Mark Tewksbury

Mark Tewksbury

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Inspirational Keynote Speaker and Leadership Expert, Olympic Gold Medalist, Humanitarian, Activist and Author

Mark Tewksbury C.C, M.S.M, OLY first came to prominence as the star athlete who burst out of the water at the Barcelona Olympics to win Gold!

An Olympic Champion with Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, 7 World Records, and a cover appearance on TIME magazine, Mark is one of the first athletes who publicly came out in 1998, making him one of the first openly gay Olympic champions in the world. He has been a leader in the LGBTQ2S+ movement ever since.

Currently, Mark is Vice President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, and co-founder of Great Traits, a training company that helps Leaders.  Throughout his life, Mark has played a strong role to shift and shape Canadian society through his story, work and legacy. As an advocate, consultant, speaker and hero, Mark has spent his career impacting change in individuals and organizations.

Mark has received 5 honorary degrees, the Queens’s Jubilee Silver Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and a Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality.

Most recently, Mark was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At any given time, there is a limit of 165 Canadians that carry this distinction and honour.

Mark speaks about the legacy of leadership; about resiliency and innovation; about creating integrated support teams to foster excellence and achievement; about what creating inclusive work spaces look like; about the high-performance traits needed to support the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Drawing on his vast leadership experience as well as data from his leadership teaching, Mark’s authentic, thoughtful and inspired approach is guaranteed to spark new ways of thinking and leave a lasting impression for years to come.

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Speaking topics

Embrace Contradictions: The Gateway Leader Trait

In 2008, Mark co-founded Great Traits, a coaching company that distilled the fundamentals of high-performance sport into universal traits of success.  With a focus on leadership, people became aware of how they led themselves, how they led or interacted with others, and what kind of legacy they left as they did it.  Based on practical actions, people coached by Great Traits programs grew enormously in their ability to be great leaders.

Of the 24 traits, Mark shares why “embracing contradictions”is one of the most important leadership traits.  Great leaders need to be able to adapt – to the varying situations they encounter, and to most effectively meet the wide ranging and differing needs of the people they lead.  To be a successful leader require enormous self-awareness, empathy, communication skills, openness to change…you get the idea.

In this inspiring keynote, Mark draws upon his own training, leadership experience and Global observations to share insights and practical tools that inspire leaders to embrace contradictions that lead to High Performace!

2SLGBTQ+ Empowerment

Inspiring stories and lessons about LGBTQ history from someone who, in his own way, is part of that history. Mark Tewksbury was one of the 1st openly gay Olympic champions in the world when he came out in 1998.  His brave stand, to share his story at a time when no sport star had, started an important conversation that continues to this day in sport and beyond.

How do you create the environment for people to feel included?  What does it mean to be a strong ally?  How can I be a better ally to someone?  Mark has tacked these questions in numerous leadership positions.

In November of 2020, Mark was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada.  It is the highest rank within the Order and, astonishingly, there can only be 165 living Companions at any one time.  That 14-year old kid who was ran out of school for being gay would never have imagined, 40 years later, his country honouring him for it.

Champion Change!

Mark Tewksbury has long been recognized as a catalyst for change. He won Gold at the Olympics because he changed his approach to training and hired a synchronized swimming coach and broke through; in the 90’s at the height of his fame in Canada, he changed paths and immigrated to Australia.  Mark was Canada’s first openly gay sports hero, starting a conversation that continues to this day, and he challenged the culture of the International Olympic Committee when no other athlete would.  Mark’s a trail blazer.

In this keynote Mark faces the theme of change head-on.  Many of us are afraid of change.  We would prefer things to stay the same than visit unknown territory.  But sometimes, whether we like it or not, change descends upon us and challenges us to reexamine our world.  We are forced to ask ourselves what we value. What we stand for. And how we bring those ideas to life.  Mark inspires audiences to think about change like an act of survival.  We must continually evolve and Champion Change to stay competitive, to stay connected to our purpose, to inspire innovation and achieve high performance!

Video clips

Mark Tewksbury - Women for Men's Health Big Ball Gala 2024

Mark Tewksbury - Keynote One Young World Ottawa 2016

Mark Tewksbury - One Young World 2018 The Hague

Speaker testimonials

We could not have asked for a better speaker. Through your infectious energy and your innate ability to draw us into your life experiences, you really captured what we were after. You set a tone of being open to change, taking risks, being prepared, recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, appreciating the contradictions, and staying focused on the goal or ‘prize’. The accolades for the event are pouring in and the feedback about your talk has been tremendous.


“Before I closed out my week, I wanted to send you a big virtual hug and thanks for your participation in our
Leadership event this week. You elevated the day beyond expectations.  You carefully listened to all of the
information that I shared with you to tailor your compelling content to our needs.  This resonated with our
team and enforced all of the work we had done during the day.  The team left motivated and inspired to
tackle the road ahead.”

Fairmont H

“The Stars are shining even brighter today as everyone buzzes about your keynote and the fun exercises.
I had one interesting stat that I wanted to share from the feedback we received so far.  We asked people
to write in their favourite moment from the 1.5 days together and 70% of the respondents have
referenced your speech and/or exercises.  The feedback has been universally positive – I have never seen
this much alignment on a speaker before.  Hope you are feeling as good about how it went as we are!

STARS Air Ambulance

“I did want to drop you a quick note to thank you once again for the time you spent at York last week,
every second with you was impactful and a lot of fun.  We are still buzzing!!! Personally, I feel so
honoured to have been able to meet and spend some serious quality time with you and also be part of a
transformational moment in time for the Athletics & Recreation community at York. One really never
knows how these types of engagements are going to land and if they will have any impact.
In this case IT WORKED IT REALLY WORKED (insert happy dance)!!! Thank you for being you and sharing
your story with us.”

York University

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