Mieko Nagaoka (JPN)
Honor Masters Swimmer (2015)
INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS: World Points – 1171, Pre-1986 Points- 0. Total Points – 1171. Since 1987, she has competed in five age groups (80-84 through 100 – 104); 58 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS.
She may be nearing 101 years old, but Mieko Nagaoka is not slowing down…at least in the pool. In April of this year, Mieko became the first person over 100 years of age to complete a 1500 meter swim in a 25-meter pool. She swam the 1500 in a time of 1:15:54, setting a world record in the process while swimming backstroke the entire way.
Mieko Nagaoka did not even know how to swim until the age of 80. She started going to the pool for knee therapy. At age 82, she began to learn and swim on her own. Mieko also performed in Noh, traditional Japanese dance dramas, so swimming was also an incentive for her to keep in shape for the plays.
At age 100, Mieko is currently Japan’s oldest swimmer and continues to compete in FINA Masters World Championships. She began swimming Masters at age 84. In 2002 at the age 88, she made her first appearance at the Masters World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand where she took the bronze medal in the 50 meter backstroke. She went back for more in 2004, in Riccione, Italy where she won three silver medals in the backstroke events, the 50, 100 and 200.
Nagaoka has achieved national recognition in her home country of Japan, when at age 90, she set a national record in her favorite event, the 800 meter freestyle. Shortly after that success, she decided to really focus on her swimming.
She signed up to take private lessons, and began training with a coach; to try to improve her performances. Her endeavors have certainly paid off. Since age 95, she broke her first Masters World Record in the 50 meter backstroke. Mieko currently holds 24 world records and says she hopes to keep swimming until she is 105…if she lives that long!
Nagaoka swims four times a week, for two hours each day. She says she prefers longer distances because she swims slowly and is able to keep her own pace.
In Mieko’s family, swimming transcends every generation, from her son to grandchildren, and she strongly encourages other swimmers to keep swimming as long as possible.