Mark Tewksbury

Mark Tewksbury

Leader | Champion | Olympic Icon

Mark Tewksbury first came to prominence as an Olympic swimming gold medalist, but it’s his remarkable life post-Olympics that has truly defined him. In 1998, Tewksbury made headlines as one of the first openly gay Olympic champions in the world, and has since used his voice, and ever-evolving leadership positions within the Olympics and beyond, to make a difference for others. One of the country’s most sought-after speakers, Tewksbury inspires and empowers his audiences with his personal stories of leadership against the odds.

Tewksbury’s ongoing fight for justice, fair play, and equal rights has made him a unique Olympic icon whose reach goes far beyond sport. The Toronto Star said, “Only the greatest fight for what they believe in, taking on people and institutions and closed minds because the battle is important. Few have done that more often, more successfully, and more importantly than Tewksbury.”

Tewksbury’s leadership within sports began in 1996 when he joined the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Site Selection Commission for the 2004 Summer Olympics. However, in 1999, he made front page news as he stepped down from all of his Olympic posts and co-founded OATH, an organization created to hold the IOC accountable to its own ideals. In 2012, Tewksbury re-joined the Canadian Olympic Team as their Chef de Mission, redefining the role. He was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Sport Analyst in 2017.

Today, Tewksbury sits as a Director of the Canadian Olympic Committee, where he continues to fight for inclusive, fair, and principled sport. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Canada, where he has held a position since 2009. During his term, he founded the Champions Network, a group of celebrities 50+ strong that use their profile to highlight the sporting accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities.

Since coming out more than 20 years ago, Tewksbury has been a leader and mentor in the global LGBTQ+ movement. He was invited by the Government of France to address human rights at the United Nations as the first declaration to decriminalize homosexuality was introduced in 2008. In recognition of Tewksbury’s enormous impact in the movement, he was one of three pioneers featured in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ 2015 exhibit on the power of sport to inspire positive change.

For his athletic achievements, ethical leadership, and contribution to society, Tewksbury has received five honorary degrees, the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada.


Inspiring Leadership: Why Authenticity, Integrity, and Culture Matter

In order to win the Olympics, Mark Tewksbury had to overcome enormous odds, innovate against a well-established culture, and be brave enough to share his secret — that he was gay — with one of his coaches. After a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the 100m backstroke, Tewksbury experienced firsthand the impact authenticity and integrity had on human performance. It would be these qualities that would come to shape Tewksbury as a leader long after his sport career was over.

Very few people have had such a broad and yet intimate relationship with the Olympic movement.

In 1998, Tewksbury became one of the first openly gay Olympic champions in the world.  He also made headlines calling for Juan Antonio Samaranch’s resignation as President of the International Olympic Committee in 1999. When Samaranch didn’t step down, Tewksbury did, and he co-founded OATH, Olympic Advocates Together Honorably. For 18 months, while the private, non-transparent IOC was forced to reform from the outside, OATH kept the pressure on, leading to US Senate hearings led by Senator John McCain. The gift-giving culture of the IOC almost led to the demise of the Olympic movement. Tewksbury led the charge to call it out.  Leadership and integrity — they shape culture, and they matter.

Tewksbury has spoken to every Olympic team since 2004, including being the final speaker for the 2010 team competing in Vancouver. In 2012, he was the Chef de Mission for the Canadian Olympic Team competing at the London Olympics, marking his formal return to an Olympic leadership role. The Chef de Mission is like the CEO of the Olympic Team, and Mark was responsible for the 500+ members of Team Canada.

Tewksbury has covered three summer Olympics as prime time analyst, earning a nomination from the Canadian Screen Awards for his insightful and exciting coverage of Rio 2016. He is now back at the table of the Canadian Olympic Committee as a Director and is helping to move forward the diversity and inclusion portfolio while continuing to advocate for fair and principled sport.

In his spellbinding presentations, Mark inspires audiences by drawing on his vast personal experience of leadership against the odds, creating a culture where teams perform at their best, and why integrity and social justice matter. A champion for the rights of others, Mark’s charisma, insight, and experience continue to make him one of the country’s most sought-after speakers.