George Park, a Canadian pool and professional marathon swimmer and water polo player for the Hamilton Aquatic Club, was retroactively voted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer, Class of 1978.
The 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 by Jean Guy Lacoursiere shows George competing in a professional marathon swimmer 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.
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association