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2013 Inductee - Barb Loreno

Posted: 15 May 2013
Source: Oshawa Express

Passion for sport still shines years later By Katie Richard/The Oshawa Express The Oshawa Express will feature a different Hall of Fame inductee each week leading up to the dinner ceremony on May 29. This is the first of a five-part series and highlights Barb Loreno. The water still feels like home to Oshawa’s First Lady of Swimming, even into her 80’s. Barb Loreno is one of this year’s inductees into Oshawa’s Sports Hall of Fame and her dedication and passion for the sport is what put her there. Born in Oshawa in 1930, Loreno first showed off her skills competing at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in 1949. She finished fifth in the World Five Mile Marathon Swim. “I swam consistently throughout my life from the time I was a child,” she says from her home in Napanee. “My favourite was the 200-metre butterfly because it was hard and challenging, but that is what I liked. I was in the first World Games at the CNE in Toronto.” From there, Loreno continued to put Oshawa on the swimming map attempting to cross the frigid waters of Lake Ontario twice in 1975 and 1976. Then, Loreno was the oldest woman ever to swim the 32-mile wide lake, according to an article from August 5, 1976 in the Beaver County Times. In 1975, the grandmother came within four miles of completing the swim before being pushed back by strong winds. She fell victim to a similar fate when she attempted the swim again in 1976, at the age of 46. This time, she was in the water for 19 hours and 20 minutes, the archived article states. “The lake swim was my ultimate challenge and although I swam it twice, more than the distance both times, I got pushed off course by the strong wind, current and cold water conditions,” she explains. “My coaching team pulled me from the water before I could touch down on the Canadian side. Two attempts were enough for me. Unless you have the right weather conditions it is a difficult swim. Unfortunately, it was not the distance that defeated me but the current, weather and temperature that worked against me.” For many the cold rough waters would be a deterrent, but for Loreno they were what drew her to the water. “I enjoyed training in the rough cold water at the family cottage on Hay Bay. The harder and choppier the better,” she says. “My husband Jimmy hooked me up to a swim harness and attached it to the raft made of oil drums and plywood. I pulled it and six or more people across the bay and back when I was training for the lake swim across Lake Ontario.” After the lake attempts, Loreno went on to win hundreds of medals and ribbons competing in Masters Games from 1978 to 1992. She also earned two silver medals and three bronze medals at the First World Masters Games in 1985. Fitness and sport was not only a passion for Loreno, but for her late husband Jimmy (James Roy) as well. “Jimmy and I always enjoyed sports activities together. Cycling, swimming, horseshoes at the cottage and working out at the gym,” she explains. “We both entered the Kingston Triathlon - we were in our 60’s - near our family cottage, just for fun. It was how we enjoyed our time together. I spent time training, Jimmy hardly trained at all and he still beat my time by 10 minutes.” Loreno also helped her husband with the annual Jim’s Swim, which raised more than $220,000 for leukemia research from 1977 to 1992. She says she was thrilled to learn she was being recognized in the city’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honour Jimmy already holds. “I was surprised and elated that I would be going into the Sports Hall of Fame with my late husband,” she says proudly. “I think we are the only married couple to both be inducted.” Mr. Loreno was inducted in 1994 for athletic career. He took part in softball, boxing and most famously, football. Even today, all these years later, Loreno says the water still holds a familiar place in her heart. “Now in my golden years I may not walk so well but when the conditions are right I can still swim in the bay.”

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