Former swimmer Mark Tewksbury was appointed as a companion of the Order of Canada ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Tricia Smith hailed Olympian Mark Tewksbury as a "trailblazer" after he was awarded one of the country’s most prestigious honours.

Tewksbury, a gold-medallist at Barcelona 1992 and COC Board member, was appointed as a companion of the Order of Canada.

The 52-year-old former swimmer joins a list that includes fellow Olympians Dick Pound and Wayne Gretzky.

As well as having a successful swimming career, Tewksbury is a renowned orator, committed to humanitarianism.

Working with the International Olympic Committee as an athlete representative, Tewksbury earned respect as an advocate for the 2SLGBTQI community.

Smith said Tewksbury, who came out publicly in 1998 as Canada’s first gay Olympian, richly deserved the honour.

"He is widely respected as a trailblazer and humanitarian, and, of course, for his incredible achievements in swimming," said Smith.

"Mark is all about integrity and is unwavering in his pursuit of making the world better."

The Order of Canada also recognised Montreal 1976 Olympic rower Sandra Kirby who was appointed an officer for her pioneering research on athlete harassment and sustained efforts as an advocate for equity, inclusion and safety in sport.

Three-time Olympic champions Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue were appointed members for excellence in their sport and inspiring the next generation of figure skaters.

"A huge congratulations to Sandra, Tessa and Scott, who are truly formidable champions, and tremendous representatives of Canadian and Olympic values," added Smith.

Tewksbury made his Olympic debut at Seoul 1988 where he won a silver medal as a member of the 4x100m medley relay team.

At Barcelona 1992, Tewksbury set an Olympic record of 53.98sec in the 100m backstroke to secure gold and was part of the 4x100m medley relay team that earned bronze.

Following his retirement, Tewksbury served as Canada’s Chef de Mission at London 2012 and joined the COC Board.

"I had no idea when I won the Olympics so many years ago that it was just the beginning of my journey, not the end," said Tewksbury.

"I have never shied away from standing up for what I believe in or for using my voice to speak for those who might not have been able.

"It is an incredible honour to be appointed Companion of the Order of Canada not just for my sport accomplishments but for my fight for equity, inclusion and human rights for all."

Tewksbury has received five honorary degrees, the Queens’ Jubilee Silver Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada and the 2019 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality.

He has also served as chair of the Special Olympics Canada Board of Directors.

"Mark is not only an Olympic champion but a champion for fair, inclusive and safe sport, both nationally and internationally," said David Shoemaker, chief executive and secretary general of COC.

"He fights for what he believes in, pushing those around him to aspire to even greater heights.

"I wasn’t in Barcelona to see him win gold in 1992, but it’s a privilege to witness his excellence today.

"To see four Olympians recognised at all three levels of the Order of Canada makes this a truly historic day for the Olympic Movement in Canada."