Canadian Champion Mike Mintenko Retires
Nov 11, 2005
OTTAWA - Mike Mintenko, a two-time Olympian and world championship medallist, announced his retirement today to conclude one of the most successful careers by a Canadian swimmer in the last decade.
Mintenko, who grew up in Moose Jaw, Sask., and trained in Vancouver for the past seven years, established himself among Canada's greatest butterfly specialists in his eight-year national team career. He competed at the last two Olympic Games, highlighted by a fifth place finish in the men's 100-metre fly at the Sydney Games.
But he saved his best overall international performance for last. At the world championships this past July in Montreal, he helped Canada to a silver medal in the 4X100 freestyle relay and added fifth and eighth place finishes in the 100 and 50-metre butterfly respectively.
"The timing is right for me to take on some new challenges," said the 30-year-old Mintenko, who recently married American swimming star Lindsay Benko and currently lives in the Los Angeles area. "I never thought a small town kid from Saskatchewan would travel to more than 30 countries and pursue a dream. My swimming career was a great journey and that's what I'll cherish the most."
Mintenko's parents, Leonard and Bernadette, still reside in Moose Jaw, Sask., where he swam his first lengths at age eight. But Mintenko didn't start training seriously in the pool until age 17 after participating in numerous other sports.
"My parents kept my swimming career in motion with their emotional and financial support," said the 6'3" Mintenko, nicknamed The Tank. "But there are so many people who have touched my career in 23 years and made a difference. I'm very thankful and proud to have represented my community and my country. On the blocks I was up there for them too."
For the last seven years, Mintenko was based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver under the guidance of coach Tom Johnson.
"He's given a lot to Canadian swimming and our program," said Johnson. "He was the consummate professional and model of what we look for in an elite athlete in the Canadian sport system. He brought work ethic, personal integrity, competitiveness and commitment to the sport. He always came up with his best swims when it counted. He was tough and always persevered. He had a willingness to compete, play the game of swimming and stand up for the team."
Mintenko enjoyed his success in a tough period for Canadian swimming and is confident the tide has turned for the program.
"I walked away from the worlds in Montreal really happy," said Mintenko. "It was such a very positive experience and definitely one of my best memories. My hope is the momentum that was gained in Montreal will carry over. I certainly think the right people are in place to make that happen."
Pierre Lafontaine, the CEO/National Coach for Swimming Canada, said Mintenko was the complete package.
"One of the things that will be greatly missed is Mike's leadership within the National Swim Team" said Lafontaine. †"Mike has proven to be an exceptional ambassador for Canada and has demonstrated such a passion for our sport throughout his career. ††We know we can still count on him to help us in our efforts to build and strengthen Canadian swimming as an ambassador and†as a mentor to young athletes."
Mintenko says he doesn't currently have coaching aspirations but wants to stay connected to the Canadian swimming program. He is currently doing an internship at the University of Southern California in sport development. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in sport and fitness at the University of Nevada –Las Vegas (UNLV) before heading to Vancouver.
Other career highlights included a silver medal in the 100 fly at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a fifth place finish in the 100 fly at the 2001 worlds and the World Cup butterfly title in 2000. He retires holding the 50 and 100 butterfly long course and short course national records. He is also among the foursome in four of the five short course national relay records and three of the five long course relay records.