See the World’s Most Ageless Swimmer
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on March 15th, 2013

Paul Lurie showed up at Chez Laughlin out of the blue one day last summer. He’d learned we teach TI  there in an Endless Pool. When my daughter Betsy answered the door, Paul’s first question was “Can you teach me butterfly?”

Few students come to us wanting to learn butterfly. Nearly all are pre-teen or teen competitors. A couple were 40-ish. I never dreamed we’d meet a 94 year old with that aspiration.

Betsy gave Paul a butterfly lesson, then alerted me we had a nonagenarian striving to learn butterfly. She wanted me to observe Paul’s next lesson and assess his form. Betsy also said Paul had a ‘pretty impressive’ freestyle which he’d taught himself, starting at 93!

I met Paul the following week. He related that he’d moved into a senior residence the previous year and, because it had a pool, decided he should learn to swim well. He ordered the TI Perpetual Motion Freestyle DVD and indeed the results were highly impressive. But when I saw him attempt butterfly I felt his body wasn’t sufficiently supple to permit progress toward a swimming style that would be an asset to his health. So I suggested backstroke as a better choice for a second stroke. And that has gone quite well.

I offered to work with Paul at at the pool where he lived, since it was better suited to his mobility. I expected I would enjoy Paul’s company and  learn something valuable about adapting our instruction for students of advanced age. We employed only two drills — Superman Glide and SG-to-Skate. Paul’s beautiful form is a product primarily of ‘rehearsals’ — practicing recovery and entry motions in a crouching position — and Focal Point practice. (See Focus = Bliss.)

I also anticipated how cool it would be to create a video of the two of us ‘synch-swimming.’

What sort of person aspires to learn butterfly at 94? After retiring in his mid-60s from a career as a pediatric cardiologist, Paul joined the faculty of Albany Medical School where he taught until age 93! He’d probably be teaching there still if his daughter hadn’t prevailed on him to retire and move closer to her. Paul moved into Woodland Ponds CCRC in New Paltz, found they had a pool and saw a learning opportunity. The same was true of their woodworking shop, where Paul has made some really beautiful pieces of furniture.  And last October when I said I’d have to miss one of our lessons while traveling to Turkey for a TI Open Water Camp, Paul said no problem; he had travel plans too: He would be traveling by himself to Atlanta to attend a cardiology conference.

One more thing: Last summer Paul passed the test to join Minnewaska Distance Swimmers and twice swam an open water 400 meters in Lake Minnewaska. Does anyone know of an older swimmer who has swum at least a quarter mile in open water?

Can you tell which swimmer is 95 and which 62?

 

 

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32 Responses to “See the World’s Most Ageless Swimmer”

  1. Mat Hudson says:

    As I read I wondered if you might be ‘polite’ about his ability, but I am truly stunned. I would NEVER guess the one swimming next to you is past his 60’s.

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  2. John Mooney says:

    After reading the blog and viewing the video I can no longer use my age as a excuse for not swimming well

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  3. Claudia says:

    Love it, very inspiring, life style lesson to follow and give us hope for our 90s, keep the good work Dr. Paul

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  4. There’s not much else to say but, WOW!

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  5. Fred Goss says:

    Terry –

    If I did not know what you looked like, I could not tell the difference between the two of you in or out of the water. He is amazing. (To say nothing of yourself!!)

    Fred Goss

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  6. Impressed says:

    WOW!!!
    So my mid 50’s osteo arthritis minor aches and pains are no excuse- this man REALLY inspires me- thank you so much!!

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  7. trister says:

    Terry: Your head is too high on the last length! Ask Paul for advice.

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  8. Gosh, I thought at 72 I was getting to be old both for the demands of my work and for decent quality swimming- but suddenly I am looking for a lot of improvement. Inspiring.

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  9. Grant says:

    Wonderful to see. At 77 I feel young again. There are or have been several post 90 year old swimmers in Masters Swimming in British Columbia. None that I know of are into open water swimming.
    I also admire his willingness to learn the Fly at that age. Good advice about the backstroke.
    Great story.
    Grant

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  10. Gerry Forman says:

    Terry, very impressive! Thanks for sharing this

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  11. Jennifer says:

    Way to go, Paul! I want to be just like you.

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  12. Roger Brindley says:

    Terry. For me this is your best blog yet. Perhaps I am influenced by the fact that I am 66 and only just getting to grips with a half decent TI stroke thanks to UK TI coach Keith Lewis. What a really fantastic video and achievement. This has really inspired me.

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  13. Michael Bryant says:

    Absolutely amazing.
    Evidently age IS just a number!
    I’m 62.
    I want to be Paul when I grow up.

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  14. Kristie says:

    thanks so much for this article! It’s exactly the inspiration I needed today.

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  15. Susan Enery says:

    We have a group of three from church, the St. Mark Swim Club, who open water swim in Corona del Mar Ca. We swim twice a week in water down to 64′ without wetsuits. We swim a buoy line about a half mile or a bit longer. Swimmers are 78, 68 and 52.

