Shoko Yonezawa (JPN)
2015 Honor Masters Swimmer
INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS: World Points-931, Pre 1986 Points-0. Total Points 931. Since 1990, she has competed in 5 age groups (60-64 through 75-79). 39 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS
If you really want her to be honest, 80 year old Shozo Yonezawa will admit the best part of her twice-weekly visits to her local swimming pool are actually the breaks she takes from swimming laps in the Jacuzzi and the chatting with friends she’s made through Masters swimming.
This diminutive woman, who was the second of six children, grew up in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan, just before World War II. Her parents were both teachers, so she and her siblings were left to take care of themselves. They spent most of their free time playing in a nearby river, especially swimming back and forth against the current. “There was nothing much else to do in those days”, Yonezawa says, “I was in and out of the river all day long.” After that, aside from two years in high school when she swam on a club team and competed in a national championship, swimming was never very prominent in Shozo’s life.
That was until she reached her late 40’s. It was then that Shozo became interested in Masters Swimming. Even now though, she says that she only regards it as a hobby and a good way to meet new friends. When she visits the pool, she generally only swims about 1 km, and very leisurely at that. A relaxed approach is what she believes in. It seems that the biggest contribution to Yonezawa’s health and her seemingly bottomless well of energy, is the network of friends she has built up through Masters Swimming. Normally, she spends time at her club with 15 or 16 people aged from their 30’s to their 90’s, and often goes out with them after swimming to lunch or dinner. With a twinkle in her eye, though, Yonezawa admits that these friends can also play a pivotal role in her “intelligence gathering” as competitions approach. Because of them, she can often keep close tabs on her rivals at other clubs across the nation. Mind games, it seems, are a big part of the competition preparations.
“Nobody who is in Masters Swimming hides their age,” she says “because there are more opportunities as you grow older.” So what is her ultimate secret for a healthy, active life? “I don’t think much”, she says, laughing cheerfully yet again. “I always tell my friends, my brain is so empty that if you shake it, it would rattle!”