Rick Colella, Rowdy Gaines, Caroline Krattli, Willard Lamb, and Jim Miller will be inducted into the Masters International Swimming Hall of Fame in September
The Masters International Swimming Hall of Fame (MISHOF), which was formerly known as IMSHOF, announced its 2019 class last month. Eight aquatic athletes and contributors from five countries were named, including five U.S. Masters Swimming members. These are the stories of the USMS members who’ll be inducted Sept. 13 in conjunction with the 2019 United States Aquatic Sports Convention.
Rick Colella, Honor Swimmer
In 1972 and 1976, Rick Colella was one of the top 200-meter breaststrokers in the world. The Seattle-born phenom started competitive swimming at age 8 and rose through the ranks along with his older sister, Lynn Colella. Both were star swimmers at the University of Washington and Olympic prospects. By the time Colella was in his early 20s, he was one of the best swimmers in the world. He represented the United States at the Munich and Montreal Games, earning a bronze medal in his signature 200-meter breast event in 1976—a fine finish after being just edged off the podium by three-tenths of a second in 1972.
Though he retired from the elite tiers of the sport soon after the ’76 Games, he never strayed far from the water. He swam his first Masters meet in 1977 but says he “took a few years off from meets even though I kept working out. I mixed in some other sports after the ’76 Olympics—running, canoeing, Nordic skiing—but I always kept swimming some too. Twentysome years ago, I drifted to swimming full time as injuries and family got in the way of the other sports.”
In 1990, he says he started going to meets again—“just once in a while. Then around 2008, as my kids got older and I had more time, I started attending meets more regularly. I found that competing gave me goals to work toward and enhanced my enjoyment of training.” Since dipping his toes back into competition, Colella has become a dominant force in Masters swimming, claiming 47 FINA Masters world records spanning six age groups and 92 USMS pool individual records.
Now 67 years old and a member of Puget Sound Masters, Colella is a humble swimmer who says he was “surprised and, of course, honored to be selected,” as a member of the 2019 MISHOF class. “It was unexpected, but I am honored to be recognized.”
Masters Swimming has had three primary impacts on his life, he says.
“First, swimming has been the best way for me to maintain fitness as I get older,” Colella says. “Second, my fellow swimmers are my closest friends and supporters in life. And finally, it’s just plain fun for me—I’ve always enjoyed working out, and I’m very fortunate to have a great group of teammates to train with.
“Masters swimming has been all about fitness, friendships, and fun. One of the most amazing things about the swimming community is that no matter how often you see someone, you have an immediate connection and common ground. I can run into someone I swam with 50 years ago and we immediately connect and have lots to talk about. This is something very special for me about the swimming community.”
Rowdy Gaines, Honor Swimmer
Though it’s easy to assume that any Olympic medalist was virtually born in the pool, such is not the case for Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines IV, who earned three golds at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He didn’t even pick up competitive swimming until he was 17 years old and a junior in high school, a “last resort” after he’d failed to make the team in a number of other sports. Gaines says he didn’t expect to make the cut for the swim team either, but as it turned out, he was a natural talent, particularly in the sprint freestyle events. Within a few short years, he was dominating on the world scene.
He qualified for the 1980 Olympic Games, but he and his teammates were unable to compete after the United States initiated a boycott of the Moscow-based event—one of several intersections of politics and sport during the Cold War. But Gaines came back in 1984 to smashing success. He retired from competition but not for long.
In 1988, legendary Masters swimmer Tiger Holmes invited Gaines to swim in the FINA Masters World Championship meet in Australia. “I started training for those about four years after I had retired post-Olympic Games in 1984,” Gaines says. Since then, he has set 26 FINA Masters World Records and 24 pool individual USMS records.
Gaines, 60 and a member of the Central Florida Y Masters, says that Worlds meet was a turning point. “From that moment on, I decided that I was going to stay in the water and stay involved with the sport in any way possible. For me it’s been broadcasting, raising awareness for the drowning epidemic in our country, and swimming almost every single day.” Indeed, Gaines is the go-to guy for Olympic swimming coverage, and his infectious enthusiasm for the sport and its practitioners has endeared him to audiences around the world for three decades.
Gaines says finding out about his induction to MISHOF “was such a great feeling because I’ve always felt that the Masters community is part of my family in so many ways. Masters swimming is really part of who I am, and I’m proud to represent the older generation now more than ever!” He also thinks of Masters as “a lifelong commitment to living a healthy lifestyle and the amazing friends you make. The competition is great, but that’s not really why I swim Masters. I just love being in the water. I love the camaraderie that you have with others and the peace I feel while I am swimming. It’s a total escape for a short time every day, and I love it and will continue to do it the rest of my life.”
