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Celebrating Walt Pfeiffer

Rewarded with a poster at his local McDonalds!

Phillip Whitten | July 19, 2000

Six was the magic number for 81-year-old Walt Pfeiffer in 1994. The Mission Viejo, Calif., resident tacked up six national records for short course yards, six world marks for long course meters, and another half dozen short course meters global standards. Most of his records fall into the "monster" category: 200 breast, 100 and 200 fly, and 200 and 400 IM. Not bad for a guy who suffered a stroke at age 76, which kept him out of the water for all of a week.

Pfeiffer did not merely break the old marks. He devastated them, hacking 10, 20, even 50 seconds off the former records. "There's a lot of fat in the fly, breast and IM records," he explains. "What I do is get the fat out." But the retired piping engineer with Fluor-Daniel Corp. is modest about his achievements, calling himself "an accident of swimming history."

"When I was a young feller in Tulsa, Okla., I couldn't beat all those long-legged guys in the breaststroke. Some friends and I began experimenting with the over-arm recovery. So I have been swimming a frog-kick butterfly since 1934. Anyone older than I had to learn butterfly later in life. Most of those guys are learning the dolphin kick, and they can't maintain it more than 50 meters.”

Now that Walt has "his" records back, he plans to lay low for four years, only to "crawl out of the woodwork" when he turns 85. "What I like most," he explains, "is working out with my wife Annetta and some of the other fast oldies." He swims about 2,000 yards, three or four times a week.

His proudest moment: Last year, a poster of Pfeiffer was mounted on the wall of the local McDonald's. To make room, the manager took down "Magic" Johnson's poster.

published in SWIM magazine, March-April 1995

Walter R. Pfeiffer lives in Mission Viejo, Calif., and swims for Coast Masters.

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