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Timothy Garton Enjoys Hard Work and Fun of Swimming

1997 ISHOF honor Masters swimmer

Author Unknown | July 19, 2000

Tim Garton (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Masters Swimmer in 1997. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

For the Record: Masters swimming, 21 world records (freestyle, butterfly, individual medley), 52 USMS records (freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, individual medley); 1984 Masters World Championships: gold (50-, 100-, 200-meter freestyle, 50-, 100-meter butterfly, 200-, 400 meter IM, 50-meter breaststroke); 1985 Masters World Championships: gold (50-, 100-, 200-, 400-meter freestyle, 200-, 400-meter IM); 1986 Masters World Championships: gold (100-, 200-, 400-meter freestyle, 200-, 400-meter IM, 100-meter butterfly); 1988 Masters World Championships: gold (100-, 200-, 400-meter freestyle, 200-, 400-meter IM, 100-meter butterfly); 1990 Masters World Championships: gold (100m, 200m, 400m IM, 100-meter butterfly); 1992 Masters World Championships: gold (100m freestyle), silver (400-meter freestyle, 200-meter IM), bronze (400-meter IM); 1994 Masters World Championships: gold (100-, 200-meter freestyle, 200-, 400-meter IM), silver (400-meter freestyle); 40-44 age group: 5 world records; 45-49 age group: 9 world records, 16 national records; 50-54 age group: 7 world records, 12 national records; 30-34 age group: 6 national records; 35-39 age group: 5 national records; 85 US Masters National Championships: 63 short course (100-yard butterfly, 200-yard breaststroke, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500-yard freestyle, 100-, 200-, 400-yard IM) 26 long course (100-meter butterfly, 50-, 100-, 200-meter freestyle, 200-, 400- IM.)

Few male swimmers have been as dominant as Tim Garton in Masters swimming from both the beginning of the program and the beginning of the first age group, 25-29. Over Tim's 25 years of competing in Masters swimming, he has accumulated over 39 world age group records and 144 national records, all in the toughest age group categories.

After all, swimming was a big part of his family. He learned to swim at the age of two and one-half in Elkhart, Wisconsin. But, after that age, his older and bigger brother began holding him underwater. Tim didn't receive any sympathy from his mother, and she informed him he would either have to get tougher or learn to swim better. So, she woke him every morning at 7:00 a.m. to train until he got as strong as his brother. Although he succeeded in a few months, the workout routine lasted a lifetime.

He swam in the AAU, Wisconsin age group program in high school, but his first big opportunity to swim in a serious program came when he attended Yale University from 1960 to 1964. Yale workouts were approximately 2,000 yards in distance and represented a 500% increase over his minimal high school program. He faced daily workouts with 1964 Olympians Steve Clark and others, resulting in faster times in all events. He was twice elected to the NCAA All American team, based on relay performances. He failed to make the 1964 US Olympic team after graduation, but the pent up frustrations of not having achieved his swimming goals may have given Tim the motivation to prove himself in the Masters swimming program once it started in the early 1970s.

Garton moved to Vail, Colorado in 1967, and has lived there ever since. In 1972, he read about the results of the Masters National Championships, and he and his close friend, Chuck Ogilby of Indiana University, decided to train for the 1973 championships. He was the surprise newcomer, winning the 200-meter IM and 200- and 100-meter freestyles, setting a national record in the 100-meter, the first of 144 national records through 1996. The older he got, the faster his times were improving. By his late 30s and early 40s, his times compared favorably with some of his college efforts.

In 1984, Tim hired Mark Schubert's assistant coach at Mission Viejo, Al Dorsett, to work closely with him to help develop a Masters program and build a better swimming facility in Vail. All three endeavors succeeded.

Tim competed in the first International and World Masters Championships and throughout the past seven championships has won 37 gold, three silver and one bronze. Twenty gold medals were earned in the 40-44 age group, and he won no less than six titles at each championship in nine events: 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-meter freestyle, 50-, 100-meter butterfly, 50-meter breaststroke, and 200-, 400-meter IM. His versatility is overwhelming, and he has set 39 world records in the freestyle, butterfly and individual medley, to the present.

He has attended more than 24 U.S. National Championship Masters meets winning 94 first places, 30 of those 94 as national records. Tim holds 144 total national records.

In 1991, Tim was diagnosed with lymphoma, considered an incurable cancerous disease of the lymph system. During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he continued to train at reduced levels. When his cancer was declared in remission, in August 1991, some of the doctors credited his devotion to swimming as being largely responsible. In 1992, he started competing again and, in the World Championships in Indianapolis, he won his 100th national and international victory by winning the 100-meter freestyle. Tim has been a member of the U.S. Masters Swimming All American team every year from 1979 to 1996. He was the first man in the 50-54 age group to lower the USMS national record for the 100-yard IM to under one minute, a time many of the 25-29 swimmers wish they could do.

by Suzanne Rague, Swim magazine, Jan-Feb 1997:

Timothy Garton's lifetime of swimming reflects two almost contradictory themes: elite swimmers have great natural talent and often achieve immediate success; and, great success almost always means overcoming obstacles.

At the age of 12, Garton signaled his talent when he broke a state record in his first swim meet. He swam for Yale in the early 60s and twice earned All-American status. However, he experienced a major disappointment in 1964 when he failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 100-, and 200-meters freestyle. This setback provided motivation for the competitive Garton to continue his swimming well past his college years.

In 1972, Garton saw the winning Masters Short Course Nationals times and thought, "I can do that." He swam at Nationals the next year, winning the 100 and 200 free and 200 IM, events he would continue to dominate for the next 20 years. As a further testament to his dominance, Garton has won more than 100 national and international titles and has set over 180 national and world records in Masters.

In 1991, Garton was diagnosed with lymphoma, an incurable disease that can go into remission. He underwent radiation and chemotherapy and was told by physicians that he would never again compete at an elite level.

Continuing to train, he was declared in remission later that year. Garton returned to competition in the 50-54 age group and is again winning championships and setting national and world records.

One of the benefits of Masters swimming, according to Garton, is that it allows him to continue lifelong friendships with swimming buddies, such as Olympian and former Yale teammate, Steve Clark. Clark still competes head-on with Garton and respects his rival sufficiently to have championed his nomination to the Hall of Fame.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has announced that Timothy Garton, 54, Vail Swimming, and Gail Roper , 67, Menlo Park Masters, will be inducted into the ISHOF as Masters swimmers at a ceremony in Nagoya,

 

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