Caroline Krattli, Honor Swimmer
Caroline Krattli, 57, of the Wind-n-Sea Masters Swimming, was an accomplished age-group swimmer growing up—she was ranked 12th in the nation in the 200-meter breaststroke when she was 16—but says she hadn’t swum a stroke for 18 years when she decided to get back in the pool in 1998 at age 36, initially just for the winter. She’d been a competitive beach volleyball player for years, and “playing in those two-day tournaments takes a toll, so I started swimming laps. I had forgotten how boring it is to just go back and forth,” she says, but she soon found a way to spice up her workout: Masters swimming.
Signing up for meets gave her the motivation she needed to train more aggressively, and “once I started swimming with a goal in mind, I found my body is really happy swimming. It felt natural,” she says. And, as it turns out, she had a natural knack for winning.
She soon began combining vacations from her job as a registered nurse at a pediatric hospital with trips to swim meets around the U.S. and the world. She competed in the FINA Masters World Championships in New Zealand in 2002, where she earned five gold medals, a highlight to a career full of bright accomplishments. Over the course of her Masters swimming career, Krattli has set 73 pool individual USMS records and 38 FINA Masters world records across five age groups.
“I’ve always had a passion for swimming fast and working and not giving up,” she says. But she hastens to add that swimming isn’t her entire life: “I like to have a balanced life. I’m not obsessed about it.” A student of the sport, Krattli says that when she returned to swimming after all those years away, “I saw people doing the new ‘wave’ breaststroke, so I just really went out of my way to read articles and watched videos and got tips from coaches. I got people to film me,” and she was rewarded for adopting the new technique. “My times dropped. That style suited my body and I actually swam my fastest breaststroke times when I was 40. That’s pretty cool,” she says.
As impressive as these results may appear at first, consider that she’s achieved many of them while also dealing with a challenging physical complication. In 2012, Krattli was diagnosed with Parsonage Turner Syndrome, also called idiopathic brachial plexopathy or neuralgic amyotropy, a neurological condition that affects the network of nerves extending from the spine to the neck, armpits, and down the arms. It causes paralysis in some patients, and for Krattli, it caused intense pain and loss of muscle strength. Swimmers already have enough difficulty with their shoulders under normal circumstances. Throw in a little paralysis from a rare disease, and it makes everything so much harder.
In Kattli’s case, the disorder has also caused long-term paralysis of the left side of her diaphragm—the large muscle in the belly that helps control breathing. “I feel like I’m at altitude when I’m swimming,” she says, which has forced some changes to her training and racing routine. “I do a lot more dryland stuff now,” to compensate for her difficulties breathing in the pool.
But Krattli has managed to swim—and succeed—through it all. Upon learning that she had been selected for induction to the MISHOF class of 2019, Krattli says, “my first reaction was just how honored I was because of all the amazing people who are already in MISHOF. It’s really neat. I’m pretty modest about my results, but I feel really proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
Willard "Wink" Lamb, Honor Swimmer
Willard “Wink” Lamb swam in high school and for one year at the University of Washington. “Pearl Harbor was blown up while I was at the University of Washington,” he recalls, and thus in 1943, he found himself drafted into the Army instead of logging laps in the pool. “I was upset. I wanted to go into the Navy, but I was stuck with the Army. When they asked for volunteers to join the paratroops, I thought that would be more interesting.” So he joined the first Airborne Division and was eventually selected to join the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment. During World War II, he made more than a dozen jumps with his regiment, one into combat near Manila in the Philippines. At the conclusion of the war, he returned home and married his high school sweetheart, Jean.
Lamb didn’t swim a lick after leaving the University of Washington, but rather focused on the task of building a life. But finally, in 2005 at the tender age of 83, Lamb returned to the pool in search of exercise. He reconnected with Andrew Holden, a former high school teammate four years his senior and Lamb’s first coach, who suggested that Lamb join Masters Swimming. With that connection made, Lamb returned to his record-setting ways.
Back in high school, Lamb won the 220-yard freestyle state championship in record time. Because the 220-yard is no longer contested, Lamb’s record hasn’t been and likely never will be broken. When he returned to swimming, he wasn’t necessarily looking to add to his record collection, but fast is fast at any age, and as soon as he began competing, records started tumbling.
