Dennis George Ford, Passes Away
Dennis George Ford, South African Olympic and Empire Games swimmer,
was born on 3rd February, 1931 in East London, Cape Province, South Africa,
and passed away in Johannesburg on 1st January 2009 after a two-month battle
Dennis Ford was Captain of the Transvaal Team
that won the Ellis Brown South African Championship Team Trophy
every year from 1953 to 1960.
Ford, who competed in both South African National Swimming and Water
Polo Championships for many years, eventually became known as Dennis"Old Man River" Ford. His swimmer-coach partnership with his one and only
Coach, Cecil Colwin, started in 1950 and lasted a record eleven years.
Dennis Ford was a member of the Souh African swimming Team
The 1952 Olympic Games, Helsinki,
The 1954 Emplre Games, Vancouver,and
The 1956 Olympic Games. Melbourne
Ford was a Member of the South African Mens' 4 x 200 metres
freestyle relay team that finished in the final at both the 1952
Helsinki Olympics and the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Ford was South African Champion in
200 metres freestyle (1953),
400 metres freestyle-(1953) and the
1500 metres freestyle:(1953)
Ford's coach, Cecil Colwin, who had seven of the eight swimmers selected for the 1956 South African Olympic team, was nominated by the Transvaal Province as Coach for the Melbourne Games but his nomination was refused by the South African Olympic Council on the grounds that Colwin was a
professional coach and therefore ineligible.
Ford started his intemational swimming career in 1950 at the late age of 20 under the coaching of Cecil Colwin, who was then only in his second year as a professional coach. Colwin saw promise in the 6 ft 3 ins youngster who had an easy 'run' to his crawl stroke, and encouraged him to train for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, in which Ford was to compete two years later.
Ford's proudest swimming moment was winning a bronze medal at the 1954 Empire Games in Canada. Two years later, Ford swam in the Melbourne Olympics. Seven out of the eight swimmers in the Melbourne Olympic team were coached by Cecil Colwin, his four female swimmers coming third to the Australian and American teams in the 4 X 100 metres freestyle relay. One of the swimmers in that relay was Moira "Little Mo" Abemethy whom Ford was destined to marry in later years.
Dennis Ford also captained the Transvaal swimming team and held every provincial freestyle record during the 1950s. "He also played provincial water polo", said Moira, his wife of fourteen years. The two fell in love and married in 1994 after both their first marriages ended.
Ford also played hockey, baseball, rugby, golf and bowls during various periods in his life, and continued swimming right up until he fell ill. His five children from his first marriage, two of them twins, have inherited Ford's affinity for water and are all keen swimmers and waterpolo players.
Ford loved wildlife and spent as much time as possible in the wilds, working for the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Together with Clive Walker, Ford was one of the first people to collar elephants in the Kruger National Park.
Ford's lifelong friend Pat Cotter, whom he met in Grade One, described Ford as a strong, serious man with an underlying whimsical sense of humour. "Dennis was a man of integrity, and a popular all-round sportsman who was always willing to assist others," said Cotter.
Tributes to Dennis Ford:-
From Billy Steuart, 1956 South African Freestyle Champion from 100 to 1500 :-
"I remember way back in 1951, when Cecil Colwin was training Dennis for the 1952 Olympics, Dennis did a workout at the King Edward School pool, in Johannesbug As a keen young swimmer then attending King Edwards School, I watched Dennis go through a grueling session with Coach Colwin, and I came to realize how hard one had to work to be a good swimmer. I owe a great deal to Dennis who inspired me to be the same. Dennis was a great example for younger swimmers, because of his hard work, ethic and mature attitude. " (Note: Steuart joined Colwin's squad and became a direct successor to Dennis Ford when he won every South African freestyle title from the 100 to the 1500 in Durban at the South African 1956 Olympic Trials. Steuart later went on to swim for Michigan State University, where he won three NCAA freestyle titles. )