At 69, Northwest Swimmer Says You’re Never Too Old For Gold

May 25, 2012

Sometimes life hands you disappointment and humiliation. That happened to Suzie Aldrich in a swim meet in college. The Walla Walla native didn’t swim again for nearly 50 years. But in retirement the pool called her back for a re-do. And the results were astonishing.

“They say to invest in gold and I try to do my best," says Suzie Aldrich with a laugh.

"These are all gold medals. I’m Suzie Aldrich and I’m 69 years old. I’m from Walla Walla, Washington and I’m the Eastern Washington, Washington State, Alaska international record holder in backstroke. I’ll see ya at the other end."

“I was probably 18 or 19 years old. I was at Eastern Washington University. The swimming coach had asked me if I could swim. I said, ‘Yeah.’ And, ‘What stroke?’ And I said, ‘Backstroke.’ I was so anxious for the race. And I thought I can do this, I can do this."

"But once I got going I got so nervous that my hips sank and I lost all form and that was drag and then I just wilted and I came in last. I was just in tears. I never wanted to do this again. I'm just –- never going to swim again. And that’s kind of where I ended.”

“There probably are a lot of people that do not get to revisit that event from their earlier life, to rewrite that script.”

“I had seen the year before an article on the senior games and I just clipped it and squirreled it away. So I came to the Y, and then I saw that the swimming was here. And she showed me the pool and I thought 'oh that looks nice, that’s inviting. Let me see what I can do.'”

“I did four events, the 25, the 50, the 100 and the 200 back, and I came in first in all of them."

"The one that was probably the most emotional was my 25 backstroke at Washington State. My time came out to 19 something seconds. I just put my head down in the gutter and cried. I was just dumbstruck that I was in the teens. Because most of my times had been 20, 21, 22 seconds. To be at 19, I just, I just cried. I just cried. The spectators were all watching me. They saw the time. They saw how pleased I was to do well.”

“Whether you’re a small child, or whether you’re an older person there’s help, there’s encouragement and there’s direction.”

“You can learn to swim regardless of age."

Anna King produced that audio postcard. Suzie Aldrich holds several records in Senior Games throughout the Northwest. This summer she plans to swim for gold in Washington, Idaho and Alaska. Next year she turns 70.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

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