Michelle Williams

Michelle was born in Pretoria January 2, 1991. She is a former South African who emigrated to Canada in 1997, where her family lives in Toronto. She specializes in the freestyle in the sprint distances. Swimming for Canada won a gold medal in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto in the 4 x 100 m freestyle and in the 4 x 100 m medley relay. She also won a bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 4 x 100 m freestyle, and repeated that achievement at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She attended Ohio State University from 2011-2014. Michelle married Guillermo Torro in 2016.


Michelle's rise to prominence hasn't been without its delays or setbacks, however.

The 19-year-old Vaughan Road Academy honours student migrated with her family from Pretoria, South Africa to Toronto in 1997 and settled in the community.

Born with a cleft palate that posed some medical problems in the early years, she took to the water much later than many of her current stature.

"I didn't start until I was eight. I had tubes in my ears so I couldn't put my head under water," she said. "I've always loved the water I just couldn't go under."

Her mom, Elsie, decided shortly after arriving in Canada her youngest "needed to be water safe," so she signed her up to a reasonably-priced city run program.

"She went pretty quickly through the levels," she said, pointing out she then moved her on to the North York Development Swim Club - the entry level development side of NYAC now called Waves.

"Every year she got better and better. She had the determination that I thought was very unusual for a young ten-year-old."

There wasn't a lot of money to go around back then, which meant Williams was restricted to the low-cost aqua program despite lots of interest from above.

"They (club coaches) kept asking me to move up, but it would've meant thousands of dollars more with all the training and we couldn't afford to start the higher intro level, so I stuck with Waves," said Williams, who specializes in the 50m free, 100m free and 100m.



Family: Parents William and Emsie Williams… Older sister Lydia was a national team gymnast (2000-05) and is her greatest influence for teaching the importance of hard work… Older brother Will… The family moved to Canada when she was six (1997) so they could have a future free of violence and corruption… Getting into the Sport: Started swimming lessons at age 8… In her first meet at age 9 she swam 25m of every stroke… Outside Interests: Graduated from Ohio State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science…


Michelle Williams was part of Canada’s bronze medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay at Rio 2016, swimming in the heats. Williams had achieved several career highlights in 2015. At the Pan Am Games she helped Canada win gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Pan Am record time and just missed the podium in the 100m freestyle. She also made her FINA World Championship debut where she was part of the fifth place finish in the 4x100m freestyle relay and advanced to the semi finals in the 50m freestyle. Williams was named to her first senior national team at the 2014 Canadian Trials, giving her the chance to compete at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships. She came home from Glasgow with a pair of bronze medals from the 4x100m freestyle and 4×100 medley relays. After a near-miss at the Commonwealth Games, Williams was able to advance to the final of the 50m freestyle at the Pan Pacs. While at Ohio State University she earned multiple Scholar-Athlete accolades.


Michelle Williams, a senior on the Ohio State university women's swimming and diving team, recently helped the Buckeyes to a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. She placed third in the 50-yard freestyle, fourth in the 100 freestyle and was a member of both the 400-yard freestyle relay and 200-yard medley relay. Williams is also an Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten selection who will graduate with a degree in exercise science.

Popular Culture

Who do you wish had a Twitter account? Why would you want to "follow" this account? My roommate's beta fish Snoopy. I want to know his life secret for living so long.
Favorite TV show - It's a three way tie between The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Friends
Favorite movie - The Proposal 
Favorite book and/or magazine - The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
Favorite celebrity - Jennifer Lawrence
Favorite singer or musical group - Luke Bryan, Jack Johnson
Last concert I attended was - Luke Bryan

Favorite pro sports team - Toronto Maple Leafs
Favorite athlete - Sam Cheverton
The athlete I would most like to compete against - Cate Campbell
Favorite athletic memory - Beating Michigan this year on Senior Day
Team you're most looking forward to competing against - Minnesota and Indiana
What is your top skill? What skill do you need to improve? My top skill is upper body strength. I could improve by balancing out my stroke with more legs.

