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?