Long Overdue Recognition For George Park

Long Overdue Recognition For George Park

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

There were – and are – very few athletes like him.

George Park will receive his long overdue accolades from his peers and fans in San Pedro, California at the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on November 6th.

In the oompany of Honour Swimmers of the Class of 2014 Antonio Argüelles Díaz-González (Mexico), Forrest Nelson (U.S.A.), Martin Strel (Slovenia), Honour Administrator Marty Veen (Netherlands), Honour Organisations Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club (United Kingdom) and Varne Ridge Holiday Park (United Kingdom), and Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award recipient Dennis Miller (Fiji), the Canadian Park will be honored as a member of the Class of 1978.

Park, an all-around aquatic virtuoso, was quite talented no matter what the venue.

The Canadian record-holder in sprint freestyle and butterfly and competitor in the 1954 and 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City, later qualified for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and had a lengthy professional marathon swimming career until 1968.

George joins his siblings in the Hall of Fame. Brother Tom Park and sister Margaret Park are also inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, in the Classes of 1968 and 2000 respectively.

Tom, Margaret, and George all participated in the 10-mile Hamilton Marathon Race, professional marathon swim on the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation circuit in the 1960s. This was the first time that 3 siblings participated in a single professional marathon race where Margaret ending up being the first female finisher.

Photo above by Jean Guy Lacoursiere shows George competing in a professional marathon swim off the coast of Rhode Island as a Great White Shark passes by.

He recalls the situation. “It was a 14.1-mile race from Narragansett, Rhode Island to Block Island in 1968. The world’s greatest marathon! This is the way they advertised this 14.1-mile race with all the top marathon swimmers in the world there.

The race started from the beach. As we came out of the harbour through a gap in the breakwall, [American] Billy Barton was on my left and [Canadian] Rejean LaCoursiere on the right, I noticed some thing dark in the water just below us. I asked Billy, “Is that a shark?” Billy said, “It’s a shark”.

We picked up our pace and the three of us moved to the front of the pack very quickly. Billy moved away from me to the left and Rejean (Johnny) moved to the right and I swam straight ahead. The shark followed me.

After about twenty minutes, the boat that was with me put up a sign it said “Don’t Panic there is a shark 200 yards behind you. Then they wrote, “Don’t stop or change your pace”. Then they said, “The coast guard is tracking it and if it attacks…
“.

…for the harrowing ending, visit Park’s website here.

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