Swimming is for everybody. Never was I so sure about this until I competed in the 2018 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis this May.
A record 2,378 individuals entered the meet – men and women from all over the country, from age 18 to age 95 – and their diversity was astounding. Tall, short, thin, chunky – no matter. Olympian, NCAA champion, has-been, never-was – no matter.
They all were there for the pure joy of swimming and good fellowship.
All were permitted to swim three events, regardless. To swim more required meeting time standards in all their five events, down from the usual six because of the record participation. The result was four days of continuous heats in two sections of the natatorium from 7:30 a.m. to beyond 4 p.m.
The range of talent was amazing. Swimmers set many national age-group records throughout the five-year age ranges, but many others were there just to participate and to compete against their own personal bests. The level of encouragement among the swimmers, strong or weak, was off the charts.
In my age-group, 75-79, there were 39 entrants. About half a dozen were “swimmers”; the rest, like me, were “guys who swim.” Both levels of talent were equally encouraging to the others.
It was a thrill just to be there in the same pool to race with same-age swimmers from all over. That does not happen in local, state or regional meets, which are seeded strictly by combined times for both men and women.
My being the only swimmer from Beaufort County caused me to wonder about the overall scale of Masters Swimming in the country. How many more thousands of swimmers do these swimmers represent beyond Nationals? And how many more swim, regularly or irregularly, in addition to those who register as “Masters”?
Even competitively, there is a whole population of swimmers who participate in the lower-key National Senior Games every other year. Groups from Sun City and the Lowcountry (LOCO) Masters qualified the following week in Florence to represent South Carolina for the 2019 event in Albuquerque.
And yet, so many others could benefit from a sport that provides exercise to varying personal degrees. Swimming is unique in supporting bodies and limbs that would otherwise succumb to gravitational harm. After 60 years as a runner, I can appreciate this difference and how it enables me to continue the benefits and joys of aerobic exercise.
Swimming is win-win for everybody. I encourage all ages to start or re-start it for yourself.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. firstname.lastname@example.org