Cay Kerr

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Catherine Ross (née Gordon) Kerr

Born: January 25, 1921 (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Died: March 21, 2014 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Member: Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (1985)

For more than a half-century, from juniors through masters, Cay Kerr dominated women’s swimming in Manitoba.

She won her first national title in 1935 and in 1984 won seven medals, including a gold, at the world masters swimming championships in New Zealand.

ImageKerr first emerged on the competitive swimming scene during the Depression, setting her first national record in 1937. She added two more records two years later, a year in which she also won four Canadian championships. In 1940, she won five national titles, broke three national records and was a nominee for Canadian female athlete of the year. It is worth noting that was an Olympic year, though the outbreak of war led to a 12-year hiatus between Games.

In 1949, Kerr won the 100-yard freestyle at the Empire Games trials with a mark of 1:04.1 to hold off a late bid by Kay McNamee, an 18-year-old who had competed at the Olympics the previous summer. Kerr was 28 at the time.

After rewriting the Manitoba swimming record book, Kerr turned her attentions exclusively to synchronized swimming in 1959. (She had won the first of 17 consecutive provincial titles in 1948.) Kerr became a coach, a judge and an administrator even as she continued to contest synchronized events for her age group.

Kerr was founding president of the provincial section of the Canadian Amateur Synchronized Swimming Association. She also served as president of the Winnipeg Synchronized Swimming Club. Among her other contributions to the sport included organizing the Canadian Aquatic Hall of Fame at the Pan-Am Pool in Winnipeg. The lean, athletic Kerr also taught generations of Winnipeggers to swim and was a familiar figure at Sherbrook Pool for more than a quarter-century.

Born in Scotland to Marion and Thomas Gordon, she came to Canada as an infant. She was predeceased by her husband, Donald, as well as by two sisters and three brothers. She leaves six children, 15 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

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