6 Jun 2019

Sport: Fiji swimming icon Dennis Miller remembered

12:20 pm on 6 June 2019

The Pacific Islands sporting community is mourning the death of former Fiji swimming champion Dennis Miller, who went on to dedicate more than 30 years as a leading sports administrator, including as Vice President of swimming's global governing body FINA.

The 61-year-old Miller passed away in Australia last week after battling cancer and is survived by his wife and children.

FINA Vice President Dennis Miller died last week.

FINA Vice President Dennis Miller died last week. Photo: Twittter

He was a former Fiji national swimming champion in the 100m butterfly and served in a variety of administrative roles over the past three decades, including as President of the Oceania Swimming Association since 2008, Executive Director of the Fiji Olympic Committee, Chef de Mission of the 1996 Fijian Olympic team and as a member of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board.

A celebration mass was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Suva, with representatives from the Olympic Committees of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa all in attendance.

"He is quite well known by, not only the sporting field but also Rotary and [for] community work, so there will be lots of friends from different corners of the country coming," said Robin Mitchell, a friend and colleague who first met Dennis Miller when they were both vice presidents of the Fiji Olympic Committee in the 1980s.

As President of the Oceania National Olympic Committees Mitchell also worked alongside Miller in his role as Executive Director, to which he was first appointed in 1997.

He remembered his friend as someone who held a lifelong passion for the water and who played an active part in sporting governance and the community.

"He sort of got to the top of his field in swimming and on the swimming side I guess his biggest contribution is getting more of the islands involved in swimming by being the first islander President of Oceania Swimming," Mitchell reflected.

"Within the international swimming team he was probably responsible for getting distance swimming into the Olympic programme. He was the Chairman of the Distance Swimming Commission in FINA and then it came on board in Beijing, I think, the distance swimming (at the 2008 Summer Games)."

"He's been focused primarily on getting islanders qualified as technical officials, which is the pathway that also got him into the international scene. I think his legacy is one to encourage islanders that they can get there with work but more importantly to get involved in both the technical and the coaching side of his sport and we're starting to get swimmers who are now qualifying on merit for the Olympic Games."

A moment of silence was held on Friday during the Opening Ceremonies of the FINA Champions Series in Indianapolis, USA, in memory of Dennis Miller and his contribution to swimming.

"This is a difficult day for the FINA family," said the Executive Director for FINA, Cornel Marculescu.

"Dennis was with us for many years as Vice President of FINA, President of the Oceania Swimming Association, and on the Oceania Association of National Olympic Committees as Secretary General.

"Aquatics was the passion of this life. We feel for his family and friends on this terrible day...It is a big loss."

Robin Mitchell said Miller remained active until very recently and only stopped travelling about six weeks ago.

"It's about four years since he was first diagnosed. Throughout the time he was on the chemotherapy if he couldn't go out stand-up paddling he'd go on the Fiji traditional canoe that would go from island to island doing conservation work, so he continued to paddle and be involved with swimming right up until a couple of months ago."

Dennis Miller was a long-serving and highly respected Fijian sports administrator.

Dennis Miller was a long-serving and highly respected Fijian sports administrator. Photo: Fiji Olympic Committee