This feature story appeared in the Arizona Daily Star in May 1997 during the Senior Olympics in Tucson.
Very few (if any) swimmers have been in the same boat
By Ed M. Odeven
Sixty-eight-year-old Carol “Penny” Taylor is just one of 970 swimming participants at the Senior Olympics. They range in age from 50 to 96.
But she may have one of the more unusual stories to tell.
Nearly half a century ago, in 1948, Taylor and her U.S. women’s swimming teammates sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in the Summer Olympics in London.
“We didn’t swim for seven days,” she said, before laughing at the fact that her male counterparts flew there.
Taylor got seasick during her time on the boat, which turned out to be a less-than-ideal training facility.
“We had a pool (aboard),” she said. “When the boat rocked and the water came in there, all of a sudden you’d be in the air swimming.”
Because of this dilemma, her team scrapped its pre-Olympic training plans.
“It’s not a good training program,” said Taylor, who competed in the 200-meter breaststroke in London.
Also on board were America’s track athletes and weightlifters, who could continue their training, even at sea. Therefore, it was Taylor — not the track athletes or the weightlifters — who ended up paying the price.
“I didn’t do well at the Games,” she said. “I was only swimming for about four years when I made it. It was all pretty new to me. I didn’t make the finals. I was not properly prepared.”
She was, however, plenty ready for yesterday’s competition at the UA’s Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
The Oro Valley resident won the women’s 65-to-69 division for the 50 butterfly, edging fellow Arizonan Edie Gruender (48.34 seconds to 48.50).
“Well, I did better in the 50 butterfly than I expected to do,” she said modestly.
Taylor always seems to be exceeding expectations. Check out some of her recent extracurricular activities:
She competed in the U.S. Masters Nationals in Seattles. She stays busy by serving as a delegate to the U.S. swimming teams.
She managed the 1984 and 1992 U.S. Olympic swimming teams, and served as a volunteer at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
And while she doesn’t plan on attending the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia, that won’t stop her from visiting the Land Down Under — she’ll be going to Brisbane next January as head of a U.S. delegation for swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming for the World Championships.
So Taylor’s future remains bright, but she still fondly remembers the past.
“The Opening Ceremony was my dream,” she said, reflecting on the 1948 Summer Games.
“(But) the thing that’s nice about (the Senior Olympics) is it’s just wonderful to see this many people here, whether they are slow or fast. They’re participating and staying active. And it’s good for them. That’s what is important.”
However, Taylor said older athletes also need to be very reasonable.
“You know, I’ve seen so many people come and go in this sport,” she said. “I take breaks … because I hope to still be swimming when I’m 80 or 90.”