How many people can say they’ve been swimming for more than 80 years?  Jurgen Schmidt of Southern California can! Schmidt never gave competitive swimming a thought, until he wanted to be a lifeguard at his high school pool and was told to take a Red Cross water safety course.  The year was 1941 and in that class was 1936 Olympic gold medal backstroke champion, Adolph Kiefer.  While serving as a Naval officer in the Korean War, Schmidt participated in and won various fleet competitions, and for the next 20 years he swam for the local YMCA to keep in shape.

Jurgen’s first introduction to Masters swimming came in 1973 when he saw an article in the Chicago Times announcing an upcoming National Long Course Masters Meet at the Chicago Circle Campus of the University of Illinois.  Inspired, he joined the local Ryall Masters Team.  Each morning he had to get up at 4:00 am to travel from his home in Arlington Heights to Wheaton for the 6:00 am workout.  After workout, he would then continue to his job in Hillside.  It was quite a commitment, but it was worth it.  Schmidt placed in the top five in the 50-54 age group and even swam against Doc Counsilman in the 1500m freestyle. And he loved every minute of it! In fact, he loved it so much, that he decided to form Illinois Masters Swimming with the help of friends, Paul Huttinger, Bobbi Turcotte and Frank Havlicek.  He says his biggest thrill in Masters Swimming though, was his breakthrough meet at the 1978 USMS Long Course Nationals, where he won four gold medals. 

In 1989, Jurgen moved to Lompoc, California to take care of his aging parents who at that time were in their 90’s.  During those years, he never stopped swimming or competing and began working out with fellow Masters Honoree, Frank Piemme.  The two attended everything from local meets to National Championships together. 

In 2013, He was a member of five, 360 plus year old relays that set FINA Masters Long Course World Records.  In 2015, Speedo heard about Jurgen and featured an advertising campaign around him, called “Fueled by Water”. When Speedo created the ad campaign, he was 94 and still swimming 2,000 yards, 5-7 days a week.  Jurgen figures he has swum over 25, 000 miles over the course of his lifetime.

Masters swimming has been a life saver for Jurgen Schmidt.  The camaraderie and many lifelong friendships that he has made during his nearly 50 years in sport are something he will always cherish and never forget.

Jurgen’s tips for longevity are simple:

  • Eat Well
  • Sleep Well
  • Stay Active
  • Stay Engaged
  • Count your blessings

And as Schmidt says: “Always remember to breathe!

A very special Happy Birthday to Jurgen Schmidt from everyone at the International Swimming Hall of Fame and all the Masters swimmers around the World!

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