Jim Hett

1976 Montreal – Jim Hett

Jim Hett recalls fondly the crowds of spectators who lined a path just to get a glimpse of athletes like him.

Hett and other Olympian athletes walked through a path in a park as they assembled themselves for the opening ceremonies at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

“People were screaming their heads off and the whole place erupted,’’ said Hett. “I’ll never forget it.’’

Hett, who was born and raised in Waterloo, was 18 years old when he qualified for the Olympics on home turf. He was a swimmer at the Kitchener-Waterloo YMCA Aquatic Club located on Lincoln Road in Waterloo, ROW’s predecessor.

Of the 56 swimmers in his event – 200 metre freestyle – Hett placed 22nd.

“Making the Olympics was phenomenal. That was the ride of my life,’’ said Hett.

Hett said a tragedy with a friend got him into swimming. At the age of seven, he was swimming with his brother and friends in Waterloo Park when one of his friends drowned. He was only seven.

Hett’s mother put him in swimming lessons and by 11 he was swimming competitively at the Breithaupt Centre pool.

While a kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo, Hett did most of his training there, swimming long course at the Laurier pool.

When Hett returned from the Olympics, he retired from swimming and began coaching with ROW for three years and then went on to coach in Sudbury, Peterborough, and a club in Oshawa.

“The real key is keeping it enjoyable for kids,’’ said Hett, who agreed that swimmers have to work hard in the pool but they must be having fun too.

Hett said he had no interest in moving around the country and in the late 1980s got out of coaching. Hett now works as a manager for a thrift store under the umbrella of the Mennonite Central Committee.

Hett said swimming gave him camaraderie with other swimmers and “the amount of discipline you get from swimming is phenomenal.’’

At 52, Hett said he swims twice a week at the Waterloo Recreation Complex and in the summer outside at the Moses Springer pool.

“It’s a real freedom diving under the water,’’ he said. “It’s like walking to me.’’
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(pictured above, Jim Hett with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau)

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