Most interesting place I've visited - Guam
Place I would like to visit - Santorini, Greece

Favorite home cooked meal - Shell shaped pasta with meat sauce and grated cheese on top, when my mom makes it
Favorite snack food - Fruit snacks/gummies, dried mango

Person I most admire - my sister, Lydia
In 10 years, I would like to be - a Nurse Practitioner
If I had a million dollars, I would - travel to South Africa often to visit family
Coolest thing you did this past summer - medaled at Canadian Nationals for the first time
Most prized possession - my bunny stuffed animal. If I lost it I don't know what I would do
I would like to trade places for a day with - Brutus Buckeye
Best piece of advice you've received - Everything you do, do with enthusiasm
If your parents/guardians bragged about you, what would they say? I've overcome a lot of adversity
What is your hometown known for? - Being multicultural
Pop or Soda? Pop
Cats or Dogs? Dogs
Early Bird or Night Owl? Night owl
Would you be the O, H, I or the O? - The 'I', so I can practice my streamline


Canadian swimmer Michelle Williams finds her soulmate in the pool

Williams met fiancé at Toronto swimming club 13 years ago. She was born in South Africa. He was born in South America. They found each other at a swimming pool in Toronto. Next weekend, Canadian Olympic swimmer Michelle Williams is marrying North York Aquatic Club swimming coach Guillermo Toro.

Williams was just 12 years old, Toro was 14, when she first met him at the club in Toronto. They kept in touch over the years never thinking too much of one another. Williams was in the pool practicing and Toro was coaching.

They've been dating for nearly eight years now are finally getting married on Dec. 17 in Etobicoke, Ont.

Originally we were going to have it in the summer but that would have been way too close to the Olympics," Williams said. "This worked out perfectly."


Parents of North York Olympian Michelle Williams on hand in Rio to watch bronze medal performance, thanks to crowdfunding Canadian Olympian Michelle Williams (middle) in Brazil with mom Emsie, sister Lydia Farrell, fiance Guillermo Toro and father William.

William and Emsie Williams watched from the stands as their 25-year-old daughter, Michelle, helped earn Canada’s first medal of the Rio Olympics. Michelle, who is a member of the North York Aquatic Club (NYAC), captured a team bronze in the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay. Noting the high cost of travelling to Brazil, Toro secretly set up a GoFundMe page in April, with the goal of raising $7,000 to send his future in-laws to Rio. In three months $5,570 was raised by 34 donors, which was enough to fully cover William and Emsie’s expenses in Rio. Toro, who met Michelle at the NYAC in 2003 and will marry the Olympian in December, noted his fiancee’s family immigrated from South Africa to Toronto in 1997 when Michelle was six and not only had her high training costs to deal with, but also those of her sister, Lydia, a former gymnast on the Canadian national team. “When Michelle qualified for the Olympics I knew that it was time for us to find a way to help them,” Toro said in an email to The Mirror from Rio.

William, who said this was the first time he and Emsie were able to attend one of Michelle’s big away meets, is humbled by the support they’ve received. “We are so grateful for the GoFundMe system and for Michelle’s fiancé, Guillermo Toro, who took the initiative to set up the campaign,” he said in email from Rio, also thanking the donors. “For us having been there at the moment when her relay team got the Olympic bronze medal is priceless.” Michelle was not in the pool for the final race, but had helped qualify Canada in the earlier heats. (Canadian anchor Penny Oleksiak) last 25 (metres), I haven’t screamed that loud in my life,” said Michelle, in a Canadian Olympic Committee media release. “So many emotions just barreling through and then when she touched I just started crying when it hit me that I was a part of this too and I had won an Olympic medal.” Michelle, who learned to swim at age eight in the recreation program offered by the city at Georges Vanier Secondary School, lived with her parents at Victoria Park and Finch avenues before attending Ohio State University on an NCAA scholarship.

She returned to Toronto in 2014 to train at the High Performance Centre of Ontario in Scarborough, winning gold at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games in the 4x100 freestyle relay. Michelle has also competed at the FINA World Championships, the Commonwealth Games, and Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.

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