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1984 Los Angeles Olympics: Alex Baumann

Alex Baumann was best, stalwart Sylvie Frechette showed grace and Donovan Bailey left his rivals in the dust. From 1984 to 2000, CBC Radio and Television followed Canadian athletes chasing Olympic gold. They were the fastest and the strongest and they had Canadians from coast to coast smiling a little wider and cheering a little louder.

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A comfortable and relaxed Alex Baumann sits down with the feisty Front Page Challenge panel. It's 1982, two years before the skilled and graceful swimmer will race to greatness at the Los Angeles Games. Baumann has already been billed as Canada's best Olympic hope. But inevitably, there are questions. Has his tendonitis healed? How's his troublesome shoulder? Why were so many Canadians disqualified at the 1982 Commonwealth Games?

Baumann would answer his critics and naysayers definitively at the Olympics. In the 400-metre individual medley event he wins gold, setting a world and Olympic record with a time of 4:17:41. Five days later, Baumann is inscribed in the record books again, this time for his first-place performance in the 200-metre individual medley. For these inspired wins Baumann will be remembered as Canada's most distinguished swimmer. 
• Alex 'Sascha' Baumann was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) on April 21, 1964. The Baumanns immigrated to Canada in 1973 and settled in Sudbury, Ont. At age nine, young Alex began swimming competitively.

• Before the Olympics, Baumann faced the difficult tragedies of his father's death from cancer and the suicide of his brother, Roman. Renowned for his poise, Baumann persevered.
• The late Roman Baumann was also an exceptional athlete and student. Laurentian University offers the Roman Baumann Memorial Scholarship in honour of his memory.

• Baumann and his coach, Dr. Jeno Tihanyi, shared a close bond. Tihanyi coached Baumann for fourteen years. After the Los Angeles Games, the two authored a book titled Swimming With Alex Baumann: A Program for Competitive and Recreational Swimmers.
• Baumann attended Laurentian University and studied political science.

• Baumann was just one of three Canadian swimmers to win gold at the Los Angeles Olympics. Victor Davis also won gold in the 200 metre breaststroke event and Anne Ottenbrite won gold in the 200 metre breaststroke.
• The tall, handsome swimmer was chosen to carry the Canadian flag during the 1984 Olympic opening ceremonies. Baumann was also named Canadian Press 1984 Male Athlete of the Year. In December 1984 he was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.

• After the Olympics, Baumann continued to break records and win gold medals at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and 1987 World Championships. In October 1987, Baumann announced his retirement from the sport. He became a broadcaster for the CBC and covered the 1988 Summer Olympics before moving to Australia.
• As of 2004, Baumann was the executive director of the Queensland Academy of Sport.

• In January 2007 Baumann returned to Canada in the role of executive director of the Canadian Olympic Committee's Road to Excellence program. Baumann inherited the responsibility of improving on Canada's mediocre showing at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where the team produced 12 medals for a 21st place showing. He announced a goal of a top-16 finish at the 2008 Beijing Games.  

Medium: Television
Program: Front Page Challenge
Broadcast Date: Nov. 21, 1982
Guest(s): Alex Baumann, Peter Mansbridge
Announcer: Bernard Cowan
Host: Fred Davis
Panellist: Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Gordon Sinclair
Duration: 7:12

Last updated: July 28, 2014

Page consulted on November 21, 2014

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