In memory of

Gordon Van Tol - 1960-2010

January 11th, 2010

Nepean Master Swim Club Member 2005-2009

1984 Canadian Olympic Water Polo Team Member

1980-1984 Canadian National Water Polo Team Member

1986-1988 Canadian National Water Polo Team Captain

The Nepean Masters Swim Club mourns the loss of Gordon Van Tol. Gord is survived by his wife Michelle, also a NMSC swimmer, and his daughters Cassie and Allyshia.

Gordon showed up at the morning swims in 2004 and immediately joined into the fast lanes. He was well liked by all his lane mates as he had a great and kind personality.

"Those who knew Gord will remember him for his extremely positive spirit and gentle manner," said Anthony Woods, President of the Nepean Masters Swim Club.

He was a kind and humble person. It took a few years of swimming with the team before anyone knew that he was an Olympian having played for Canada's National Waterpolo team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Here is a 1982 picture of him with the National Team.

The National team of Canada in 1982. Top, L-R: Ian Thomas, Alex Juhasz, Jim Shockey. Middle, L-R: Robert Stalker (doctor), Istvan Balyi (manager), John Anderson, Simon Deschamp, Bill Meyer, Dominique Dion, Rene Bol, Gabor Csepregi (coach). Squatting, L-R: Sylvain Huet, Gordon Van Tol, David McClintock, Rick Zayonc, Rod McDonald, Stroud McDonald.
Source: courtesy of Mr. Gabor Csepregi

While swimming with NMSC Gord also set a Canadian National Masters Swim Record for the 4x200-meter long-course freestyle relay record in the men's 160-199 (combined age) division in 2005.

Please write out your thoughts and memories of Gord below. We will be forwarding all the comments to his family.

For those of you who knew Gord but are not part of the NMSC family please feel free to add your message to the collection below. We know Gord was an active member of more than one club, a positive contributor to our community and had many friends.

With warm thoughts

The executive committee, NMSC

Memorial Entries

Masters Swimming Canada

On behalf of the Masters Swimming Canada family, our sincere condolences.
Nigel Kemp, President, 07/02/2010

Loss of an old roommate

The early to mid 80's in Ottawa saw many of us training and developing friendships-sharing a house on Pleasant Park Drive - Dinger was a fine person whith a great kindness and sense of humor . I was so saddened to read of his loss - particularly for Michelle and his children-- Godspeed my friend
Pam Boles , 06/02/2010

Eulogy given by Gabor Csepregi, former National Water Polo Team Coach

In the late 70s and early 80s, I was fortunate to be associated, as the coach of the Canadian National Water Polo Team, with a group of very talented players - exceptional individuals inside and outside the swimming pool. They were, I think, much influenced and shaped by those years of intense training and competing. A good number of these players are here today, mourning the loss of a great team-mate and a true friend. Gordie moved to Ottawa in 1980 to train with our National Team. He played at the 1984 Olympic Games and, following this major event, retired from the team He naturally exhibited excellent athletic abilities: he was a fast swimmer, had good legwork technique, his passes were accurate, his shots were powerful and precise. He also developed a high level of game intelligence. More importantly, in difficult situations, in the most heated moments of the game, he remained calm, poised, and focused. When he scored - and this happened quite often – everybody on the team shouted: Dinger. (The ball often went into the net from the post and made the soun, Ding; hence the name Ding-er). Likewise, when his best friend, Rick Zayonc, also from British Columbia, made a great save, Gordie and others yelled: Zee. The nick-names Dinger and Zee gradually became synonyms of well-done, excellent, superb. Both Gordie and Rick, these water polo twin brothers, both donning a mischievous moustache, were not only hard working athletes, and good students, but also true team-players, who put the success of the team above their own interests or desires. More importantly, again, they were able to transfer this quality to their professional life. Gordie possessed a gift that I much admired: the gift of listening. Whereas another team member, good friend of Gordie, the brilliant René Bol, continuously spoke, and we remember how loud sometimes he was, Gordie, with his particular sensitivity and tact, was able to listen and, consequently, he was able to look at people, events, and issues with the eyes of others, from another point of view and not only from his own. I recall a sentence that I read, during my coaching years, in a book written by a German philosopher, Karl Jaspers. It sums up, I think, quite accurately Gordie’s whole personality: What a radiance streams from people who are themselves. Gordie always maintained the right balance between his inner feelings and values, and the expectations and calls coming from without. He never wanted to appear different or better than what he actually was, he never exchanged his true self for a seemingly attractive but empty social role. When I ran into him at the Nepean Swimming Pool, we spoke about his family, his parents, Michelle, the children. He told me how grateful he was for the remarkable upbringing he received from his parents and how much he was inspired by their example. “I now wake up early and drive my kids to practice just the same way as my father did it when I was a kid.” He was, as you all know, a caring father and husband, an attentive friend, and now, his example, above all his kindness and his unselfish sense of service should equally inspire us. Gordie is a role model to follow for all of us, and also for the younger generation of Canadian athletes. He was a man of absolute integrity and boundless devotion – devotion, above all, to his family, to his work tasks at hand, to sport. He was an outstanding athlete and also a gentle and genuinely noble man.
Gabor Csepregi, 31/01/2010

