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100-Year-Old Japanese Woman Sets Swimming Record

Mieko Nagaoka celebrates her swimming record at a masters meet. (Japan Masters Swimming Association / AFP / Getty Images)

Mieko Nagaoka celebrates her swimming record at a masters meet. (Japan Masters Swimming Association / AFP / Getty Images)

As we age, we often take longer to recover from injuries. That is, for some people.

After a Japanese woman suffered a knee injury, she became a competitive swimmer – at age 88.

Nearing the age of 101 has not slowed down one Japanese woman. In fact, in the swimming pool -- she is only getting faster.

Recently, a 100-year-old Japanese woman became the world's first centenarian to complete a 1,500-meter freestyle swimming competition in a 25-meter pool.

Her name is Mieko Nagaoka. Ms. Nagaoka set a world record for her age group at a recent Japan Masters Swimming Association event in the western city of Matsuyama. She swam the race in 1 hour, 15 minutes and 54 seconds.

By comparison, the overall female world record holder completed the same distance in just under 15 and a half minutes. But that swimmer, Katie Ledecky, is only 17 years old.

And Ms. Nagaoka was not competing against her. In fact, Ms. Nagaoka was the only competitor in the 100-104 year old category. Her race was not a race of speed but of endurance, or not giving up.

Many times a champion

Breaking swimming records is nothing new to Ms. Nagaoka. So far she has broken 25 records. But she began competing when she was much younger – at 88.

Ms. Nagaoka suffered a knee injury in her 80s, so she began swimming to help her body recover. Since her first international swimming competition, she hasn’t looked back, except maybe to see if her competition is catching up.

In 2002, at a masters swim meet in New Zealand, Ms. Nagaoka took the bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke. In 2004, she won three silver medals at an Italian swim meet.

Masters swimming is a special class of competitive swimming to promote health and friendship among participants. Swimmers compete within age groups of five years.

Ms. Nagaoka says she is a serious swimmer and a serious competitor. An article from the Reuters news service quotes her profile on the international swimming website FINA, saying Ms. Nagaoka trains four times a week for two hours at a time.

Does Japan have a secret?

Japan has a large number of people who live beyond 100 years old.

Until she passed away this month, the oldest person in the world was also from Japan. Misao Okawa was born in 1898. She said her secrets for longevity, or long life, were good genes, regular sleep, sushi and exercise.

I’m Anna Matteo.


Words in This Story

centenariann. a person who is 100 years old or older

endurance n. the ability to do something difficult for a long time

freestyle adj. a competition (such as a swimming race) in which the competitors are allowed to use different styles or methods

category n. a group of people or things that are similar in some way

backstroke n. a way of swimming in which a person floats in the water facing upward while kicking the legs and rotating the arms; also : a race in which the swimmers do the backstroke

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