TORONTO (CIS) – Canadian Interuniversity Sport president, Leo MacPherson, announced on Thursday the appointment of Pierre Lafontaine as the new chief executive officer of the national governing body of university sport.

The announcement was made during a media conference held at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Lafontaine is set to officially start in the position - which has been vacant since June 1, 2012 - on March 1.

“We are delighted to welcome Pierre Lafontaine and his proven experience and successful track record to CIS,” MacPherson said. “He is very passionate about university sport and what we aspire to do and he is highly motivated to make a difference as our new CEO.”

Lafontaine has spent the majority of his professional career in the world of swimming, including CEO and national coach of Swimming Canada since 2005. He now looks forward to many new challenges at the head of CIS.

“Our student-athletes are tomorrow’s leaders. We want to create the optimal environment and experience to help them develop to their full potential and achieve their goals and dreams, on and off the playing field,” said Lafontaine. “Our universities also have some of the best coaches and facilities in the country. Our potential is exceptional and we want everyone associated with CIS to feel they are an integral part of Canada’s high-performance sport system.”

“I look forward to working with the CIS board of directors and our membership to enhance the quality of our programs, build our brand and raise the profile of our organization and national championships, while building upon our strong traditions.”

During his tenure at Swimming Canada, Lafontaine led the organization to consistent podium finishes at major international games, including three Olympic and 39 Paralympic medals, as well as several world-record performances.

His ongoing commitments to the development of a sustainable sport system resulted in nearly doubling Swimming Canada’s membership and budget. He built a stronger corporate brand through innovative media strategies, including a six-day live broadcast of the 2012 Swimming Canada Olympic and Paralympic Trials.

Since 2005, Canada has hosted major international swimming events, including the World Aquatic Championships in Montreal, World Open Water Championships in Roberval, Que., and World Junior Championships in Niagara Falls, Ont., as well as initiated the Para PanPacific Championships and CANAM championships.

Prior to joining Swimming Canada, Lafontaine spent four years in Australia with the Australian Institute of Sport, including a three-year stint as AIS head swimming coach from 2003 to 2005. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, AIS swimmers captured six medals, two of them gold.

Before moving Down Under, the Concordia University graduate (1979) had held numerous coaching positions in Canada and the United States dating back to 1976, including head coach of the Phoenix Swim Club in Arizona from 1997 to 2002. Athletes from the PSC reached the podium eight times at the 2000 Olympics, including three gold medals.

Lafontaine is no stranger to CIS and university sport. He was an assistant coach at the University of Calgary from 1988 to 1992. In his position at Swimming Canada, he also pushed to send more competitive Canadian swim teams to the Summer Universiade. After amassing only four medals over three biennial FISU Games from 2001 to 2005, Canadian swimmers returned home from the next three with 20 podium finishes from 2007 to 2011.

A native of Beaconsfield, Que., Lafontaine now resides in Chelsea, Que., with his wife Alisa and their four children.