Mel Zajac

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameMelvin Nicholas•Zajac
Used nameMel•Zajac
Born23 April 1956 in Vancouver, British Columbia (CAN)
Died13 July 1986 in Chilliwack, British Columbia (CAN)
AffiliationsPacific Dolphins, Vancouver (CAN)
NOC Canada


Mel Zajac garnered national attention for his swimming abilities in the mid-1970s and first qualified to represent Canada at the World Championships in 1973. He won the 200 metre breaststroke event at that year’s Canada Games, but did not advance beyond the heats at the Worlds. He was second in the 100 metre breaststroke at the 1975 Canadian National Championships, behind Graham Smith, and was selected to represent Canada at that year’s Pan-American Games, where he finished seventh in the 200 m breaststroke. His next major tournament was the 1976 Summer Olympics, where he was eliminated in the opening round, after which his international career dwindled quickly, although he later took part in Ironman competitions.

Zajac studied at the University of Florida and Arizona State University. He died in July 1986 when out kayaking with his friends in British Columbia’s Chilliwack River. His kayak became caught in a tide pool and overturned, submerging Zajac for several minutes until he drowned. His brother Marty died eight months later, in a skiing accident, which led his parents to found the Mel Jr. and Marty Zajac Foundation, which raises funds “for seniors and special needs children” in British Columbia. The Mel Zajac Jr. International swim meet has been held in the Olympian’s honour since 2000.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1976 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) CAN Mel Zajac
100 metres Breaststroke, Men (Olympic) 27

Special Notes