Mark Tewksbury, who came to prominence as an Olympic champion swimmer and has become widely recognized for his humanitarian efforts and 2SLGBTQI advocacy, has been appointed Companion of the Order of Canada.

That is the highest level of one of our country’s most prestigious honours, which was established in Canada’s centennial year, 1967, to honour people who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.

Also appointed to the Order of Canada on Friday are 1976 Olympian Sandra Kirby as Officer and five-time Olympic medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as Members.

The Order’s motto is DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM, which translates from Latin as “They desire a better country”, and most certainly applies to this year’s Olympian honourees.

Mark Tewksbury – Companion of the Order of Canada

“For his athletic excellence and sport leadership, and for championing equity, inclusion and human rights, both on and off the field of play.”

A backstroke specialist, Tewksbury won a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay at Seoul 1988. But it was his remarkable come-from-behind performance in the 100m backstroke at Barcelona 1992 that made him a household name. He set an Olympic record time of 53.98 seconds to win an unexpected gold medal, as he recently described for Team Canada Rewind.

Tewksbury also won bronze in the 4x100m medley relay at those Games and would go on to win the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s Athlete of the Year. After retiring from competitive swimming, he continued to be a staunch supporter of the Olympic Movement in Canada, serving as Team Canada’s Chef de Mission at London 2012. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Foundation.

Since coming out publicly in 1998 as Canada’s first gay Olympian, Tewksbury has become a global advocate for the 2SLGBTQI community, which has included working with the International Olympic Committee as an athlete representative and addressing the United Nations on the decriminalization of homosexuality. A passionate speaker, he has also been an advocate for inclusion, ethics, fairness, and clean sport. In 2019, he received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality.

Dr. Sandra Kirby – Officer of the Order of Canada

“For her pioneering research on athlete harassment and for her sustained efforts as an advocate for equity, inclusion and safety in sport.”

Sandra Kirby adjusts her blazer upon induction to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Dr. Sandra Kirby (centre) an Olympic rower, educator, sport administrator, coach and activist fighting sexual harassment and abuse and violence against children in sport as she is inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, October 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

As a rower, Kirby competed in the coxed quadruple sculls at Montreal 1976, when women’s rowing events were included at the Olympic Games for the first time. That was far from the last time she would make her mark on history, going on to become an educator, sports administrator, coach, and activist.

RELATED: Kirby among three Olympians inducted to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018

In 1996, ten years after earning her PhD, she published the first quantitative survey on sexual harassment and abuse among high performance athletes. She has worked with the IOC and UNICEF and many other national and international organizations to make sport safer for athletes and is a long-time advocate for equity and inclusion. In recognition of her work, she was inducted to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – Members of the Order of Canada

“For their unparalleled excellence in ice dancing and for inspiring the next generation of Canadian figure skaters.”

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in competition at the PyeongChang Games. Both are dressed in all black outfits.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada compete in the short dance at the Gangneung Ice Arena during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games on February 19, 2018. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/COC)

Virtue and Moir capped an illustrious 20-year ice dance partnership by winning two gold medals at PyeongChang 2018, adding to the gold they won on home ice at Vancouver 2010 and the two silvers earned at Sochi 2014, as they became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.

RELATED: Re-live the career highlights of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

Ice dance was once dominated by European competitors, but Virtue and Moir were instrumental in changing that with their incredible athleticism, unique choreography, and undeniable chemistry, giving the next generation of Canadian figure skaters role models to follow and goals to strive for. They were inducted to Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2018.

RELATED: Virtue and Moir receive a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame 

These Olympians are among 114 new appointments to the Order of Canada, which includes eight Companions, 21 Officers and 85 Members. Close to 7000 people representing all sectors of our society have been invested into the Order of Canada over the last 53 years.