The St. Louis Area Masters members have been married for nearly 60 years
John and Mary Pohlmann fittingly met on a pool deck.
It happened in 1962 in San Antonio, Texas, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army Special Forces for medical training and where she was living with her family. John was 19, Mary 18. A few months after they met, John asked her to a dance, and they’ve been together since.
The two St. Louis Area Masters members have been married for 58 years, a lengthy relationship that Masters Swimming has been a part of. Meets such as the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course National Championship in Geneva, Ohio, which concluded Sunday, provide them an opportunity to have something to look forward to on their schedule and travel to.
“It makes the difference between just having kind of a normal existence and having a committed existence,” John says. “When it’s on the calendar, there’s a place we have to go at this time, and we make preparations for it and we focus on the activity rather than ad lib.”
Sitting next to him, Mary continues the thought: “Right. And a long time ago, I gave a talk on how to stay healthy in retirement. One of the things I said was you need a reason to get up in the morning, and I certainly have a reason to get up in the morning. The pool opens at 6 a.m.”
John, 77, and Mary, 76, don’t train together—she likes swimming early in the morning, whereas he likes swimming later in the day and focuses on a different stroke—but they’ve been participating in Masters Swimming for a long time, like many other married couples.
Mary joined USMS in 1984, but John didn’t do so until 2002 when he retired and decided he wanted to travel with Mary to meets. They’ve been all over the U.S. and to Italy twice, Canada, Germany, and Sweden to compete.
When John brings up that they went to Hungary for the FINA World Masters Championships in 2017, the two go into a conversation about how great the experience was, feeding off each other like a couple that has been married for nearly six decades. They then swap stories about various mishaps they experienced there.
“We got to swim in there right after the elite swimmers had been in there,” Mary says, referring to the FINA World Championships that ended before the Masters meet. “What was really funny was they had all the security in place for these elite swimmers, and here comes these old guys trying to get through this turnstile, and it was so funny.”
She then asks John to share the story of what happened to him in the turnstile.
“It’s embarrassing, but this bar got between my legs unintentionally,” John says. He then pauses and adds with a deadpan before laughing: “And it hurt.”
Masters Swimming gives John and Mary the balance they like in their relationship. They don’t train together and swim different strokes—he focuses on breaststroke, she on backstroke and freestyle—but spend quality time together while traveling for meets.
“I think the secret to good marriages is that you do some things together but then you have some other things you do separately,” John says. “You always have this reason for getting together in the evenings and [ask] how was your day and learning how your spouse spent their day.”
Records Broken on Day 4
- Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: women’s 70-74 50 backstroke (34.65, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Robert Wright, MOVY Masters: men’s 70-74 50 breaststroke (36.21, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Beth Estel, New England Masters Swim Club: women’s 65-69 50 breaststroke (41.87, USMS record)
- Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: women’s 70-74 100 backstroke (1:17.98, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Diann Uustal, Sarasota Sharks: women’s 75-79 100 backstroke (1:28.67, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Diann Uustal, Sarasota Sharks: women’s 75-79 200 freestyle (2:56.75, USMS record)
- Chuck Barnes, New England Masters Swim Club: men’s 50 butterfly (25.24, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Steve Hiltabiddle, Colonials 1776: men’s 55-59 50 butterfly (26.56, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Lawrence Day, Michigan Masters: men’s 70-74 50 butterfly (29.98, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
- Lawrence Day, Michigan Masters: men’s 70-74 200 IM (2:42.94, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
Note: All records are subject to change pending verification.