Getting better with age

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Senior swimmer wins six events at Beaufort games

By Jane Alford

Sun City Carolina Lakes swimmer Fred Ruppenthal is just getting better with age.

The 78-year-old won six gold medals in the Beaufort County Senior Games in Bluffton on Nov. 1, 2011, two of them in events he doesn’t usually swim in.

“They are beautiful medals, with a torch on the front,” he said.
Ruppenthal, who has dominated the state’s senior swimming scene since he moved here in 2007, won four freestyle events and two backstroke events.

Here are his results:
- 25-yard freestyle, 17:30 seconds
- 50-yard freestyle, 38:06 seconds
- 100-yard freestyle, 1 minute, 33 seconds
- 200-yard freestyle, 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Ruppenthal didn’t have his times for the 25-yard backstroke and 50-yard backstroke, two events he doesn’t usually swim in.
Ruppenthal said his wife, Joyce, who serves as his coach, signed him up to swim in the backstroke because competitors could swim in six events and they didn’t offer a 500-yard freestyle.

“That’s my specialty (the 500 freestyle); I’m a long-distance swimmer,” Ruppenthal said. So he swam the backstroke events “just to loosen up.”

“My nerves went all to pieces in the 25 (freestyle),” Ruppenthal said, even though his time was better than ever. “My best time at home was 18 seconds.”

When the second-place swimmer, who clocked in at 18 seconds, congratulated him for swimming such a good race, Ruppenthal said he should be the one saying thanks for pushing him to swim faster.

In the 200, which is eight lengths of the pool, “when I finished the seventh length, my wife yelled ‘go,’ so I did,” Ruppenthal said. He swam it in 3:38, which set a record.

“They ran a good meet and I met a lot of old friends,” Ruppenthal said. Most of the competitors were from Sun City Hilton Head, which is actually in Bluffton.

Ruppenthal said he hasn’t been to the national senior games yet, although he qualified to go to nationals in Houston last year and in San Diego before that. He said he couldn’t justify spending all that money just to go swim.

“I have four grandkids here and I could spend that on them,” he said.
Ruppenthal has a granddaughter who enjoys swimming and plays water polo. She can already best her grandfather, swimming the 500 in 6:22, compared to his 8:30.