Toronto
2 min

Canada’s lesbian Olympian

Jet-lagged swimmer was just happy to be in Sydney

RENAISSANCE WOMAN. Francilia Agar is an Olympian swimmer, a student, painter and musician. Credit: Shawn Scallen

The Canadian lesbian who competed in this past summer’s Australia Olympics is a bit sheepish about her time in the 50-metre freestyle.



“I didn’t make my best time,” says Francilia Agar. “I think I was overly nervous so it wasn’t a personal best.”



The 25-year-old University Of Ottawa music student represented her home country of Dominica, and she came in at 29.9 seconds.



“I was just happy to represent my island,” she says, adding that her best isn’t a qualifying time for the Olympics, but that she was fortunate – every country is allowed to send one male and one female athlete to each event.



Agar has dual citizenship.



“I got to meet a lot of athletes and it was just incredible,” she says, adding that there wasn’t much time for anything else except preparing for her event.



“I was only there for two weeks. Jet lag takes a toll. I didn’t get an opportunity to travel very much because my event was three days before I left. I had a week and a half to prepare.”



She took part in the opening ceremonies, but had to leave before the closing ceremonies.



And Agar says thing are improving gradually for openly gay athletes.



“They were pretty open in Australia. You did see couples here and there in dance clubs. I wouldn’t say on the street you would see people holding hands or kissing, but I think it was pretty free.”



Agar got her real start in competitive swimming after moving here in 1996 to go to university.



“I had just moved to Canada from the Caribbean, so I was just looking for someone to swim with and a friend of mine told me about Rideau Speedeaus, so I joined up.”



That’s a homo swim club in Ottawa.



In addition to her studies, she’s an accomplished pianist, choral director and avid painter.



“You don’t get much sleep. It’s a full time program. Full time swimming. Full time school, plus working part time. I also accompany a lesbian choir; I’m assistant director for [a 24-member choir].



“It’s an outlet for me. Things that I deal with personally I can’t exactly talk to all my friends about, but both with the choir and with the swim team, I have back up and a support group there.”



Agar says she was first attracted to women in Dominica, but society there is very conservative.



“It’s very hush, hush. You have to realize that everybody knows you in Dominica. I’m pretty well known back home. I actually choose sometimes not to go back home because it’s kind of difficult.”



Just a few friends back home know she’s had relationships with women.



“It’s a very different society. It’s very religious. The dominant religion is Catholic. Everyone is conservative and it’s frowned upon. It’s such a small island – there’s about 70,000 people, so everybody knows everybody and everybody’s business.



“I go back every year to see family and I usually go back for Christmas.”



Returning to Canada is always welcome.



“It’s very freeing. It’s a different culture. People are very cold who live here in terms of general street life. It’s just very different. You see things here that you’d never ever dream of there.



“I call this home right now and I probably won’t move back home [to Dominica].”



The Ottawa Rideau Speedeaus host Swimmers In Heats during the Feb 9 weekend. Check out the website at www.gayottawa.com/speedeaus/SM_2001/SM_2001.html. To register, contact Michael Lubetsky at (613) 236-2603, or e-mail mlubetsky@hotmail.com.