In the 1990’s, there was probably no better Manitoba swimmer than freestyle specialist Shannon Shakespeare who created masterpieces in the water. A 14-time national champion and 11-time national record holder, Shakespeare swam on the Canadian National Team from 1993-2000 and swam at the Olympic Games, World Championships and many other high-level international competitions.
Born in Mission, B.C., on May 6, 1977, Shakespeare began swimming with the Thompson Northern Torpedoes in Thompson, Man. She later moved to Winnipeg to train with the Manitoba Marlins under head coach Pal Temesvari.
Shakespeare made her first big splash in the pool in 1993 when she broke the Canadian and Commonwealth records in the 50m freestyle before going on to earn a bronze medal in the 4 x 100m relay at the Pan-Pacific Championships in Japan. In 1994, she represented Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., bringing home the bronze in the 50m freestyle and 4 x 100m relay.
Shakespeare really began to shine in the run-up to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In 1995, she helped Canada strike gold in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and silver in the 4 x 100m relay at the World Championships and added silver in the 50m freestyle and three relays events at the Pan-Pacific Championships in the United States. She followed that up in 1996 with the gold in the 200m individual medley and bronze in the 100m freestyle at the US Grand Prix. In Atlanta, Shakespeare was 17th in the 200m freestyle and helped Canada place fifth in the 4 x 100m medley relay and 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
Shakespeare wrapped up her international swimming career at the 2000 Olympic Game in Sydney, Australia where she finished seventh in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, fifth in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and served as captain of the Canadian Olympic Team.
During her university career at the University of Michigan (1996-2000), Shakespeare was the co-winner of Big 10 Swimmer of the Year while winning silver and bronze at NCAA Division 1 Championships in 1997. She won another NCAA silver in 1998 and served as Team Captain from 1999-2000. In 2000, she won the Big 10 Swimmer of the Year outright and finished her university career as a 21-time Big 10 Champion, 23-time NCAA All-American and holder of seven Big 10 Conference and seven Michigan records.
Her achievements did not go unrecognized outside the pool. Shakespeare was a two-time Sport Manitoba Junior Female Athlete of the Year and was nominated by the Manitoba sports media as a finalist for the Manitoba Female Athlete of the Year in 1993 and 1995.