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  16. Debra says:

    BRAVO! If he DOES learn butterfly, please post another video for us!

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  17. Mary Sloper says:

    I felt a bit sorry for Dr Paul, because he is being praised even more for his age than his ability!
    I cringe when I remember in my early 50s telling a 65 year old how much I admired her (for swimming so regularly “at her age”)!
    Now, at 62, I’m realising how she must have felt. I hate to be told how good I am “for my age”. I am incidentally working hard on my butterfly.
    Paul’s style is great, but lets not make too much of his age please. I suspect he might feel the same way as I do.

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  18. Steve Leveen says:

    Wow! And I thought I was old when I began TI at age 50. Way to go Terry and thanks for sharing this inspiring story. Your fan, Steve

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  19. Ted says:

    Great story and video. I think the guy in the black suit has the better stroke:) I would like to know what kind of vitamins he takes. And, would you ask Paul if we can license his genome? Marketing his genome would be a very profitable enterprise. Then we could also study his genome and DNA to see if there is such a thing as the TI gene.

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  20. Salvatore says:

    Paul is really inspiring to old and young alike – I think that he is a prefect nominee for http://unleashthepower.challenge.gov/

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  21. june carrin says:

    Thank you for posting this. I would love to have a TI coach. I’ve taken two of your weekend workshops and learned a great deal. I’m 23 yrs younger than Paul and learned to swim begining with Miracle Swimming at 65 and moving on to TI which I love. I’m planning to be swimming at 95. My mother is 101 so I may get there.

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  22. Felicia Dolan says:

    That is a fantastic story and video. I know most people think they can’t swim more than a lap or two at any age. They tell me all the time. I inwardly disagree but outwardly I encourage them to go a bit further in their self image and self empowerment. If nothing else, it is one valuable gift to ourselves.

    I love freestyle and swim at least a mile a day in summer outdoors. I concentrate on style and form, rhythm and stroke. Speed doesn’t concern me. It’s focus, meditation, and that ‘nothing else in the world’ mentor that seizes the moment to live in for me.

    I see Paul Lurie and know he understands all of us are capable of achievement. I don’t mean to be flip when I say all of us can do it. The question to ask is, “Why not?” That is what sets him apart. Kudos, my friend, kudos.

    Thank you for your story, Terry.

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  23. charlene horan says:

    I thought I had trouble progressive in TI because I am old (65). now I know it’s because I’m a klutz. this video is wonderful and inspirational. thanks to both of you for making it

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  24. Ken Holland says:

    An age group champion baby! At half that age, I am SO INSPIRED. As a coach, I now have PROOF when some triathlete tells me they have “issues” and “can’t”…..!! Rock on, Pop – love you man.

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  25. Ben Lawrence says:

    Paul and Terry, You are an inspiration! That’s what we call “living an intentional life”. Keep us posted on Paul’s success :)

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  26. Letty says:

    What an inspirational gentleman. I thought 55 was old to learn to swim, but I guess I am a youngin’ and have no excuse now! Thank you for sharing this. I loved it!

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  27. Mike says:

    I have never been any kind of athlete. I ran a mile once when I was 15 and it nearly killed me.
    But swimming is different. Taking exercise in a horizontal attitude in a state of weightlessness has to be easy – if you do it right.
    So, at the age of 76, I do a weekly session of 80 lengths in the pool, or a similar distance in the sea when our Northern European climate allows. I am not fast like some of the younger swimmers, but distance isn’t a problem.
    I must put in a word for the Drownproofing. Learning to stay afloat by correct breathing control is a basic skill for swimming and great for confidence, as well as being a potential life-saver if things go wrong. It was an important turning point in my swimming life.

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  28. […] Paul Lurie showed up at Chez Laughlin out of the blue one day last summer. He’d learned we teach TI there in an Endless Pool. When my daughter Betsy answered the door, Paul’s first question was “Can you teach me butterfly?  […]

  29. alex cohen says:

    Great blog Terry!, we Alex & Amnon (known as “”the juniors”) are proud to be the elder TI swimmers in in Israel both architects 74 years old, started TI 3 years ago, swimming regularly in the sea, between 6-10 k m each week throughot the year, taking part in all the local competitions in 5km distances, last November we swam 10 km in the Red Sea TI event, all acheived thanks to our great coach gadi Katz who guides and teaches us through…

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  30. […] But, even so, I remain even more impressed by the extraordinary grace of 95 year old Paul Lurie. […]

  31. Zabeth says:

    You are both my heros! I hope to swim until I expire at 125+!

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  32. Sue Koh says:

    I am a Singaporean active lady, and swim for excercise .
    When I was 50 years old, I make a pact to swim my birthday laps every year being October
    Last year I turn 64, there fore I swam 64 laps. ( 50 meters ) in 1 hr 50 mins.

    This year I will be swimming my 65 laps in October.

    Miss sue Koh

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