From smoking tobacco to smoking the competition
Frank Piemme began swimming Masters at the age of 55 to lose weight. Nine months previously he had managed to quit smoking after almost 40 years, but he'd put on 25 pounds. "Swimming was the only way I found to lose the weight." Sixteen years later, he is trim, muscular and the picture of health. And the only smoking he does is in the pool—to his opponents.
"Dominance" is the only word that adequately describes Piemme's performance in 1995. The retired mechanical engineer set ten national short course records last year in the 70-74 age group, including every freestyle event from 50 to 1650 yards. Some of those records had stood more than a decade. In the process, he came within one bad turn of breaking a minute in the 100 free: his time of 1:00.80 was achieved despite a misjudged third turn in which he barely scraped the wall. "I think I can crack a minute this year," he says confidently, "if I go at it seriously."
Piemme's dominance extends well beyond the freestyle. He also set world records in the breast, fly and IM last year. In all, he notched 25 national and 13 world records in 1995. Not had for a guy who swam just one year in high school and even now receives coaching only at meets. A native of Yuba City, Calif., Piemme lives in Lompoc, Calif., with Connie, his wife of 47 years. Most days you can find him at the local high school, working out with swim buddy, Jurgen Schmidt .
published in SWIM magazine, March-April 1996
Frank M. Piemme lives in Lompoc, Calif., and swims for Ojai Santa Barbara.