Jim Gray honoured after symbolic swim across Canada

Calgary philanthropist Jim Gray completed a 23-year swimming marathon at the Eau Claire YMCA Friday as the downtown recreation centre was renamed in his honour.

Eau Claire YMCA recognizes longtime supporter as he completes his 23-year swimming marathon

Jim Gray's swim marathon surprise

8 years ago
Duration 0:41
Calgary philanthropist Jim Gray finishes a personal swim marathon at the Eau Claire YMCA and gets a big surprise.

Calgary philanthropist Jim Gray completed his symbolic swim across Canada Friday at the Eau Claire YMCA as the downtown recreation centre was renamed in his honour.​

A crowd — including Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Canadian paralympian Rick Hansen — cheered the 81-year-old on from the deck of the Eau Claire YMCA pool this morning as he completed his challenge.

It took Gray 300,000 lengths and 23 years to finish his swim marathon. 

"I'm not a very good swimmer but I enjoy it," said Gray.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi cheers on Jim Gray as he wraps up his swim across Canada. (@chimaincalgary)

For the last two decades, Gray has risen at the crack of dawn to dive into the Eau Claire YMCA pool. 

His swim across Canada started in 1992 when lifeguards at the pool challenged him and some other early risers to swim from Calgary to Vancouver.

Rick Hansen, Naheed Nenshi and Jim Gray celebrate the renaming of the Eau Claire YMCA. (Mike Spenrath/CBC)

"It took us three, or three and a half, years," he said. 

"Almost 40,000 lengths of the pool," adds Gray, who jokingly added that he "flew back" from Vancouver to Calgary.

A ceremony was held Friday morning to celebrate Gray’s swim marathon and his longtime support. Alberta Premier Jim Prentice was even on hand. 

Gray has been called a pioneer in the oilpatch. He chaired the first Petroleum Show in 1966 but is now the volunteer lifetime director of YMCA Calgary.

The organization is in the midst of a fundraiser that has brought in more than $1 million towards the operation of three new facilities.


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