To Michelle, Cassie and Allyshia

Ladies, your husband and father was a true gentleman, and a gentle man -- kind, considerate and well liked by those around him, as much as he was loved by the three of you. He ably personified an ideal -- devoted father, husband and friend, ever willing to dive into living and the lives of those around him, to the enrichment of all. What a role model he has been, and will continue to be -- for he lives on in the memories of all those whose lives he has touched. He will be missed. Many are the people whose thoughts and good wishes accompany you three in this trying time. Be well.
Kevin Cockell, NMSC \"A\" group and NKB, 21/01/2010

To Michelle and both daughters

I know Gord from beeing manager for the National Water Polo team for a period of 4 years and all I can remember is that beautifull smile he had on all the time . Hard practice low morale for the team in hard losses Gord could always give you this word of encouragment. I am so sad for the 3 of you I know he will stay in your memory for years to come. If ever you stop by St-Laurent Complex for a swim or training of some kind come and visit me in my office and see a picture of Gord and the team during a training camp in Florida . Take care my thoughts are with you. Dan
Daniel Berube, 19/01/2010


When I think of Gord, I think of family and then I am struck with profound sadness for the loss of such a wonderful husband for Michelle and loving and devoted father for Cassie and Allyshia. I swam with both Gord and Michelle because for years I was crazy (or stupid) enough to get up at the crack of dawn every morning to get to the pool. Gord swam Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Michelle swam Tuesday and Thursday. They did this so that they could take turns getting their girls to their various practices or simply ensure that one of them was home in the morning as they got ready for school. In post-swim discussions with Michelle (Gord did not shower in the same locker room as I...), Michelle would often share family stories and talk about how they, as a couple, worked as a team raising their children, especially ones involved in competitive sports... a definite juggling act at times! Last spring when our pool had to shutdown early for emergency repairs, I organized a small group of us to meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the Sportsplex to swim. There we would meet up with the Van Tol family (or at least three of them because Allyshia was still in school). Gord, Michelle, and Cassie would go to the pool to do a swim workout together. Gord was so proud to introduce us to Cassie, and I'm certain had Allyshia been there he would have shown the same pride introducing us to her too. (Allyshia, I regret that we did not have the chance to meet until such a tragic and inexplicable time.) This is my last memory of Gord... of him being at the pool with his family doing something so simple and yet mostly uncommon... sharing time working out together. And so when I think of Gord, I think of family and then my heart breaks for the loss of someone so wonderful to those whom he loved so dearly. My condolences to Michelle, Cassie and Allyshia for the sadness of today and the hard days yet to come. Cherish the memories and remember the love and the laughter you shared. I also offer my sincere sympathy to Gord's mom, siblings, and extended family. I wish we had met under different circumstances.
Carla St-Germain, 18/01/2010

To Michelle, Cassie and Allyshia

My heart goes out to you and your family through this tragic and sudden loss. I swam with Gord for about 4 years, and I will always remember seeing him on deck as an "easy going" guy. The best memories for me were listening to Gord talk about his Olympic experiences. Some of Gord's accomplishments are the stories I share with young swimmers I coach today. He was truly was a friendly giant and he will be missed.
Steve Papai, 18/01/2010

High Five

If there's one thing that'll get you up for a morning swim when you're not a morning person, it's the people you swim with. Gord was one of those lanemates that made getting up early a little bit easier and made the work of a hard practice worth it - just to earn his high five. Gord, your presence, gentle manner, and encouragement will be missed. You will not be forgotten by your lanemates. Michelle, Cassie & Allyshia my thoughts are with you.
Nathalie Belair Jones, 17/01/2010

