Janice “Jan” Jones (nee Shepp) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on January 21, 1942. Swimming was an odd sport for Jan to become a world champion as Manitoba offered limited training resources. Despite those challenges, at age ten Jan became a member of the Winnipeg Aquatic Club, which happened to be coached by Canadian competitive swimming champion,
Jan struggled during her early years with the club, but Pop saw something in her and decided to switch her technique from Freestyle to Breaststroke, an insight he may have gleaned from his own experience as a silver medal winner in the 220-yard Breaststroke at the 1930 Canadian Championships. His instinct was right, and Jan quickly became an expert at the new technique, setting provincial and state records through Manitoba and Minnesota.
With a winning stroke, Jan’s success took her far from home: in 1956, at the age of 14, Jan boarded a 2 ½ day train trip out east to Toronto to compete in the Olympic Trials and her first big competition.
In 1958, Jan travelled to Vancouver to race at the Junior Nationals, where she won a Silver Medal in the 100m Breaststroke. Her performance was noticed, and Jan was offered an invitation to compete in a Commonwealth Games Trials “Swim Off” where she achieved the 3rd fastest time in the country!
The following year Jan competed in the Summer Nationals being held in Brantford, which at the time was home to Ontario’s only 50m pool. She won a Silver Medal in the 100m breaststroke and was noticed by Alex Stermac – Canada’s Head Coach for the 1959 Pan American Games, and the founding coach of the Etobicoke Swim Club. Alex arranged for Jan to stay in Etobicoke where she would train with his team for the 1959 Pan American Trials. At the Trials, Jan broke the 100m Breaststroke Canadian Record, adding another success to her early career.
Jan, the newly minted Canadian Record Holder for the 100m Breaststroke, was on her way to the 3rd Pan American Games in Chicago as a member of the Canadian Team. At the Games, Jan competed alongside teammates Margaret Iwasaki, Sara Barker, and Sandra Scott in the 4 x 100m Medley Relay where they won the Silver Medal.
After years of competing, Jan turned her focus to higher education and completed a bachelor’s degree (1964) and master’s degree (1968) in Physical Education.
In 1973, Jan and her family moved to Aurora, it was not long before she began contributing to the sport community. In 1976, she co-founded the Aurora Ladies Volleyball League, and in 1984 she organized the first Women in Sport Conference for York Region Female High School Athletes. In 1986, Jan founded the York Region High school swim conference and coached the Thornlea Secondary School Swim Team who, under her guidance, went undefeated for fourteen years! In 1997 she was awarded the Ontario School Athletic Association leadership in school sport award.
In 1991, Jan was inducted into the Olympic Academy of Canada and was one of the founding members of the Ontario Olympic Academy for High School Students. In 1993, the Canadian Olympic Association selected her to represent them at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece.
After decades of giving back through teaching, coaching and community building, Jan decided it was time to get back in the pool and compete. She joined Masters Swimming in 1991 and competed at the Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in Calgary in the 45-49 age group. To say that she made a splash would be an understatement. She won gold in the 50m, 100m and 200m Breaststroke and set new Ontario Records in all three events. She also placed third in the 100m Individual medley.
In 1992, she competed again at the Canadian Masters Swimming and outdid herself. Jan took the gold in the 50m, 100m, 200m Breaststroke and set National Records in all three events. She also took gold in the 100m Individual Medley and set an Ontario Record.
Later that year Jan competed on the world stage at the 4th FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in the 50-54 age group where she won the Bronze Medal in the 50m Breaststroke and placed 4th in the 100m Breaststroke and 5th in the 200m Breaststroke.
At the 1993, Canadian Masters Swimming Championships Jan cleaned up! She placed 1st in the 50m, 100m and 200m Breaststroke, and decided to add in a new event, the Freestyle, where she placed first in the 50m, 100m and 200m competitions.
The 1994 5th FINA World Masters Swimming Championships was Jan’s last competitive outing, and she won the silver medal in the 50m Breaststroke, placed 4th in the 100m Breaststroke and was a finalist in the 100m Freestyle.
Jan continues to reside in Aurora and is a passionate member of the Aurora Aquatics Advocacy Group. Having begun her career jumping into the community YWCA pool – to racing in state-of-the-art centres across the continent – Jan understands the power of proper facilities and community support to achieve champion status as an athlete.
In recognition of her excellence in swimming, we are proud to welcome Janice Jones as part of the 2022 class of inductees into the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame.