom Ponting and Sandy Goss.

Barry also coached Paul Szekula at those same games as a member of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay.

“Cliff was loved by everyone and led by example,” his former athlete Justin Finney said upon his death. “Cliff brought greatness to the Pointe-Claire Swim Club when I was a young swimmer and created an incredible Senior National Squad led by Victor (Davis) including Taras Pawlowsky, Rick Cosgrove, Robert Pearson, Jennifer Hutchison, Chuck Meklensek, Stephanie Shewchuk, Marc Daoust, Jim Chapman, Melanie Rice and many more.”

Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.

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1 year ago

Cliff was my most influential coach. Above his obvious talents as a coach he had a zest for quirky things, encouraged the well rounded individual and was not afraid to bring out his own brand of tough love, all of which I look back and value, to this day. My thoughts are with Carling and Susan.

Carling Barry
Reply to  Roach
1 year ago

Hello Roach. It is Carling. Thank you for your comments on my dad. He definitely did have a zest for quirky things and could give tough love when needed. He was great at guiding us to our potentials.

Thank you for your thoughts. I hope you are well

Rick Cosgrove
1 year ago

Very nice tribute, well deserved. Cliff was an excellent coach and fantastic person. He encouraged great swimming and to live life to the fullest. I’ll always remember the life lessons, swim guidance, and cooking tips!

Sincere condolences to Susan and Carling, May you keep swimming in good memories.

Carling Barry
Reply to  Rick Cosgrove
1 year ago

Hello Rick! It’s Carling. Thank you for your condolences. He was one of a kind and yes a fantastic genuine human. He definitely encouraged living life to the fullest as I know he did and has no regrets which gives me some comfort. All I have now our swimming in memories and I am heading now to spend 10 days with my mom again and see all our family friends and there will be huge amounts of tears and grief but there will be just as much laughter as we look back at all my dads antics, stories humor and memories.

I hope you are well!!

1 year ago

Slight correction. Cliff coached at the Guelph Marlins for 4 years before we all moved to ROW including Victor. I had quit swimming just before Cliff arrived. My friends coerced me back and Cliff guided me to the National team, a scholarship to Indiana and onto the Olympic team while he was Guelph. Also Alan Swanston was a Pan Am silver medalist swimming for Cliff in Guelph. Cliff moved to ROW and we all followed including Victor.

Reply to  ecoach
1 year ago

He was so passionate and a great motivator. While my IU coach Doc was the science of swimming Cliff made coaching an a form of art. It was my great pleasure to be coached and taught life lessons by one of the most caring and genuine people in the coaching profession.

Glenn Mills
1 year ago

Cliff was a great coach and a great man. I got to know Cliff and Victor through meets in Etobicoke all the way through World Championships. Running into him later in life, he carried the same energy. Very very sad.

Alicia Hicken Franklin
1 year ago

I swam for Cliff at Etobicoke in my teens. Cliff had a positive impact on me, my teammates and my family. I remember Cliff as a passionate person, spoke up for what he believed, had a lot of interests, and laughed a lot. I have seen him on deck for years since at Canadian National meets and he always was happy to see me and offered some advice. He will continue to influence my coaching.
My thoughts are with his family and his community.

Morgan knabe
1 year ago

RIP Cliff. I am thankful for the advice and guidance he gave to me growing up, as I’m sure he gave to so many swimmers through the decades. He will be missed!

1 year ago

Wow. RIP, Cliff. I remember him vividly on deck at meets in the 1980s. What a presence. Great coach and motivator.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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