Jon Foss on World Masters Swimming

Note: The 9th World Aquatic Masters Championships was held
Aug. 2-11, 2023, in Kyushu, Japan. Jon Foss swam in events August 5-8, 2023.
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One of the things I love about swimming, (and why I think
everyone should learn to swim well), is it unlocks healthy lifelong activity everyone can do. Whether you want to swim fast, or do a slow breaststroke, there are lakes, rivers, oceans waterslides, diving boards and more places. In addition to just swimming, you can take part in Triathlons, SCUBA diving, surfing – the list goes on and on.  Swimming is a way to help maintain fitness at the level of activity and fun that works for you.

In this short article I want to share with you more about the
massive international support systems for swimming.  I remember prepping in the Seoul Olympic complex with 2,000 Koreans and a few helpful Germans. I said “Uh, what the heck is going on? There are 60 people neatly swimming in this 50-meter lane!”

As a mentor, coach and father, I have tried to put into practice
what I preach. I have been training to compete in the upcoming World Masters Swim Championships in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, Japan in August of 2023. Interestingly, this Master Meet uses same venue and staff where FOSS alumna and Olympic medalist Regan Smith competed in the World Championships for Team USA a week earlier.  It’s really one massive meet with the youngest and fastest swimming first.

The WMSC is a bi-annual event which includes the Olympic and Pan Pacific games to create a four-year elite cycle. These meets are HUGE! Between 10,000 and 16,000 Masters swimmers usually compete at multiple venues over the course of the week. To keep it fair, there five-year age groups for both men and women. The age brackets range from 25-29 to age 95-99 (although one man just swam every freestyle event, from 50 yards to the mile, in the age 100-104 category). Meticulous world and national records are kept for each age grouping. 

My History and Events

This will be my fifth World or American championship, I will swim
the 50, 100, 200 and 800 meter freestyle events and the 50 meter butterfly. I have placed in the World’s top 12 five times; my strongest event finishes were 7th in the world in the 50m fly and 9th in the 100m freestyle.

Of course I like to do well, but however I place I will enjoy the
thrill of the competition, the personal satisfaction of doing my best, and the excitement of the event, being surrounded by so many fine swimmers and great people. This year, I will be 59 – the oldest in my age group of 55-59.  So I will temper my expectations for how I will place. Its healthy to appreciate and accept that our abilities change as we age while still striving to do our best.

The way swimming is structured, I still have much to look forward
to. After this year’s meet, my plan is to train hard starting in October in an attempt to place very well in the USA and internationally as a 60-year-old.  With that lofty goal in mind I had better be swimming well at age 59! Hence this pre-60 effort.

This will be the first time I will compete while not performing
full time as a CEO, coach and teacher each week. This means I have a bit more time to train. This Spring I added three new elements to my training. I began lifting weights 3 times per week, (wow, was I sore that first month!) I use “power rack” weight machines next to the pool to increase the torque and hopefully sprint speed. And to build cardiovascular endurance I have trained for my first ever distance race, the 800m freestyle. 

Swimming IS for Everyone

Swimming has been a joy for me. It feels like flying, complete
weightlessness. Everything is so quiet underwater. It’s so easy on the joints, a tremendous cardio workout and keeps my muscles strong and mind clear. I am so glad I learned to swim well by age seven and swam competitively by age nine, and half a century later, I still love to feel the butterflies prior to competing.

You dont have to swim at a Masters level to get the benefit. But it does offer some amazing opportunities for you to see the USA or the world (or maybe one day your children – my oldest son Will, himself an accomplished swimmer, is my coach!) Most people with the desire and a year of training could meet the minimum times; it
really is like training for a 5k run without the sweating!
I am looking
forward to seeing Tokyo August 2-4, adjusting to the time zone. Then I’ll be taking a bullet train with an overnight to see Hiroshima.  I will be swimming one or two events each day Aug, 5-8 before coming home to enjoy our beautiful Midwest summer on August 9.

I will share more about my experience before the summer is out,
maybe some stories of temples, ramen, sake and karaoke, who knows!?  In the meanwhile, keep cheering on Regan, she
is truly an incredible individual, and I hope you and your families are all having a great summer of swimming!

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