"Only the greatest fight for what they believe in, taking on people and institutions and closed minds because the battle is important.
Few have done that more often, more successfully, and more importantly than Tewksbury,…"
The Toronto Star, July 1, 2017
Mark Tewksbury first came to prominence as the star athlete who burst out of the water at the Barcelona Olympics; an Olympic Champion with gold, silver and bronze medals, 7 world records, and a cover appearance on TIME magazine. While sporting achievements contributed to his early success Mark’s remarkable life post-Olympics has truly defined him.
In 1998, Tewksbury became Canada’s first sports hero to openly declare his homosexuality and helped start a national conversation on the taboo subject of gays in sport. Since that time, Mark has been an out- spoken advocate for inclusive and safe sport spaces for all.
Over the years, Tewksbury has become a personal mentor to many LGBT athletes struggling to come out. In 2008, Tewksbury was part of France’s delegation at the United Nations to witness the inaugural declaration of LGBTQ2+ rights to the General Assembly. In 2017, Tewksbury represented the Government of Canada at a human rights conference in Miami and was the guest speaker at Canada’s historic first Pride in Montreal. For his LGBT activism, Mark was honoured as one of three pioneers featured during the Canadian Museum for Human Rights 2015: Year in Sport”exhibit.
Mark has used his voice to courageously stand against corruption at the highest levels of sport. Tewksbury was just 28 years old when, in 1999, he made a difficult and costly decision to step down from his numerous positions within the world of international sport due to lack of accountability and transparency amid allegations of corruption against the IOC. He went on to Co-Found OATH, an advocacy group that held the IOC to its own values and pushed them to adopt a more inclusive governance structure. Over the years, Tewksbury had remained a strong advocate for ethics, fairness and clean sport. In 2018, Mark spoke at the first ever World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete’s Forum, inspiring a new generation of Athlete Advocates to carry the torch.
Mark has also provided insight around important issues as a media commentator and as an analyst for CBC at the 2004, 2008, and 2016 Olympic Games. His prime-time-coverage from Rio garnered Mark a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Sport Analyst at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards Gala.
Mark understands how important sport can be as a vehicle for inclusion. In particular, he has been deeply involved with the Special Olympics movement, transforming the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through sport. Back in 1996, Tewksbury joined the Canadian Special Olympics Foundation as a donor and Director.
In 2009, Tewksbury joined the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors. In 2011 Mark started the Champions Network, a group of stars from broadcasting, Olympic and professional sport, to use their profiles to help build awareness for Special Olympics athletes. In September of 2018, Tewksbury became Chair of the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors for a two-year term.
Tewksbury came back to serve the Olympic movement in Canada in more recent years. First, by working with the athletes and senior leadership of the Canadian Olympic Committee as Chef de mission of the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team. In May 2021, Mark was elected to a two-year-term as Vice-President of the Board.
Tewksbury is an important voice here in Canada and around the world - for justice and fairness and clean sport; for diversity and inclusion and LGBT rights; for respect and inclusion for people with an intellectual disability. First known as a swimmer,
it is Mark’s achievements and leadership post athletics that have come to truly define him.
He is a unique Canadian whose reach goes far beyond his sport.
For his athletic achievements, ethical leadership, and contribution to society, Tewksbury has received five honorary degrees, the Queens’s Jubilee Silver Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and a Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality. Most recently, Mark was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At any given time, there is a limit of 165 Canadians that carry this distinction and honour.