Played on some of UBC's best-ever basketball teams in addition to being a UBC track and field star. In 1971 was the first Canadian to jump seven feet, establishing a Canadian record three times in this event. Won medals at Commonwealth, Pan Pacific and World University Games and finished 9th in the world at the '72 Olympics. Competing in Masters track and field competitions has won numerous gold medals, set several national and international records while holding several world titles.
John Hawkins is truly an amazing athlete. He has, as an athlete, evolved from his celebrated days at UBC in the late '60s and early '70s to where he now remains not only incredibly fit but is a wiser competitor, resulting in national and international records.
Hawkins, a Kelowna, B.C. native and Courtenay High School graduate, was a star at basketball and track and field at UBC – at the time finding it difficult to choose between the sport he loved, basketball, and the sport at which he excelled, high jumping.
As a Thunderbird basketball player, the six foot Hawkins was known as "The Leaper" recognized for his speed, tremendous rebounding and shot blocking ability. He was member of the 69/70 UBC Hall of Fame basketball team that went undefeated against Canadian competition, winning both the Buchanan Trophy and the national championship; arguably the best team in UBC basketball history. He also played for Canada's 1970 World Student Games team – a team made up of players from coach Peter Mullins' 69/70 Thunderbird squad.
At the same time he was playing Thunderbird basketball Hawkins was making a huge name for himself as a high jumper. On UBC's track and field team for four years between 68/69 and 72/73 he helped UBC men to Canada West track and field titles in 68/69 and 71/72, doing his best to balance his jumping with UBC basketball.
In 1971 he confirmed his status as Canada's top jumper by becoming the first Canadian to jump seven feet. It was also that year Hawkins was crowned Canadian Indoor high jump champion while being named B.C. Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Later in 1971 at a meet at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, Hawkins re-set the Canadian record with a leap of 7 feet 1 ½ inches.
In 1972 he represented Canada at the Olympics where he jumped 2.15 meters good for 9th in the world. While at UBC Hawkins not only competed at the Olympics but he also won a high jump silver at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, competed at the '71 Pan American Games and the '73 World Student Games (his second such games in his second sport) where he won bronze.
In 1973 he also won gold and tied the Canadian high jump record leaping 2.18 metes at the Pan-Pacific Games. Meanwhile under the continuing tutelage of UBC coach Lionel Pugh, Hawkins was an integral part of some of UBC's best-ever track teams – two times Canada West men's champions during his time. This in addition to John's two years of Varsity basketball, one year of J.V. basketball and one year of J.V. volleyball.
Since graduating from UBC in Physical Education in '72, and with an MPE in '78, Hawkins has continued to evolve and add to his impressive list of athletic accomplishments. First, he had a rewarding Senior men's volleyball career which included being a member of a B.C. champion team. In basketball, he continued to play after UBC in the Senior men's league, many times an All-Star, from 1972 until 2009. This included playing on five B.C. champions and a tour of Japan with the Meralomas in 1984.
If that weren't enough, this finely tuned athlete has since 1984 participated in B.C., Canadian, U.S. and World Masters track and field competitions and traversing the different age groups has won numerous gold medals while setting World, Canadian, and B.C. records in Masters decathlon, heptathlon, throws pentathlon, high jump, pole vault, shot put and discus. As of 2009 he holds four world titles in high jump, pole vault and decathlon.
In 2004 and 2006 he was named B.C. Athletics Masters Athlete of the Year and went on in 2006 to be named Sport B.C. Masters Athlete of the Year.
Now living in West Vancouver, Hawkins continues to compete and excel at the Masters level in track and field while still retaining his ties with UBC, appearing at track reunions and events involving that special 69/70 Thunderbird basketball team.
Researched and written by Fred Hume, UBC Athletics Historian