Senior swimmers defy old age

Senior swimmers defy old age
Tiger Holmes, Bill Adams, John Corse (wearing Holmes’ jacket) and Ed Graves

Campaign for aquatic center

Four Jacksonville men are convinced they’ve found the fountain of youth, but there’s no fountain and it’s no secret.

Their life-giving water is the indoor pool at Naval Air Station Jacksonville where Roger “Tiger” Holmes, 93, and Ed Graves, 91, both of Ortega, John Corse, 91, of Avondale and Bill Adams, 88, of Mandarin swim at least three times weekly, 1200 meters or 24 lengths of a standard Olympic-size pool (50 meters x 25 yards).

The quartet is on a mission to tell as many people as possible that regular exercise, particularly swimming, can be the key to quality of life and longevity. Most importantly, Holmes hopes the Mayor, City Council and any other Jacksonville leaders and decision-makers will read this article and take action.

“Jacksonville needs a public indoor aquatic center. We’re able to swim at NAS Jax because we are former military, but since the University of North Florida closed its indoor aquatic center, other than the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd Pool in Riverside or a few YMCAs there are no indoor heated pools for year-round swimming available to the public. It’s unbelievable that a major Florida city like Jacksonville, with all of our sports facilities, has no public aquatic center,” Holmes said.

The four senior swimmers are living proof of the benefits of staying physically active, regardless of how many candles are on the birthday cake. Each one manages a comprehensive list of physical ailments and has overcome injuries and illnesses to jump right back into the pool. They feel youthful, energetic, continue favorite hobbies and even jobs (Corse still works as an attorney).

A few years ago the men pooled their funds and financed production of a professional documentary film, The Time is Now – Why Jacksonville Needs an Aquatic Center to promote their message. White Hawk Pictures produced the film and Holmes has copies he would like to get into the hands of anyone who could make a Jacksonville or North Florida Aquatic Center a reality.

One is not likely to find more qualified spokespersons. Holmes and Corse said they are all lifelong swimmers, competed on their collegiate teams during the 1940s and began swimming together eight years ago. They are a rarity not only because of their ages and unique athletic abilities, but because they are native sons who live here and train together.

“There are many senior swimmers who are extremely competitive at all levels, but their teams are formed of individuals from different states or countries who come together for competitions. We’re extremely unusual in that respect,” Holmes said. The men have won and hold records in their age groups ( 85-90 and 90-95) at U. S. Masters Swimming meets nationally and internationally, and FINA International Swimming Federation sanctioned events (recognized by the Olympic Committee).

They try to travel to one or two sanctioned swim competitions annually and are looking forward to the 2015 FINA World Aquatic Championships to be held for the first time in Russia, July 24-August 9. They won’t know until closer to the date if any or all will be able to attend, although their goal is to continue setting individual age group and relay records, according to Holmes and Corse. However, the trip will depend on everyone’s health.
The old friends are well aware of each other’s injuries and ailments and realize that time is not on their side.

Holmes has had a heart bypass, knee and hip replacements and a shoulder cuff injury. He mentions in passing that he just received a new pacemaker which he must monitor, but that at the moment, everything else is working just fine. In 2011 Corse suffered a serious spinal compression fracture and spent months in a body brace.

Despite their physical challenges, the senior swimmers make it very clear they have no intention of being held hostage by old age and that the bonds they have forged facing it together might just be their greatest accomplishment.

Those in agreement regarding the need for a local public aquatic center or interested in their documentary film on that topic may email the quartet at [email protected]

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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