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Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner signing books in Qualicum Beach

Tanner will sign free copies of her book Dec. 21 in upstairs lounge at Qualicum Foods
Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner will sign free copies of her book ‘Monkey Guy and the Cosmic Fairy’ in the upstairs lounge at Qualicum Foods in Qualicum Beach on Dec. 21. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Olympic legend Elaine Tanner hopes her book Monkey Guy and the Cosmic Fairy will teach children and parents about the value of friendship, kindness, unconditional love and forgiveness.

Tanner will sign free copies of the book in the upstairs cafe of Qualicum Foods (705 Memorial Ave.) from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 21.

The book tells the story of a good-hearted toy monkey and the love between him and his person, Lewis.

“I have three grandkids and I decided that I wanted to give them a gift that they could always keep and that is a legacy of love,” said Tanner. “I’ve condensed the message of all the wisdom I learned in my life, and I condensed it all into a little whimsical tale.”

The story is based on the unconditional love and friendship between Tanner and her husband John Watt, who divide their time between Ontario and North Saanich.

Monkey Guy and the Cosmic Fairy originated when the two were at a Christmas market in Ontario years ago — that’s when Watt spotted (and named) a stuffed animal “Monkey Guy” as a present for Tanner.

She spent the next two years writing her book, and finding the right illustrator (Quebec artist Denis Proulx).

“I wrote it so the parents and grandparents relate to the book,” she said. “So actually I wrote it just as much for the adults as for the children.”

Tanner won three medals at the 1968 games in Mexico City — a silver in the 100- and 200-metre backstroke and bronze in the 4x100 freestyle relay when she was just 17.

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Despite these colossal achievements, the media of the day dubbed the lack of a gold medal a failure. Tanner struggled with self doubt for decades afterwards, and said she experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for years.

“It really affected me,” she said. “I struggled with a lot of emotional issues after that. Once I started my healing journey, which was a long journey, I decided to write my websites and explain and give inspiration to people who are going through struggles and challenges.”

Meeting Watt helped put her on the path of acceptance, forgiveness and unconditional love, which are lessons readers can take from her book.

“It’s sort of my legacy of love and kindness to the world,” Tanner said.

She hopes the book can encourage children to read, rather than get lost in screens.

For the last seven years during the Christmas season, she has signed books and given them away to children and adults.

Watt estimated they have donated approximated $40,000 worth of books, including to children’s hospitals, schools and charities, over the last few years.

Tanner loves to write — her memoir Quest Beyond Gold can be read online, and she also has a personal website,

She was the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic swimming medal and set five world records during her career. Tanner was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1969.

Tanner will have a limited (approximately 30 to 40 copies) of Monkey Guy and the Cosmic Fairy with her at Qualicum Foods.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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