If Riverdale's "aquawoman," Anne Dunivin, had her way, everyone would be doing more swimming, and less walking.
Dunivin, 93, swims twice a week, for 45 minutes at a time. She considers her time in the pool to be her "work." Everytime she gets in the water, it is to train for a competition.
"You oughta be swimming, unless your walking," Dunivin said. "It's better than walking, actually, because when you take a stroke, you're using your arms, your neck, your whole upper body and your legs."
Dunivin, who traditionally has competed only in senior games, was golden at the U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course Yards Championships, a national competition for people ranging from ages 18, to 99, held a month ago at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Aquatic Center in Atlanta.
Dunivin earned her gold medal in the 90-94 age category for the 1,000 yards event, on May 20. Her time was 49 minutes, and 33.56 seconds. She was actually the only person competing in the event, but she said she still feels it was a big win, because of her age, and the fact that she was able to swim the equivalent of just over half a mile.
"That was the first time I had ever swam that far," Dunivin said. "To be 93 years old, and to swim the farthest you've ever swam is a good feeling. It makes being 93 years old — it makes it great."
The win was bittersweet, however, as Dunivin left the meet as soon as she finished swimming — before she even received her medal — so she could get to Emory University Hospital-Midtown to see her son, Jim, 63, who was dying from throat cancer. He died that evening.
"In the morning, I was all enthusiastic, because I had just finished this event, and from there I went to the hospital to see Jim, and as soon as I saw him, I knew he was not doing well, and I had better stay at his bedside," Dunivin said. She added that after he died, she pulled out of several other events at the U.S. Master's Swimming competition.
But, the local "aquawoman" is back in training, preparing for the Georgia Golden Olympics, Sept. 22-25, in Warner Robins. If she wins at the state meet, she will qualify for the 2011 National Senior Games, scheduled for next June, in Houston, Texas.
Dunivin is examining her weak areas, to see where she can get better. Her weak spot, she said, is her legs right now. "My legs are not working as well as they should be," she said. "My arms are doing all the work, and my legs are just along for the ride."
She said she is doing an exercise, in which she holds onto the edge of the pool, and kicks her legs in the water, to improve her leg strength. She pointed out that her ability to swim 1,000 yards at the U.S. Master's Swimming competition is evidence that endurance is not a problem.
She said it is easy to have the endurance, to at least do well in a long-distance swimming race, as long as the swimmer controls breathing, and energy expenditures during the race.
"You know you're going to be swimming for a while, so you don't start out really fast," she said. "You know there are times when you have to slow down to catch your breath, and then you can speed up again."
And what is one time a swimmer definitely needs to have the energy to go fast in a race? The end of it, according to Dunivin. "You always start swimming faster as you get close," she said. "That's the end you've been waiting for."