Biography:

Canada’s Mary Beth Stewart was just 14 years old and the youngest member on the team when she made her Olympic debut at Rome 1960, and competing in her first Olympic final in the 100m freestyle. She was also a member of the Canadian 4x100m medley relay team that did not advance out of the preliminary heats. At her second Olympics at Tokyo 1964, Stewart made three swimming finals, finishing sixth in the 4x100m medley relay, seventh in the 4x100m freestyle relay and eighth in the 100m butterfly.

The 1962 Commonwealth Games 100 yards butterfly champion, Stewart also captured 4×110 yards freestyle relay silver, and bronzes in the 110 yards freestyle and 4×110 yards medley relay. She won four silver medals at the 1963 Pan American Games (100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay) and one silver at the 1959 Games (4x100m freestyle relay). Stewart was a Canadian champion twice rewriting the World 110 yards butterfly record held by the venerable Australian Dawn Fraser in the early 1960s. Before the age of 17, Stewart held every Canadian freestyle and butterfly record in all distances up to 220 yards.

In addition to swimming, Stewart was also a talented entertainer and acrobatic, and by the age of nine was appearing as the British Columbia Lions mascot “Little Leo” for home games (in the Canadian Football League). Also known by her married name Mary Beth McIlwaine, it was Stewart’s older sister Helen who had competed in swimming at Melbourne 1956, who she followed into the pool. They were both coached by fellow by Howard Firby.

In addition to being named Canada’s top female athlete of 1961 and being awarded the Velma Springstead Trophy, Stewart also won the athlete of the year award presented by the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, and the Tip Top Youth National Award. She was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 1966, and Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1975.