Recently, someone described Joanne Malar as being “the most positive person you could ever meet.”
One might wonder how she came to have this kind of attitude.
“I feel pretty fortunate to have had the opportunities I had growing up,” said Malar. “It shaped my perspective on life and myself and my attitudes.”
Malar was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario.
Her father taught her and her three siblings all to swim before they were three years old.
“I was a competitive swimmer at a very young age,” explained Malar. “I made the 1988 Olympic trials when I was 12. I made the national team by the time I was 14, so from the age of 14 to 28 I represented Canada internationally.”
During that time, Malar travelled the world, competing and working hard to reach her personal goals.
As a result she was immersed in other cultures and saw firsthand how the rest of the world lived.
“Some of the big picture things I learned,” Malar said “was that some of the happiest people I met and the most loving people, had very little by our standards, but their culture was so beautiful and they took care of each other.”
Malar also met many of her heroes.
She recalls meeting Olympic gold medalist Alex Baumann for one, and remembers being nervous standing beside him at the pool’s edge, asking for his autograph. He told her that she was a good swimmer and from that moment on, Malar vowed she would lift others up in the same way during her life-time.
While competing internationally, Malar realized something else.
“I really felt like an ambassador, a representative of Canada,” she explained. “I felt so fortunate to be in that position that I didn’t take my behaviours lightly.”
Becoming a positive person, for Malar, did not come about only through living a successful life of opportunity.
“I had a lot of disappointment in my life,” she said. “It wasn’t like I had this rosy perfect career. I actually had heartbreak after heartbreak in the athletic field. My second and third Olympics I kept missing a medal by tenths of a second and at the time it was very heartbreaking because I was expected to win a medal for sure, if not gold.
She relied on her parents and her siblings during these difficult times and described them as “her rocks.”
“My mom and dad were always so proud of me,” said Malar. “Even though I was upset by the results, I knew in my heart, what was confirmed in how they talked to me and treated me, that doing your best is all that you can do.”
Malar said she experienced what many athletes have to deal with, something called post-Olympic depression. Upon retirement she had to face the question of who she was and what she was going to do with the rest of her life.
Malar soon put her other skills to use, for she had gone to university to study Kinesiology and she also had her Holistic Nutritionist certificate.
She made the transition from being a 30-time Canadian Champion Swimmer, with 71 international medals, to that of being a health and wellness provider, operating a clinic of her own for three years. She also worked in community and recreation departments in Toronto and Calgary.
In 2009 Malar and her husband moved to Summerland. They have three young sons together.
“Up until last year I was the coach for the Summerland Aquatic Club,” Malar said. “I felt so lucky that I could be involved in so many children’s lives and to give them support.”
Right now, Malar is the acting recreation manager for the District of Summerland and has been the recreation program coordinator. In her work environment she said she chooses and strives to cultivate a positive attitude.
Malar said she is grateful to be living in Summerland where she has a beautiful, clean lake to swim in.
“I find so much positive in everything,” she said. “It’s not because my life has been perfect, but because I work hard and I focus on the positive and I appreciate the successes I have along the way.”