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The Adventurous Sally Scott

Championships with a smile

Carl House | July 19, 2000

Sally's back, January 1, 1998

Sally Scott called today to say she is cancer free, has resumed swimming, and is looking forward to resuming competition in the 90-94 year old age group.

Sally's doing well, March 9, 1997

Sally called today and asked that we publish her thanks to all the people who sent cards and notes. She was thrilled, and is very grateful. Her recent CAT scan confirms that her cancer is still shrinking. She's not allowed in the water, so she's been walking instead of swimming. She sleeps a lot, as her blood count is low, but she's as cheerful as ever and hopes to be back swimming by summer. She's also looking forward to her birthday party on July 16 when she ages up to the 90-94 year old age group just in time for nationals in Orlando.

Sally Scott, A Lady with Pluck and Grace, November 6, 1996

We've missed Sally Scott at swim meets recently, and a number of people have asked "What's happening with Sally"? For those that don't know her, here are excerpts from a few newspaper stories about her.

Florida People in Sports, Miami Herald, August 28, 1990

Sally Scott, 83, of Miami, the oldest competitor among 2,000 from 37 countries in the World Masters Swim Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, won six gold medals. She took the 50, 100 and 200-meter backstroke and the 200 and 400 individual medley in the 80-84 age division.

Florida People in Sports, Miami Herald, October 18, 1988

Sally Scott, 81, of Miami Beach won three events and took second in three others at the Masters World Swimming Championships in Brisbane, Australia.

Florida People in Sports, Miami Herald, September 8, 1987

Never say 80 year old Sally Scott of Miami Beach is over the hill. She won six events, setting world age group records in three, at the U.S. Masters Swimming National Long Course Championships at Houston.

In the Swim, Age no Barrier, Houston Chronicle, August 28, 1987

Sally Scott, 80, was about as sympathetic as a shark. She's just broken, by more than a second, Ella Peckham's five year old world record of 2:41.24 for women aged 80-84 swimming the 100-meter backstroke. “And I want to break more records," she said, nodding her soggy blond head. Scott had splashed around, she said, but started swimming competitively only at age 70. She now logs 3,000 yards a day, five days a week, in a two-hour workout with a high school team near her home in Miami.

Coach and Olympian Robert Strauss comments

"Sally was a great athlete and an artistic dancer when she came to my Ransom-Everglades team workouts in 1978, but she wasn't a swimmer. But she had more life than anyone I'd ever known. She really stuck with it and became the world's best. When I grow up, I want to be like Sally. I want to put on my sneakers, hike up my backpack, and travel around the world to see my friends at swim meets."

More recently

Sally was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma early this year. She has been taking treatment with chemotherapy since June. This means taking pills for a week, then resting for three weeks without treatment. Her CAT scans are very encouraging, showing shrinkage in her tumor. As this continues, it will be said that she is in remission. She has returned to swimming and expects to compete again soon. She says she's doing all she had been doing before the diagnosis, but she gets tired more quickly. But she's really looking forward to returning to competition.

I first met Sally at the world championships in Montreal in 1994. She had five gold medals dangling around her neck and someone was taking her photo. She has a glorious smile, so I hung around to see if I could lure her back to registering with Florida Gold Coast. I told her what a great LMSC we had. She later held me to my claims, so we became swim meet buddies, travelling to St. Pete together, and generally looking after each other. Then one time, on the day before we were to leave in my car for the St. Pete Regional Championship meet, I got the flu and called her to say we wouldn't be able to go. She said she'd like to go anyway. So 89 year old Sally hired a car to take her to the airport, bought a ticket, hired a limo in Tampa, got Harold Ferris to provide local transportation in St. Pete, and came home with ten more gold medals. That's when I learned about Sally's independence and resourcefulness, what I call "pluck." Her smile and the way she talked to me conveyed "grace" from the very first time I met her.

Sally has always been adventurous. She hiked the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire some years ago, backpacking from hut to hut and scaling the highest peak. She loved to dance all her life, but didn't start competing in ballroom dancing until she was 70 years old. She danced the tango in Madison Square Garden, and her home in Pembroke Pines has a showcase full of dance trophies that matches her showcase full of swimming trophies. She says that being active all her life is why she's doing so well in chemotherapy. And she's always been a vegetarian, eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables.

Swimmers are great people, she says. "I love going to meets and seeing so many people I know. Lourdes Castroverde has become one of my closest friends through swimming. And June Krauser has always been an inspiration. I admire June because she's so disciplined. I was really thrilled when June encouraged me in Brisbane in the backstroke, and I nearly won it. You know, I've been swimming for eighteen years and I didn't even learn to swim until I was older than June is today. She's always been a champion. I win because I finish."

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