Elaine Tanner

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameElaine•Tanner (-Watt)
Used nameElaine•Tanner
Nick/petnamesMighty Mouse
Born22 February 1951 in Vancouver, British Columbia (CAN)
Measurements160 cm / 61 kg
AffiliationsPacific Dolphins, Vancouver (CAN)
NOC Canada
Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 2
Bronze 1
Total 3


Elaine Tanner was arguably Canada’s biggest swimming phenomenon of the late-1960s, beginning with her breakout performance at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. She had been swimming since the age of six, and broken two American records earlier in the year at the United States Championships, but no one expected what would happen at the Games. She left the tournament with seven medals, gold in the 110 and 220 yard butterfly, the 440 yard individual medley, and the 4x110 yard freestyle relay, and silver in the 110 and 220 yard backstroke and the 4x100 yard medley relay, and world records in the 220 yard butterfly and the 440 yard individual medley.

She was not only the first woman to win four gold medals at a single Commonwealth Games, but also became the youngest winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete at 15 (she also won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s best female athlete). Her next stop was the 1967 Pan American Games, where she took gold in the 100 and 200 m backstroke events in world record times and silver in the 100 m butterfly and the 4x100 m freestyle and medley relays.

She was then selected to represent Canada at the 1968 Summer Olympics, where she won silver in the 100 and 200 m backstroke events and bronze in the 4x100 m freestyle relay (alongside Marilyn Corson, Angela Coughlan, and Marion Lay). Despite becoming the first Canadian female to earn an Olympic swimming medal, and capturing three of the nation’s five medals at the Games, she received negative press upon her return for having succumbed to the pressure and missed out on gold. The reaction was so disappointing that Tanner retired from active competition, but her accomplishments were eventually recognized.

She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1970, had the award for Canada’s top junior female athlete named after her in 1972, and was inducted into Canada’s Sports (1971) and the International Swimming (1980) Halls of Fame. After struggling for many years with depression, she earned a degree in kinesiology from Simon Fraser University in 1986 and eventually took up a career in holistic health and, as of 2013, practices in Oakville, Ontario.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1968 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) CAN Elaine Tanner
4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay, Women (Olympic) Canada 3 Bronze
100 metres Backstroke, Women (Olympic) 2 Silver
200 metres Backstroke, Women (Olympic) 2 Silver
100 metres Butterfly, Women (Olympic) DNS
4 × 100 metres Medley Relay, Women (Olympic) Canada 10

Special Notes