A fierce competitor his whole life, when Pete ran into health issues in his 80s, he showed that lifelong fitness is its own reward. Just days after competing in a swim meet, he experienced trouble breathing and went to his doctor, where he learned he had a leaking aortal valve and needed emergency surgery. “I think that probably the general cardiovascular strength of my heart kept the leak from overwhelming me in the competition,” he says. Pete’s membership of the Masters swim team at YWCA St. Paul’s Health & Fitness Center helped him to recover from surgery and get back to the breaking records in the pool.
Beth Peterson, Masters Swim Team Coach: [Speaking off screen, camera showing Pete swimming] He’s very determined in the water he pushes himself hard. Pete is extremely— extremely determined, focused, calculated, well researched he knows his competition.
Pete: I was looking for a place to swim close to home and I lived very close. So I came here and I went to one of the best practices and it was so obvious that this was a good place to swim that never I stopped coming.
Lindy Vincent, Director of YW’s Health & Fitness Center: What makes our health and fitness center unique is that we are a community. Everyone knows your name, it’s kind of like Cheers. I joke and say like Cheers you walk in the door and everyone’s like “Hey Lindy”, “Hey Joe”. It’s really super-friendly. Members have been members for 10, 15, 20 years…long-term members. And there’s a lot of ownership, a lot of pride in the facility and in the community, and I think people are super supportive of one another.
Pete: When I got to the age which was the 75th birthday, when all of a sudden I was not just competitive against, you know, in races but actually against state records. That was real motivation for me to get out and work hard to try to get as many as I could.
Beth: Other swimmers are determined and other people have setbacks but he’s just had a bunch of setbacks in the last couple of years and he keeps bouncing back.
Pete: Summer of 2017 was a hard summer for us. My wife got very ill, spent six weeks in the hospital with Guillain-Barré disease. So I swam and visited her and that was pretty much what I did for the first six weeks of the summer. So she got out and two or three weeks later the national meet came up. I—I worked very hard in the meet and got some very good times. And came out at the end, at the end I was much more tired than I felt I usually am at the three-day meet. In one afternoon, I couldn’t get my breath and so I went down to the uh to the, I made ab appointment with my doctor. I was just about to walk out of her office when a technician ran in, woman who work who runs the echocardiogram, and told me that I had a completely leaking aortal well, that I had about 15 percent retention in my heart. And, my doc said you have to go immediately in the emergency room.
Lindy: I think health is critical for every human being. If you don’t have your health, you really don’t have anything. I mean you can have all the resources in the world, you can have all the money in the world but you don’t take care of yourself and you’re not healthy, mentally, physically, emotionally—you’re broke.
Pete: I think that probably the cardiovascular strength generally of my heart kept it from, kept this leak from—uh, from overwhelming me in that competition.