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Craig Walker is a dedicated and decorated 80 year old Masters Swimmer from Redlands, California who is preparing for the upcoming USA Masters Games in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  After the 2020 Games were postponed to the summer of 2021 due to COVID-19, he did not let the delay stop him from staying in shape and “feeling young.” In fact, he said that even in our present health crisis, “…we need hope. We will survive this crisis…and hope will carry us through.”

He uses his past experiences to help him persevere through difficult challenges and remain hopeful during these unprecedented times. With that, he has not stopped training for the USA Masters Games. Although the swimming pools are closed in California, he is still able to work on his swimming forms. He has been traveling to Flagstaff, Arizona one week a month to have access to open pools due to his daughter living there. When he is back at home in California, he has been working out at home multiple times a day to stay in shape.

Craig’s swimming journey did not start like most as he did not grow up swimming in the pools or competing in high school. He spent most of his time volunteering, working, and riding his bicycle. Not only has he ridden his bike across America several times, but he has also been to Australia 28 times to ride his bike or swim. Although he was an avid biker, a new swimmer was born was when he was told the devastating news of a cancer diagnosis that caused him to hit the brakes on his riding career. Thus, a new swimmer was born was ten short years ago at the age of 70. Craig celebrated his recovery from cancer with riding his bicycle from Los Angeles to Boston one last time at the age of 65. He completed the journey over a course of two months while riding an average 76 miles a day about six days a week.

After biking ended, Craig started swimming a quick of laps in the pool every day and working to gain strength in the pool. After only having ten years of swimming under his belt, Mr. Walker soon became one of the most decorated swimmers while representing Moreno Valley Aquatics (MVAQ) in California. He started to compete on his local master’s team and shortly after started to compete in local meets in California. He swam freestyle in the beginning of his career, and later introduced backstroke and butterfly. His favorite event to swim is the 200 butterfly as it is the hardest for him personally. “I discovered that I love to compete, plus the fellowship with other swimmers is so enjoyable.” said Walker.

He has been named Top Ten in America in the 200 Butterfly for his age group in 2019, All-American by the National Congress of State Games (NCSG) in 2019, inducted into the Missouri Sport Hall of Fame in 2019 for swimming at Missouri State Championship, California State Banner Bearer at the State Games of America in 2019, named Athlete of the Month by Texas Senior Olympics four years in a row, USA Masters Games Torch Runner in 2017, as well being named California State Champion by the California State Games five times and many more honors.

Craig has competed in several state games across the country as well as a few international games. In the past 3 years, he has earned 22 gold medals, 11 silver medals and 1 bronze medal. He currently has competed in the Senior Olympics in 42 states earning numerous medals. He emphasized that “for a few wonderful hours [of competing in Senior Games], I forget that I am an old man with a variety of aches, pains and medical conditions.”

He would not be where he is today without the guidance from his swim coach. “I owe much of this to Jason Bradbury, world-class swim coach, whose keen understanding of technique and mechanics combined with his unflagging interest in each individual swimmer, continues to help and inspire swimmers of all ages” said Walker.

When Craig was not riding his bike or swimming numerous laps in the pool, he was fighting fires as a volunteer firefighter for 58 years and serving as a pastor. He is now retired and enjoys the luxuries of endless swimming.

Now at 80, swimming has introduced a whole new love for competition. He has set on a new journey of wanting to participate in a swimming meet in every state. He has currently competed in 42 states and is looking forward to adding Michigan to the list this summer at the 2020 USA Masters Games. He loves to compete in the USA Masters Games because of the great competition and an overall well-run meet. At the age of 80 years old, he “feels lucky to be able to [continue] participate and look forward to being [at the USA Masters Games] next year.”

Article courtesy of USA Masters Games – https://www.usamastersgames.com/

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