How the CBC’s Byron MacDonald seems to know everything about literally every Olympic swimmer

How the CBC’s Byron MacDonald seems to know everything about literally every Olympic swimmer

One by one the swimmers stride across the pristine blue carpet, over the Olympic rings and into Byron MacDonald’s rapid-fire introduction. The CBC analyst might list their past victories as they reach their race lane, but he is just as likely to name their pets, their parents or trivia about their hometown.

Sydney Pickrem, the 24-year-old representing Canada, was making the walk from the staging area into the bright lights at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. She was the third swimmer to cross the pool deck Tuesday night Eastern time ahead of the 200-metre individual medley final.

She grew up in Florida and went to school in Texas, MacDonald told his audience.

“Came up to Canada around Christmas,” he said. “She hit the border and she hit a snowstorm, and she’d never driven in snow.”

Abbie Wood, the 22-year-old from Great Britain, was introduced moments later: “During the COVID shutdown, she told me, ‘I got bored with just doing weights and everything, so I volunteered and I joined a trash-hauling company and walked behind the truck and picked up garbage for six weeks.’”

During a race, MacDonald mixes analysis with anecdotes. During a swim earlier this week, he offered a brief dissertation on the history of swim goggles. On top of breaking down in-race tactics, he is also known to offer context to the tattoo a swimmer might have on their shoulder.

“They’re not just a robot that gets up there and finishes in second or seventh place,” he said over the phone from Tokyo. “They do this and this, or they have this difficulty. And all of the sudden it’s, ‘Well, now I’m vested, now I kind of know that person, so I’m kind of interested to see what the outcome is.”

MacDonald, the long-time swim coach at the University of Toronto, is also an Olympic swimmer. He represented Canada at the 1972 Games in Munich.

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