Gord - an inspiration

Gord was a great man. His 'gentle giant' spirit and smile was infectious and certainly helped many of us, pull through the infinite number of laps at the pool before sunrise, on several occasions. His kindness and love for life/family was of olympic proportions to say the least. An inspiration to many, and a friend to even more. He will be missed but never forgotten.
Steve Bloom, 17/01/2010

Prayers and Thoughts

We were both lanemates with Gord and Michelle a couple of years ago and although we only knew them for one year at Masters, Gord was one of the nicest, most supportive people you would every meet. Michelle, we want you and your daughters to know that our prayers and thoughts are with you.
Andrew & Michelle Galbraith, 16/01/2010

A really nice, solid, decent guy

I swam with Gord for several years and was impressed by his warmth and friendliness. He was always easy going and there was never any sense of superiority in spite of his olympic past or the fact that he was a much faster swimmer than I was. Gord volunteered his time to be the meet treasurer of the Ontario Masters Championships which our club hosted last year and he was always ready for a poker night. He was a great friend and we will all miss him very much.
Derek Parker, 16/01/2010

Gord's water polo mate and disciple

To the family of Gordon. Gordon had become somewhat my water-polo mentor as he was eager to transmit his knowledge and skills to a future generation of water players. Indeed, we had organized a meeting just days after his passing for a lecture on techniques and to transmit his water-polo reference books. His enthusiasm and his desire to transmit his skills will be deeply missed from the team. I will unfortunately not be able to make his funeral as I must be out of the province this weekend. However, rest assured that I will pay my respects as soon as I am back in Ottawa. With sadness and sincere regrets, Gordon's water-polo disciple, Bo Romaguer: [email protected]: Tel: 613 232 1346
Bo Romaguer, 16/01/2010

Gord, your memory will live on

I only knew Gord a few months, since he started playing with the Titan's adult league this past fall. However, he made a huge impression on me. Not only an amazing player - if the ball was within 3 feet of him he was miraculously able to pick it out of the air, even with three players on him - but he was a gentleman player. Gord played with skill and tact, not rough. He was always encouraging and offered helpful advice. He slowed down the play (even if he had a perfect shot) to ensure that all players got a chance to get their hands on the ball and improve. He was a person to emulate! I will miss you Gord.
Bruce Forrester, 16/01/2010

A True Gentleman

As a member of the Titans Water Polo organization, I had the honour of knowing Gord for several years as he never severed his ties with the water polo community. He devoted a lot of his time to help develop our young players into stronger athlete. They could not have asked for a better role model. Gord, regardless of how amazingly talented and successful he was, always behaved with tremendous humility, gentleness and kindness. I will always remember the last time I faced Gord as an opposing player in a friendly water polo scrimmage, just a couple of days before he passed away. I was the goalie and everyone, including Gord, knew how bad I am in nets. He was on a break-away against me. With nobody around to help me, I screamed ironically to my team not to worry. Gord moved to the 4-metre line, looked me in the eyes and shot the ball straight at the post with a huge smile on his face. Those who knew Gord, aka “Dinger”, know that this was done intentionally. Gord was indeed a true gentleman. You made a real difference in many people’s lives, Gord. You will be sorely missed.
Pierre Tremblay, 16/01/2010

Gordie - you will be missed

Gord was that quiet and smiling person in our lanes. He was always positive and encouraging. The two words that sticks out for me when I think of Gord are "strong and humble". He had an intensity in him that you could see in his eyes. He smiled and he had a great chuckle. He was also a loving family man. He hosted his lanemates over to play poker at his house and we saw the wonderful renovations he personally created. It had obviously been a labour of love. Gord - I will miss you. Swim a few laps for us and we will see you on the other side.
Barry Doucette, 16/01/2010

Bright Shining Star

I'm still in shock that such a wonderful person has been taken from us so early. When I joined the club, Gord was one of the first people I met. Never having swam before it was pretty tough to keep up - but Gord in his mild and gentle way was so encouraging and helped keep me going. In my time of knowing Gord I don't think I ever saw him in a bad mood. Given that we swim at 6am in the morning, having someone so positive in the pool was a great motivator (and wake up call). Even at the poker nights, winning or losing he'd just keep on smiling and enjoying everyone's company. That positive energy is one in a million. The entire aquatic community has lost a quiet ... yet bright shining star. Gord - I'll miss you terribly and will think of you often.
Anthony, 16/01/2010