April 19, 2022
Canada Games Legacy Series
Over the next few weeks, Swim Ontario is presenting the Canada Games Legacy Series, where we take a look back at swimmers who represented Team Ontario at past Canada Summer Games.
Behind the unimaginable success of swimmer Kennedy Goss, is the gift of something special – a dedication to helping humanity.
Goss has contributed so much to the aquatic sport since she first got hooked, at age eight, as a competitive swimmer. A pool, a lake or wherever there was water, you would most likely find Goss. She became more and more infatuated with the challenges of racing triumphs and happiness.
The swim lessons for the Toronto-born talent led to joining the Granite Gators Swim Club, which was something that would feel like a second home throughout her teenage years at Northern Secondary. Starting high school, she competed in swimming, was Athlete of the Year in grade 9, and graduated to fulfill her diligence as President of the Girls’ Athletic Association.
Swimming accomplishments would start to pile up, as we will learn later in this story, but there was a passion building that would become far more important than trophies, certificates, medals and standing on the sports podium of prosperity.
Goss would learn that she benefitted from the athletic genes of her father and the academic knowledge of her mother. She is the daughter of two-time Olympic silver medallist Sandy Goss, and her mother Judy Goss, is a mental performance consultant who worked with elite athletes at the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) for almost 20 years.
So, it may not come as a surprise that Kennedy would one day, with hard work and determination, emerge as a champion, a leader and role model. However, it’s likely that her biggest triumph, may very well become an asset outside of the water and world of competition.
Now living in New York, and as a grad student at Columbia University, Goss is a student mental health counsellor. She’s counselling student athletes at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.
“Lots of people, and that includes athletes, ignore mental illness,” said Goss, who is focussing on a career in sport psychology and behavioural health. “As athletes, we’re told to fight through injuries, and I say don’t ignore them because it makes things worse.”
Goss said there had been times when she disregarded her mental health thinking it was “not that big of a deal” and things would magically get better.
“Now, I realize it was very important, it was not something that I had to struggle with as a swimmer, as an athlete, if I got help. To athletes, and anyone else, I say to them, don’t ignore it. Reach out if you need help.”
Goss remembers an early highlight in her life as a competitive athlete. It came at age 10, finishing in third place in the 50-metre butterfly at the Provincial Championships in Nepean. Another bonus came in her final year of grade school, when recruiting coaches would try to convince her that their school was better than another.
She would eventually accept a scholarship to Indiana University at Bloomington, which is known as one of the leading research universities in the United States.
Numerous achievements would include trips to the podium claiming bronze medals for the Hoosiers at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in 2016 and 2017. Worth mentioning, Goss was chosen, get this, an All-American on 13 different occasions.
Winning a bronze medal in the team 4 x 200-metre freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was special for Goss. So was being on the team, a year earlier at the World championships in Russia, that clinched a spot for Canada at the Olympics. She would make that foursome after qualifying at the Olympic Trials in Toronto.
There were numerous other high points including wearing the red and white of Canada at the International University Sports Federation (FISU) World Universiade Summer Games in Taipei City in 2017 (where she medalled). Two years later, she was again swimming for Canada at the FISU Games in Napoli, Italy.
Yet, the one event that was particularly special to her, came in 2013 in Sherbrooke, Que.
“It was the Canada Summer Games,” said Goss, then a 16-year-old. “I knew I was quite capable of doing well, but I didn’t expect to come away with seven medals (five were gold).
“As a youngster, like all kids, I always had a dream of making it to the Olympics one day. The Canada Summer Games was the turning point for me. It made become aware that a dream could become a reality.”
Later that year, loaded with confidence, Goss finished in the top 10 in two events at the Junior World championships in Dubai.
It has been a long time since those days of the Canada Summer Games, but she has a message to athletes preparing for the August 6 to 21 national athletic spectacle in Ontario’s Niagara Region.
“Have fun, use it as a great experience, make friends, and don’t take everything too seriously,” she said. “For me, it was rewarding, and the atmosphere was like a mini-Olympics.”
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.