Passages: Two-Time Olympic Medalist John Ferris Dies at 71

John Ferris

Passages: Two-Time Olympic Medalist John Ferris Dies at 71

A two-time medalist at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Ferris died over the weekend at the age of 71 following a battle with lung cancer. A member of a highly successful swimming family, along with sisters Carolyn and Joan, Ferris trained at the Arden Hills Swim Club in Northern California under coach Sherm Chavoor and later attended Stanford University, where he became an NCAA champion.

At the 1968 Olympics, Ferris earned his way onto a pair of podiums behind bronze-medal performances in the 200 individual medley and 200 butterfly. In the 200 medley, Ferris completed a sweep of the medals by the United States, as Charles Hickcox and Greg Buckingham claimed the gold and silver medals, respectively. In the 200 fly, Ferris secured the bronze medal behind American champion Carl Robie and silver medalist Martyn Woodroffe of Great Britain.

An NCAA champion in the 200-yard butterfly while at Stanford, Ferris briefly held the world record in the 200-meter butterfly in 1967. En route to winning the gold medal at the World University Games in Tokyo, Ferris produced a time of 2:06.0 to better the existing world record of 2:06.4, held by Mark Spitz. A little more than a month later, Spitz regained the standard when he posted a time of 2:05.7.

Ferris enjoyed addition success at the 1970 World University Games, where he repeated his title in the 200 butterfly and also won gold in the 100 fly. Ferris added a third gold medal as a member of the United States’ 400 medley relay and he picked up a silver medal in the 400 individual medley, evidence of his versatility.

Swimming World is working on a further tribute to the life of Ferris.


  1. Mike Mcgowan

    I swam age group he was a age up from me. He had some exciting races against Mark Spitz during his age group days. During finals all the swimmers would run to the pool to see these races.

  2. avatar
    Lynn VidaliGautschi

    I went to Mexico with Johnny. I was fromSan Francisco. He was a great and crazy guy. He was a the toughest swimmer I new. He wasn’t very big but what guts! He will be missed!

  3. avatar

    Rest in eternal peace, Johnny?