Since joining Masters, Lamb has swum in four different age groups and set more than 110 USMS records. He set 18 FINA Masters world records in 2017 alone, in the 95-99 age group, and he’s been named to Swimming World Magazine’s Swimmer of the Year list multiple times. In all, he’s collected a whole heap of prizes. “I have all my medals and ribbons in a bag in the basement and I recently put them on the scale. I have 19 pounds of them! They’re mostly all first place unless I’m on a relay and we have competition,” he says.
A consummate competitor, Lamb swims for Oregon Masters and says his coach, Matt Miller, has been an enormous support in getting him to the right meets in the right events for maximum scoring and record-setting potential. “They like to get the extra points. But Matt really takes good care of me,” he says, especially when it comes to organizing travel and other logistics.
These days, Lamb likes swimming backstroke events, “because you can breathe,” but he’s no stranger to other strokes. He’ll often enter the 1500-meter or 1650-yard events, capitalizing on his daily mile training sessions to go the distance comfortably. “I feel very comfortable with freestyle. I do my mile every day and it takes me about 35 minutes. That’s about what I do when I enter a 1500 or a 1650,” in a meet, of which he’s done many in the 13 years he’s been back in swimming; the 2019 U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship will be Lamb’s 100th meet since returning to competition.
Somewhere along this journey, Lamb competed at a meet where fellow 2019 MISHOF inductee Rowdy Gaines was in attendance. Gaines, always an admirer of swimming grit, asked to meet Lamb and the two spent some time chatting on the pool deck. “Rowdy said, ‘I’ve got to have a selfie with you because when I grow up, I want to be like you,’” Lamb says with a laugh. “And now I get to enter the hall of fame with him. It’s quite an honor.”
Jim Miller, Honor Contributor
Once upon a time—actually, not so very long ago—swimming and advanced age were considered to be incompatible. In the early days of Masters swimming, many people—even some doctors—fretted that adults exerting themselves in the pool would lead to tragedy. But Jim Miller, a practicing Sports Medicine physician based in Midlothian, Va., had the combination of swimming skills and medical know-how to give one Masters program its start.
Miller has long been a highly-involved member of USMS. Better known to most in and around the pool as Dr. Jim, he’d been a swimmer all his life and got into Masters swimming while coaching an age group team at the Jewish Community Center in Richmond, Va. At the time, he was knee-deep in establishing his medical practice and coaching on the side.
“The aquatic director of the JCC came to me one day in the late 1970s with a proposal,” Miller says. “They had a group of older adults who were starting to swim as a group. They stated that I was unique in being a coach as well as a physician so I could resuscitate them if they collapsed in practice. That was the start.”
And by 1978, his swimmers had encouraged their coach to swim with them. “I was hooked, both in the pool and in open water,” he says.
In addition to connecting with his athletes and other coaches, Miller began exploring the volunteer side of Masters. He attended his first USMS annual meeting in 1983, where he connected with other swimmers and administrators. These meetings led to the young physician taking a two-week rotation at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., that further established him as an authority in sports medicine.
He also joined the first of many volunteer committees. Since then, Miller has become a fixture on various volunteer committees at the national level. In recognition of his in-depth service, Miller earned USMS’s highest honor for volunteers, the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur M.D. Award, in 1999. But he still had years and years of service left.
In 2001, Miller was elected president of USMS and served two terms. Under his leadership, USMS moved from an all-volunteer organization to one with a professional staff based in Sarasota, Fla. He has also long been deeply involved with FINA and USA Swimming and worked to make the sport of swimming safer at all levels.
In recognition of his in-depth and ongoing service to the sport of Masters swimming, Miller is being inducted to MISHOF. “This is quite an honor in itself but when I look back at those that have been inducted in the past, it is quite humbling,” he says. An unexpected but pleasant surprise, Miller adds, “you pursue your passions without ever thinking about accolades.”
A coach at heart, Miller continues to serve both locally and nationally to help other swimmers succeed. “My coaching participation and my certification in sports medicine have opened doors to all kinds of athletes that I see routinely for their medical problems, illnesses, and injuries. But what I still like tremendously is standing on the pool deck and making a swim practice fun, challenging, and rewarding for the swimmers in my club. This is all an incredible journey with amazing rewards,” says Miller, the 1986 recipient of the USMS Coach of the Year Award.
- Human Interest