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by Greta Van Meeteren

September 29, 2010

So many reasons to swim

It is just after 8:30 a.m. and the 7 a.m. Masters program session at the Arlington Park Pool in Sarasota, Fla. is winding down. On the far side of the pool, local high school swimmers are warming up. And on the other side of the pool, one Masters swimmer keeps swimming, methodically going back and forth across the width of the pool.

Her name is Helen Vetter, and she has been working hard on her butterfly. Vetter, 69, began swimming in 2000, after a 30-year teaching career in Europe.

In October Vetter will be having her fourth hip replacement, but that is not stopping her from swimming 120 laps each day, six days a week. She has placed nationally in All-American relays and has remained enthusiastic and positive about what she loves to do. "My famous hips," Vetter jokes about her continuing surgeries. "Swimming is easier for me than walking. And it makes me feel good—it's a goal for me. I love the camaraderie between all of the people here." The routine swimming keeps Vetter resilient, as well as feeling, looking and acting young, which landed her the nickname "Mademoiselle Duracell," given to her by her doctor.

"Helen truly represents what Masters swimming is all about; a love for the sport combined with a passion to stay as fit as age will allow. She has had both hips replaced twice, and still swims butterfly (and quite well, too). I look forward to seeing her every morning, if only to banter in German, or hear of her cats' health issues! If the morning practice is "only" 2,900 yards, she dutifully adds 100 ‘to keep things even,’" says her coach, Peter Hegwein.

Vetter enumerates the many incentives she has to keep swimming:

  • Fun
  • Fitness / health (she quotes her many surgeries)
  • Convenience: the pool is only 10 minutes away
  • Challenge
  • Comradeship

Vetter likes to have swimming as a routine in her life, and she also scuba dives. She hopes to continue swimming for a very long time to come.


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