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by P H Mullen

May 7, 2002

Freestyle specialist

Flo Carr, a freestyle specialist from Sun City Center, Fla., ended 2001 with eight new national records. Two important breakthrough swims came in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles, when Carr became the first U.S. woman over 75 years to break 35 seconds (34.78) and 1:20 (1:19.38), respectively. She continued her winning ways in meters swimming, capturing two national titles in long course and another two in short course. All four triumphs came with national records.

Six days a week, Carr drives from her retirement community in northern Florida to the nearby Brandon Swim and Tennis Club (until recently, the training site for U.S. Olympic champion Brooke Bennett). Carr trains 4,000 meters per workout with three or four other Masters athletes, and at meets she competes for the Florida Maverick Masters.

She discovered swimming in 1936 at age 10 when the U.S. Olympic Trials came to her hometown on Long Island, and within several years she was winning New York state titles.

By age 20, she had turned professional and joined Buster Crabbe's famous Aquashow. For the next 20 years, Carr appeared in water shows, performances and movies. She was a swimsuit babe in the James Bond movie, "Goldfinger," and worked with Jerry Lewis in "Bell Boy."

In between, she raised three children, two of whom became accomplished swimmers. (The third was a diver and became a world champion in cliff diving.)

In the 1930s and 1940s, Carr and several others were involved in the Women's Swimming Association of New York. Today, six of them, ranging in ages from early-60s to mid-90s. compete in Masters. Carr credits the lessons learned there with her longevity.

When asked what advice she would give to her fellow swimmers, she answered: "I was taught to always warm up before doing anything hard. Make sure your muscles are loose, or you will hurt yourself."

published in Swim magazine, May-June, 2002

Florence Carr , 76, grew up in New York City. At age ten, she joined the Women's Swimming Association of NY. This is where she learned all her strokes and her competitive swimming journey began. She received many honors during the nine years she competed with that organization.

After high school, at age 19, Carr toured the country and performed in Aquacade Shows. She swam with such notables as Esther Williams and Buster Crabbe after he was the 1936 Olympic champion and before he became a celebrity as Tarzan. A frequent setting for these shows was the Fountainbleu Hotel, in Miami. One day, during a demanding photo shoot, Crabbe whispered in Carr's ear. She chuckled. Her husband was on the set and jealous because he thought Crabbe was flirting with his wife. What did he say? She's not talking.

She worked as a professional actress and performed in synchronized swimming routines. She appeared in the James Bond film, "Goldfinger", and also with Fernando Lamas, Jerry Lewis, Rosemary Clooney, Joey Bishop, Gordon McRay, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Sometimes, Carr and the other swimmers had to repeat stunts so many times for the camera that she could hardly climb out of bed in the morning.

She lived in California for 25 years and was an administrative secretary for the Santa Clara School District. Carr raised three daughters who also excelled in aquatic sports in their youth, two as champion swimmers and the other as a diver. She is proud that they all graduated from college and of their accomplishments.

Carr first joined Masters at age 47, and has compiled an illustrious list of achievements, including three world records, over fifteen national records, USMS Top Ten every year, twelve years of being an All-American (first place) and an All-Star in 1990 (most first places in the top ten).

She joined the Mavericks in 2000 and lives in Sun City Center, Fla. In her spare time, she makes quilts for children with AIDS. She trains at the same pool in Brandon as Brooke Bennett, three-time Olympic champion. Fast water for fast swimmers!