Robert (Bob) Pirie

golden leaf icon for Hall of Fame


Bob Pirie represented Canada at Berlin 1936 reaching the final of the 4x200m freestyle relay (alongside Munroe Bourne, Bob Hamerton and Robert Hooper) and the semi-finals in his individual events of 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle.

A seven-time British Empire Games medalist, Pirie won three gold, four silver and one bronze medal over his career at two Games. At London 1934, he won a full set of medals – gold in the 4×200 yards freestyle relay, silver in the 1500 yards freestyle and bronze in the 440 yards; at Sydney 1938, he won two gold (110 yards freestyle, 440 yards freestyle) and three silver medals (1650 yards freestyle, 4×220 yards freestyle relay, 3x110m yards medley relay). Pirie broke the 220 yards world record held by American Johnny Weissmuller and at one time held every Canadian freestyle swimming record from 100m to two miles. Pirie also competed in open water races at the Canadian National Exhibition Waterfront winning the 1935 Barker Bread Gold Trophy one mile race when the water temperature in Lake Ontario was only 11.7 degrees Celsius. 

From a swimming family, his sister Irene Pirie was a two-time Olympian at Los Angeles 1932 and Berlin 1936, finishing with two fourth place finishes (4x100m freestyle relay at both Games). His nephew Hamilton Milton represented Great Britain, finishing fourth in the 4x200m freestyle relay at Rome 1960, and Hamilton’s father, played water polo for Great Britain at Berlin 1936.

Pirie passed away in 1984 in Los Angeles, California. The Bob Pirie Trophy is presented each year by Swim Ontario to the provinces top male swimmer as selected by the Ontario Swimming Coaches’ Association (the female swimmer of the year receives the Irene Pirie Trophy). Pirie won the 1939 Lou Marsh Trophy recognizing him as Canada’s top athlete. He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1975, Ontario Aquatic Hall of Fame in 1993 as a Pioneer Athlete, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Olympic Highlights

Games Sport Event Finish
1936 Berlin Aquatics - SwimmingFreestyle Relay 4x200m - Men7
1936 Berlin Aquatics - SwimmingFreestyle 1,500m - Men -
1936 Berlin Aquatics - SwimmingFreestyle 400m - Men -