Vander Meulen back with Kokanee club

The Vernon Recreation Complex pool is where Steven Vander Meulen learned to swim.

The Vernon Recreation Complex pool is where Steven Vander Meulen learned to swim.

And now, the former Vernon Kokanee Swim Club and Canadian Olympian is returning to teach young swimmers.

Vander Meulen, 46, has been named the new head coach of the Kokanee, effective Saturday.

“It’s pretty exciting and I’m really excited,” said Vander Meulen, who has spent the last couple of years as head development coach with the Chena North Shore Swim Club in North Vancouver.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have a lot of knowledge to share as I’ve been a swimmer and a coach for 40 years.”

Vander Meulen swam for Canada at the 1988 Olympics in the 4×100 freestyle relay, finishing in ninth place.

He is also a former world record holder in the 4×100 medley relay with the University of Calgary Swim Club – a mark which stood as a world record for six years.

Vander Meulen has competed at the Olympics, world championships, Pan Pacific Championships, Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games and Universiade.

With 44 senior national gold medals in relays and individual swims, a silver medal at the Pan Am Games, and a silver and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, Vander Meulen wants to share his experiences and expertise.

“I’m looking to help each kid advance the best they possibly can,” said Vander Meulen, who, along with his brother, Gary, was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

“I have a lot of patience with kids. It’s a long-term project for everybody, and we’ll get everyone moving faster.”

Vander Meulen retired from competitive swimming at 27, and turned to coaching.

He began with the University of Calgary, and also had stints with clubs in Calgary, Duncan, Kelowna and North Vancouver before accepting the job with the Kokanee.

“I am just really looking forward to being back as a Kokanee, and being closer to family,” said Vander Meulen.

The club is equally excited to have one of its recognizable alumni return as head coach.

“Steven has a pretty storied history in this city and in swimming so we were very excited when he applied for the job,” said Jason Shortt, vice-president of the Kokanee.

“It’s a positive step forward for the club.”

Vander Meulen is one of a handful of Kokanee graduates honoured with a banner that hangs in the rafters above the water at the Vernon Rec Centre pool.

The Kokanee club will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016.