The Cowichan Lake’s Heritage Sports Wall of Fame has added two new plaques following a packed induction ceremony in the arena’s curling lounge.
On Saturday acclaimed swimmer and coach Leanne Wilkinson-Sirup and the 1971-1976 Lakers Senior A hockey team were inducted into the wall of fame, which recognizes the athletic accomplishments of Cowichan Lake’s finest.
Doug Callsen hosted the event, and shared some memories of when Wilkinson-Sirup moved to Lake Cowichan as a child and lived in the same neighbourhood as him. Like so many children at the lake, Wilkinson-Sirup learned to swim at the Duck Pond.
“From the very beginning it was evident that Leanne had some very special abilities in the water. In 1983 at the age of eight she began commuting to Duncan six days a week to swim more competitively,” said Callsen, before expounding on her many achievements as a swimmer and later a coach.
Wilkinson-Sirup still holds 47 records with the Duncan swim team, which she swam with from 1983-1989. She swam with a number of other teams over the years including Island Swimming and the University of Victoria from 1989-1992; Team BC from 1986-1992 for various events including the 1989 Canada Summer Games; and the Duncan swim team again from 1996-1997.
Throughout her swimming career she received numerous awards, including in 1997 when she competed at the North American Indigenous Games in Victoria and received five gold medals in individuals competitions, and three silver medals in relays.
Today, she is head coach of the Duncan swim team.
“Leanne has accomplished many outstanding achievements as a swimmer and she also deserves special recognition for the guidance she has provided for so many others throughout her dedicated coaching career,” said Callsen.
In an emotional acceptance speech, Wilkinson-Sirup thanked her many teachers and the local Kinsmen club who supported her during her years as a swimmer.
“All of my achievements certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Lake Cowichan,” she said. “As it’s said, it takes a village to raise a child and so much so in my case here.”
Several of her young swimmers were in attendance for the event.
“Now, as a coach, I have an opportunity to give back,” she said.
The second recognition of the day was given to the 1971-1976 Lakers Senior A hockey team, which introduced competitive hockey to the lake. The team was immensely popular and filled the arena on game nights.
A dozen former players and team affiliates were on hand for Saturday’s induction ceremony, and Ken Irving, who was involved with the team’s management and who was the chairman of the arena building committee, spoke in accepting the award.
“I really think they did add something to the community. Certainly it was great fun for us people involved with the team,” he said. “I just hope that everyone else in the room who ended some of the games… has also some good memories.”
Jim Kipp, former player and now a Nanaimo city councillor was on hand for the event.
“With this group, and guys like Jimmy Peterson, they’re our local heroes. They’re the guys who were mentors to guys like me… They gave me that spirit and it comes from a community like this. That loving spirit, sticking up for each other, working hard.”
He said he really appreciates being recognized for the wall of fame alongside his fellow former teammates.
“These are the memories that make communities,” he said.