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It was in the pools of Port Arthur during the 1960s and 70s where this future Olympian first learned the swimming skills that would see her go on to represent her hometown with distinction on the world stage. Advancing to the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts her talents quickly began to shine through. Becoming a freestyle specialist, she began entering the history books with her national age-group record setting times and was consistently bringing home medals from swim meets in Canada and the US.

Her times at the 1976 Olympic Trials earned her a coveted spot on Canada's 1976 Olympic swimming squad. On the very first day of competition in Montreal, the 15 year old was called into action as an alternate freestyler in the 4 x 100m medley relay heats. Finishing in record setting time, she helped the team advance. With the original squad back in the pool for the finals the team went on to claim a bronze medal, the first for Canada at the 1976 Games, and the first ever for Canada in women's Olympic relay competition, with Debbie's efforts in the heats contributing to that historic accomplishment

Just missing a spot in the finals of the 200m freestyle with a second place finish in the heats, she rounded out her Olympic experience by helping Canada advance along the trail to another Olympic bronze medal. Swimming in the heats of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, she helped the team finish in record-setting time before giving up her spot in the final.

Returning home from the Olympic Games she went on to enjoy another season of competitive swimming and continued her involvement in her other athletic pursuits. A student at Hammarskjold High School, she served on the basketball team and represented her school in SSSAA gymnastics competitions.

Pursuing her education following her swimming career, she got involved in the building side of sport. An accredited national level coach, she spent time as an assistant coach with the Thunderbolts passing along her knowledge to the next generation of pool stars. When her hometown hosted the 1981 Canada Summer Games she helped out with the swimming events and volunteered her time at the 1995 Nordic World Ski championships. It is for her time in the pool, however, that this exceptional athlete will be remembered, having played a part in Canada's national and Olympic swimming story.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 26, 2015

Deborah Zemba (Clarke)

Port Arthur
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