While many individuals can claim success in any one aspect of sport, few can match the success Marion Lay has achieved as an elite athlete, coach, advocate, volunteer and administrator over her 40-year career.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Canada produced a remarkable number of world-class swimmers and Lay was notable even during that wave of success. Following a political squabble concerning her eligibility to compete for Canada, Lay reigned as Canadian 100m freestyle champion for five straight years from 1964-68. At the 1964 Olympics, she finished fifth in the 100m freestyle and bettered that four years later in Mexico with a fourth place finish. Also at the 1968 Olympics, Lay added a bronze medal as a member of the 4x100m freestyle team. Other notable results from the period included a gold medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and a world record in the 110yd freestyle (short course) in 1967. Following retirement from competition, Lay served as CBC’s swimming colour commentator until 1973.

Lay has long been active in publicizing and eliminating the inequities that exist for women in sport. In 1974, she organized Canada’s first women and sport conference with Abby Hoffman, Penny Werthner, and Petra Burka. The experience from such efforts as this carried over into involvement in a number of organizations and causes, including helping to found WomenSport International, proMotion plus (BC’s organization for girls and women in sport), Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), and the Pacific Sport Canadian Sport Centre Vancouver. Her work with the not-for-profit CAAWS has been particularly noteworthy in getting girls and women off the sidelines and involved in sport.

In addition, Lay served as President of Think Sport Ltd., a Vancouver-based sport management and consulting firm, specializing in event management, program planning, evaluation, and gender equity education and headed operations for Rick Hansen’s 1985-87 Man In Motion World Tour. She is also a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Lay was prominently involved with the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee, serving as the City of Vancouver representative on the board of directors. Previously, she served as past-chair of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation. Later she served as president of the 2010 LegaciesNow Society, which worked to enhance the national and provincial sport systems, while also aiding in the funding and development of athletes and sport centres province-wide.

Over the years, Lay’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2002, she was honoured as the first recipient of the Carol Anne Letheren International Sport Leadership Award, acknowledging a Canadian woman who has made an outstanding contribution in the area of international sport leadership. Other awards have included the 2001 Leadership in Sports Award at the Canadian Sport Awards, the 2001 International Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Trophy for the Americas, and the 1995 Bryce Taylor Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Sport.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.