TPS Lifeguards Among World’s Best

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 12:21 p.m. October 14, 2014

A Toronto Police Lifeguard Service (TPLS) team won gold at the World Lifesaving Championships in France in late September.

Two women, one on stomach, one on knees on a long board paddle through the water
Lifeguards Ali Ferguson and Alyce Sutcliffe heads towards the finish in the rescue board relay

The Under-19 team, comprising William O’Dwyer, Michelle Cuthbert, Vevek Shanthakumaran and Sunket Kulkarni, clinched the Simulated Emergency Response Championship (SERC) title. The SERC judges the initiative, judgment, knowledge, and abilities of four lifesavers who, acting as a team, apply lifesaving skills in a simulated emergency situation unknown to them prior to the start of the competition. All teams respond to the identical situation over the course of two minutes and are evaluated by the same judges.

“For SERC, we only had two days of training but, in terms of lifeguarding, all of us were seasoned veterans,” Shanthakumaran said.

A group of three men and one woman arm-in-arm in matching warm-up jackets on a stage
Lifeguards William O'Dwyer, Michelle Cuthbert, Vevek Shanthakumaran, Sunket Kulkani atop the podium as gold medalists

The open team of Alexandra Ferguson, Renata Jaciw-Zurakowsky, Michelle Jansen and Alyce Sutcliffe was fifth in the SERC category.

“The gold medal for the TPLS youths was obviously the highlight of the championships,” said Sutcliffe. “With many of us on the senior team having coached, instructed or 'head-guarded' the junior quartet, it was amazing to see them become world champions. The TPLS truly produces world-class lifeguards.”

Photo Journal of TPS at World Lifesaving Championships

Despite swimming personal bests, none of the TPLS competitors advanced to the finals in the pool in Montpellier however the Service lifeguards did qualify with the best on the beach competing in three relay and three individuals finals besides the SERC events.

Sutcliffe and Ferguson were seventh in the paddleboard competition, a two-person competition that sees one competitor swim out to a buoy in the ocean. The second competitor paddles out on a longboard to pick up their teammate. Both competitors paddle back to shore on their stomachs on the board.

“Ali and I have great chemistry on the paddleboard,” said Sutcliffe. “Qualifying for the final and racing together against the top eight board rescue teams in the world was quite gratifying and satisfying, when it’s taken into consideration that this was the first time we were racing together at a World Championship. Standing on the start line in a final next to professional athletes was an amazing experience and finishing seventh was simply unbelievable.”

A woman holding flippers runs toward the water with a life preserver in tow
Lifeguard Michelle Jansen sprints toward the water during the tube rescue event

They all displayed discipline, courage and intensity in a world-class environment, competing against the best in the world

The performance by the Toronto lifeguards was extremely satisfying for Bruce Hollowell, the Service’s Lifeguard Coordinator, who travelled with, and supported, the teams at the La Grande Motte beach.

“They all displayed discipline, courage and intensity in a world-class environment, competing against the best in the world,” he added. “I am very happy with the way they performed. They represented the Service well.”

Staff Superintendent Jane Wilcox also expressed delight with the team’s outstanding performance.

“What they did is a credit to both the quality of our hires and training,” she said. “And to think that they paid their way to attend these championships says a lot.”

This is the third time the Service has been represented at the world championships, having taken part in 2004 in Italy and 2012 in Australia.

What they did is a credit to both the quality of our hires and training

TPS crest watermark