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Minna Hamner's Life in Masters

Learned to swim in a fjord

Minna Hamner | June 2, 2008

My name is Minna L. Hamner. I was born in 1923, in Roskilde, Denmark where I grew up. We walked down to the fjord every day in summertime for PE—we all learned to swim in the fjord. I joined the swim club as a 10 year old and enjoyed it tremendously. We did not have swimming pools at that time so we only swam the three summer months. The biggest event at that time was a 5-mile race across the fjord, which I won for the ladies. That was a big event in town and there was a long newspaper article the next day.

All of those happy days came to an abrupt end when the Germans marched in and started occupying Denmark, and we did not even think about swimming. The two swimming pools in Copenhagen (20 miles away) were taken over by the Germans and the fjord was closed for swimming.

After the war was over I got a job working for the Americans in Germany. I worked there for four years and was transferred to Turkey where I met my husband, Bob, and where we were married. He was in the US Navy and while he was stationed in California I had the opportunity to join a Navy CB Aquatic Instructor course which I passed.

When we moved back to Virginia, I went to the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club (NVAC) and got a job with Stan Tinkham. I worked for him for 25 years. He was the coach for the Olympic women's team in 1956, and I learned a lot from him. He was a member of the Coach's Association which sponsored the first Masters competition in 1970 and was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1989. Frank and Nancy Clark were swimming at the club, and we all went to the national Masters competition in Chicago in 1973.

My husband was not interested in swimming, but he never objected to me going—he was into baseball. I have four children (three boys and a girl). They are all good swimmers, but the boys were also more into baseball. My daughter Linda was more into diving and was the Virginia State diving champion three years in high school. All my children and grandchildren are good athletes. My son played for the N.Y. Mets for a couple of years; my daughter Linda dove for the University of Texas; Linda's daughter, Kristen Anne Cunningham, is on volleyball scholarship for Virginia Tech; another granddaughter is on a basketball scholarship for James Madison College. So you see, we have no couch potatoes in the family.

I was very active on the DC Masters team for many years and went to nationals and won many championship events many years in a row...until I got hip trouble. After hip replacement I was not the same swimmer—my kick was not strong any more. I continued as a swimming instructor and worked out in the morning as usual—oh, how I enjoyed John Flanagan's morning workouts, especially at Haines Point. That was a nice start for the day.

Things have changed now. My husband has passed away and I have moved in with Linda and her husband Rob. I still coach the same summer swim team that I have coached the past 20 years, but my health is not so good anymore as I have broken my hip again and then my arm, so the swimming is out for now. Instead I got a stationary bike where I exercise twice a day until I can get into the water again.

I know most of all of the old Masters, Dave McAfee (dec.), Sandy Gideonse (killed in auto accident); Elsa Matilla (dec.); Helen Hummer (moved to California). I talk to Anne Walker almost every day. 


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