Elaine Tanner

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Elaine Tanner
Personal information
Full nameElaine Tanner-Watt
Nickname(s)"Mighty Mouse"
National teamCanada
Born (1951-02-22) February 22, 1951 (age 67)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Height1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)
Weight61 kg (134 lb)
StrokesBackstroke, butterfly, freestyle
ClubPacific Dolphins

Elaine Tanner-Watt, OC (born February 22, 1951) is a Canadian former competition swimmer. Olympic medallist, and former world record-holder in two events.


Nicknamed "Mighty Mouse"[1] partly because of her small stature (standing barely five feet tall) and partly due to her competitive drive, Tanner had a large impact on Canadian swimming and is considered one of the top performers in the sport.[2]

During the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, Tanner won four gold medals and three silvers, becoming the first woman to ever win four golds at a Commonwealth Games and the first person to get seven medals in those games.[3] She won the Lou Marsh Trophy, recognizing her as Canada's best athlete in 1966 — the youngest person to ever receive the award — and was also selected as the country's top athlete overall.[4] The following year at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Tanner won two gold and three silver medals, breaking two world records in the process.[5] Tanner arrived at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City as a heavy medal favorite. She won three Olympic medals in Mexico City, including two individual silver medals and one relay bronze.[5] However, the media deemed the lack of gold a disappointment and led Tanner to suffer from depression, retiring from competition after the 1968 Olympics at just 18 years of age.[5]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 1969, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1971.[4] The Elaine Tanner Award has been presented to Canada's top junior female athlete since 1972.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Following the games, Tanner fell into a depression that lasted decades, developed a serious eating disorder, suffered anxiety attacks and had her first marriage end after 9 years in 1980, with two children that wound up going to the custody of the father in Prince George as Tanner remained in Vancouver. Roaming around Canada doing odd jobs and eventually having a failed second marriage that ended in 1987,[7] by 1988 she was living off her car, jobless, and feeling suicidal, but eventually found her footing again after meeting former lifeguard John Watt. She married him five years later,[8] and lives with him in White Rock, British Columbia. They have a charity organization, Team Underdog.[2]


  • Monkey Guy And The Cosmic Fairy (2015) - children's book
  • Quest Beyond Gold (TBD) - autobiography

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "If dancing in parks were an Olympic event..." The Globe and Mail. September 16, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Promise after a painful past". The Province. May 28, 2008. Archived from the original on May 29, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  3. ^ "Elaine Tanner profile at famouscanadianwomen.com". Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Canada Sports Hall of Fame Profile". Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "B.C.'s all-time sporting greats". The Vancouver Sun. November 18, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  6. ^ "Elaine Tanner's life has come full circle". Oakville Beaver. March 28, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  7. ^ Christie, James, "Olympic Pressure Takes Personal Toll: Loser Label Sticks 24 Years." The Globe and Mail, 23 July 1992
  8. ^ Elaine Tanner: one athlete's 40-year recovery from Olympic heartbreak

External links[edit]