1968 US Olympian John Ferris has lost his battle with lung cancer, dying last weekend at the age of 71. As an age group swimmer, Ferris represented the Arden Hills Swim Club in Sacramento California, and went on to swim collegiately for Stanford University, along with the US national team.
Ferris broke the world record in the 200 butterfly at the 1967 at the World University Games in Tokyo, Japan. There, he topped the podium with a 2:06.00 beating out Carl Robbie’s silver medal 2:06.90 and Shinji Yamanouchi’s bronze medal 2:11.5. He also won bronze in the 400 IM with a 4:57.70, behind US swimmer Peter Williams with a 4:46.70 and Japan’s Toru Udo with a 5:00.60. These medals helped Ferris contribute to the American’s at the 1967 Games, wherein every men’s gold medal was won by an American.
The next year, Ferris made his sole Olympic appearance at the 1968 Mexico City Games. At that event, Ferris took part in the first-ever 200 IM at an Olympic Games. Finishing first in his preliminary heat, Ferris swam a 2:14.60 to qualify for the final. There, he finished 3rd, securing a bronze medal.
Joining him on the podium in 1968 were fellow Americans, Charlie Hickcox, with a 2:12.00 Olympic record, and Greg Buckingham with a 2:13.00. Ferris came in third with a 2:13.30.
He also picked up bronze in the 200 butterfly with a 2:09.30, behind American Carl Robbie (2:08.70) and Great Britain’s Martyn Woodroffe (2:09.00).
A year after the Olympics, Ferris won the 200 butterfly medal at the 1969 NCAA Championships, helping the Stanford Cardinal to a third-place finish behind Indiana and USC.
Ferris was an early contributor to the Stanford men’s longstanding tradition of success in the IM, following Dick Roth’s 400 IM gold at Tokyo 1964, and preceding Pablo Morales’ 200 IM silver at LA 1984 and Tom Wilkens’ 200 IM bronze in Sydney 2000.