10,000 competitors, the oldest swimmer is 95
Though the elite athletes having competed at European Aquatics Championships left the UK capital, the London Aquatics Centre remained busy with staging the next huge meet, the Masters European Championships in swimming, diving and synchronised swimming. Competitions have just kicked off this morning in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will last until Sunday.
In terms of participation, the Masters Europeans are LEN’s largest event: approximately 10,000 competitors registered for this year’s showcase, setting up a massive organisational challenge for the OC. Swimming races are held parallel in two pools, and some events, like the 800m freestyle require to have two swimmers sharing the same lane. This means that nice old ladies and gentlemen start from the opposite ends of the pool and pass along each other at some point.
“This is the only way to save time and to finish the races in normal time, still, victory ceremonies close to midnight are not far from reality” LEN Operational Manager Marco Birri explained how the LOC, supported by the LEN Masters Committee’s experienced members try to keep happenings on the right track. Mr. Birri added: “Just imagine, alone for the 50m free we received 2,000 entries. This is huge but LEN is happy that the Masters movement enjoys such a great popularity.”
Masters athletes are competing in age-groups covering five years: the youngest ones can race in the age-group of 25-29 years old, the next category is 30-34, then 35-59 and so on. At the other end of the age-scale only health and readiness can put a limit on someone’s participation. At the current Europeans, Ingeborg Fritze is the oldest competitor, the lady from Dussledorf (Germany) is aged 95, the next one on the list is Ludmila Bartakova from the Czech Republic who turns 90 this year. Among the men we have Poland’s Kazimierz Mrowczynski (94) and Russia’s Vladimir Rabinovich (92) clashing in the 50m free for the title in the age-group 90-94.
Among the divers Spain’s Ibo De Belausteguigoitia has the longest name and life to look back on, she was born in 1930. Heinz Weisbarth, representing 1. SV Koln (Germany) is the oldest male diver, aged 81. One of the highlights of the synchronised swimming event will surely be the appearance of Jeanne Ansley (GBR) who is an active synchro coach in Leeds and at the age of 72 she is still very much able to show how to perform a good routine.
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