Vicki Keith to speak at Welland Campus March 21


She’s a known as the most successful marathon swimmer in the history of the sport, as the first person to ever swim across all five Great Lakes, and as a coach and a fundraiser who works to make a difference in people’s lives.

On March 21, Vicki Keith will bring her inspirational messages to Niagara College.

Keith will be speaking at Niagara College’s Welland Campus on March 21 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., in the AHI 141 Auditorium.

The event was organized by the College’s School of Community Services, and Recreation and Leisure Services and Recreation Therapy Programs. Carol Phillips, coordinator / professor in the RLS and RT programs, noted that she has attended one of Keith’s speaking events and wanted to Keith to bring her motivational message to students and staff at NC. She noted that Keith speaks about her journey as a marathon swimmer and as a coach to those who have been told that their dreams were impossible.

“She speaks about dreaming, believing, laughing, achieving and inspiring,” said Phillips. “Her message is not only geared to students in the RLS and RT programs, and to those in Community Services and Health programs, but to everyone at the college.”

The speaker event is open to the entire college community. Tickets are free but seating is limited. Seats must be reserved in advance. To request a seat, please email Nicole Smith at

About Vicki Keith

Vicki Keith is the most successful marathon swimmer in the history of the sport, holding an unprecedented sixteen world records. Constantly surpassing the records of other swimmers as well as previous records of her own, Vicki has become, to many, the face of marathon swimming both here in Canada and around the world. Her most recognized accomplishments include becoming the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes in 1988 and for being the only person to complete the 104 km double crossing of Lake Ontario.

After her marathon swimming career, Vicki took on a new challenge – coaching competitive swimming to a team of athletes with physical disabilities. While coaching at Variety Village, Vicki found that swimmers with physical disabilities were invited to participate in only 3 meets a year…all of them only for athletes with disabilities. She immediately started pushing the boundaries, by getting the team invited to able-bodied meets. Although there were some initial difficulties, the swimmers quickly became accepted and welcomed as equals at able-bodied meets. This pattern was continued by the Provincial and National bodies to the point that swimming is now the most integrated sport in Canada.

Vicki began her volunteer career at the age of 10, when she worked with a young boy with a physical disability at the YMCA in Ottawa. Since then she accepted roles on the board of directors of a number of organizations including Ontario Place and Variety Village. She has assisted on numerous selection committees including the Terry Fox Hall of Fame and Ontario Sports Awards. As a volunteer coach, Vicki is known for her coaching of marathon swimmers, but she has also coached many athletes in triathlon and track and field, including one of her most interesting opportunities, when at the age of 17, she took on the responsibility of teaching blind javelin to beginners.

Vicki has coached 24 athletes with a disability to the National level in competitive swimming, 3 athletes to the international level, 6 athletes to world records in marathon swimming and one athlete to 2 Canadian Records and a Pan-American record in competitive swimming. She was selected to the coaching staff of 3 World Games and the Para Pan Am Games. Athletes who Vicki has coached include Carlos Costa, a double leg amputee, who became the first athlete with a disability to swim across Lake Ontario, Ashley Cowan, a 15 year old quadruple amputee who swam across Lake Erie in 2001, Terri Lynn Langdon, an athlete with Cerebral Palsy who set a speed record across Lake Erie, 15 year old Jenna Lambert, an athlete with Cerebral Palsy who became the first female swimmer with a disability to swim across Lake Ontario, and then Jenna’s younger sister Natalie, who became the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and the first to swim across Lake Erie using the grueling butterfly stroke.

Vicki has been appointed as a member of the Order of Canada, in recognition of her outstanding achievements and service. She has received an honourary Doctorate from Queen’s University and is recognized by Coaches of Canada as a Chartered Professional Coach. In 1996 Vicki was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, and in 2007 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 1998 her most famous arrival and departure point was renamed after her. The headlands of the Leslie Street Spit in Toronto are officially named Vicki Keith Point.

Vicki’s dream has always been to make a difference in other people’s lives. Among her many fundraising ventures, she raised $548,000 for Variety Village in 1988 and then, the following year she raised another $200,000 for Variety projects worldwide. In 2005, when the need for new opportunities for children with disabilities in Kingston, Ontario became apparent, Vicki came out of swimming retirement, and spent 63 hours and 40 minutes in Lake Ontario, completing 80.2 kilometres butterfly, setting 2 world records and raising $260,000 for the Kingston Family YMCA. This brought her lifetime fundraising total to over one million dollars.

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