Richmond Olympian takes on full-time coaching role

Brian Johns. - file photo
Brian Johns.
— image credit: file photo

One of Richmond’s greatest-ever athletes is  the new full-time assistant coach of the University of B.C. Thunderbirds swimming program.

Brian Johns, a former world record holder, three-time Olympian and five-time national champion at UBC as an athlete, has made the seamless transition from the pool to the deck and will continue to be a huge asset for both the men’s and women’s teams to benefit from.

Johns has spent the last two-and-a-half seasons working as a part-time assistant with the Thunderbirds. Following the recent UBC Sport Review, the swim team was given an additional full-time coaching position, and according to head coach Steve Price, having Johns take the job was a no brainer.

“He is a Thunderbird through and through and obviously this is great for the program and our athletes,” said Price. “He has developed himself inside the program first as an athlete and now as a coach. Being a well-sought-after coach across the country he certainly had other job opportunities, so we feel very fortunate that he chose to stay here at UBC”

“I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity by Steve to go right from the pool into coaching,” said Johns. “This is the right spot for me at this time. I’m learning a lot and getting the chance to grow as a coach, but more importantly we are building something special here and I am happy to be a part of it.”

Johns first came to UBC in December 2000 and swam five seasons for the ‘Birds from 2000 to 2003 and 2005 to 2007, winning a Canadian Inter-University Sport national championship in each of his five seasons. During his CIS career he became the most decorated swimmer in UBC history winning 33 CIS gold medals and one CIS silver medal. In fact, the silver came in his very first CIS final during his first year with UBC, after that he never lost another final. He was also named the CIS Swimmer of the Year three times (2002, 2003, and 2007) and the CIS Male Athlete of the Year in 2002.

On the international stage, Johns represented Canada at three Olympic Games (2000, 2004, and 2008). At the Sydney Games he finished 15th in the 200-metre individual medley and seventh in the four-by-200-metre freestyle relay. In Athens he was 15th in the 400-metre individual medley and fifth in the four-by- 200-metre freestyle relay and in Beijing he had his best individual result, making the final of the 400-metre individual medley and placing seventh. He also earned a fifth place finish in the four-by-200-metre freestyle relay.

He is also a former world record holder in the 400-metre individual medley (short course) clocking a time of 4:02.72 back in 2003. The time still remains a Canadian record today. He also still holds the Canadian record in the 200-metre individual medley (short course) and 400-metre individual medley (long course). Other accolades include three Commonwealth Games medals (two silver and a bronze), three World Championship medals (a silver and two bronze), and a gold medal at the 2007 World University Games.

It’s that international success that Johns will be looking to share with the next crop of Thunderbirds.

“One of the biggest goals is not just being good at the varsity level,” said Johns. “We need to re-establish ourselves on the international scene. In the past we have fallen off a bit, but we have some young swimmers with the capabilities to get to that level as long as we can provide them with the foundation and environment to allow that to happen. It starts with getting the age group programs more involved with what we are doing at the varsity level so that we can help develop swimmers even before they are in university all the way through to podium finishes at the international level.”

Johns graduated from UBC with a bachelor of human kinetics in 2009 and master of kinesiology in 2013.

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