Sandy was born in Edmonton in 1934. From a young age he was a competitor and he was the Alberta junior cycling road racing champion from 1949 to 1952. He later competed in the Canadian cycling team trials for the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver, and the 1958 BC Centenary 100 mile bicycle race from Qualicum to Victoria. Sandy played basketball and football while a young man in the Canadian Navy until a knee injury in 1960 sent him on the path to what would become his lifelong sport: full bore target shooting.
Sandy enjoyed success as a marksman, representing the Royal Canadian Navy in the Canadian service rifle championships in the early '60s, representing British Columbia at the Canadian national championships 26 times, and qualifying and participating 19 times as a member of the Canadian national team to Bisley, England. Sandy won the Lt. Governor's Prize at the British Columbia Rifle Association's annual meeting three times, and, amongst many other Canadian shooting achievements, was Canadian Champion in 1981 and winner of ten Governor General of Canada medals.
On the international stage, Sandy represented Canada in full bore shooting at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia in 1982 and in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990. He was a shooter or coach in ten World Champion team events. Sandy served for seven years as a volunteer for the XV Commonwealth Games Society on the sports committee and lobbying committee, and finally acted as chairman of all shooting sports during the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
Sandy has also contributed to the organization of shooting over the past almost 50 years. He is a life governor of the British Columbia Rifle Association, which is the oldest sporting association in British Columbia, having an inception date of 1874. He is also a life governor of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, and a Vice-president of the National Rifle Association of Great Britain. He was elected to the DCRA hall of fame in 2000 and the Honour Roll of Canadian Forces Hall of Fame.
Sandy's real contribution to the sport of full bore target rifle shooting has been as a coach, where his achievements are many and illustrious. Sandy coached the Canadian full bore rifle team in the 1986, 1998 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the Malaysian team at the 2006 Games. He has been coach to many Canadian rifle teams at shooting competitions worldwide. He was the chief coach of the Canadian Army Cadet full bore rifle team to Bisley in 1981 and '82. For many years, he coached the 676 Air Cadets in Sidney, BC winning two national championships and runner-up twice. Sandy's shooters have won many Commonwealth Games medals, world championship medals, and provincial and national awards.
He has enjoyed the unconditional support of his wife, Margaret and family throughout the years of his shooting career.
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It was just three short years from the day Rick began training seriously to the day he was standing on the blocks for the finals of the men’s 200 metre freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, about to go stroke-for-stroke with the established stars of the swimming world. That was, he says, a defining moment in his life.
Growing up in Salmon Arm, with a father who was President of the local swimming club and two older brothers swimming in the “Summer League” – training in May and June, competing on weekends in July and August – Rick naturally became involved himself and discovered he was very good at it. In fact, he was the first person to go under a minute in the Summer League in the 100 metre backstroke, a record that stood for the next 10 years.
Rick moved to Victoria in 1997 for the University of Victoria and its swimming program. It was the first time he had trained year-round, with sessions twice daily. He thought he was a pretty good swimmer but “I was annihilated in the first few workouts,” he laughs. Instead of discouraging him, it ignited the drive and determination of the first-class athlete. “I was able to adapt very quickly,” he says. “That’s always been my strength as an athlete.”
By the end of his first semester, he had switched strokes to freestyle and qualified for the National Championships. In his second semester, he qualified for the Canadian team at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. Rick went on to win the most international medals in Canadian swimming history, capturing 27 medals across three Commonwealth Games, six World Championships, and three Olympic Games, becoming only the eighth Canadian swimmer ever to compete in three Olympics. He has also reached the podium in many other major competitions. Yet what he considers the highlight of his career was not a medal performance but his sixth place finish in the men’s 200 metre freestyle at the 2004 Olympics in Athens – one of the greatest and fastest races in Olympic swim history – against legendary swimmers Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett (Australia), Pieter van den Hoogenband (Netherlands) and Michael Phelps (USA). “It was my biggest race and biggest accomplishment,” he says. “That will stick with me the rest of my life.”
Swimming out of Victoria except in 2001-2003 when he attended the University of Calgary, Rick set 24 national records, including one that may never be broken: being the only Canadian to win every freestyle event – 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m – at a single national championship. He was a national team member from 1997 and Captain of the national team from 2002 until his retirement from swimming in 2009. He has given back to the sport through his coaching and was an executive member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission from 2008 to 2012, as well as acting as Athlete Mentor in the Athletes’ Village during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
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