Cheryl Murray Has Turned to Masters Swimming For Enjoyment and Competition

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Cheryl Murray Has Turned to Masters Swimming For Enjoyment and Competition

Despite age, some people still have the desire to get back in the pool, whether it be to keep fit or make friends. Some do it to compete, and some do it win.

Cheryl Murray, 69, is retired U.S. Navy. In 2017, she traveled to Budapest for the FINA World Masters Championship. By the end of the championships, Murray had posted several strong performances, including winning a gold in the 800m freestyle, and setting a competition record for the 65-69 division.

Murray always had a passion for swimming growing up. She competed in Junior AAU and high-school swimming, before enrolling in the University of Florida in 1970. Her swimming career suffered a hiatus in Gainesville, since there was no swimming team at the time, which limited Murray’s ability to compete.

Following graduation, Murray enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Murray went on to serve in the Navy for 20 years. Over the course of her Navy career, she was able to further her swimming career by competing in base-sponsored events. One of Murray’s highlights in the Navy was the places she was stationed, enabling her to swim in some incredible locations.

“My first duty station was Puerto Rico… we swam all the time,” Murray said. “My next duty station was Italy, Sicily, and that water was even better.”

After retiring from the Navy, Murray moved to swimming in the Masters circuit. Masters swimming is open to anyone age 18 and up, though most international events require a minimum age of 25 to compete. While there are competitive events, many swimmers do Masters for fitness purposes or for friendships.

For Murray, the opportunity to continue racing was a joy.

“I just never stopped (competing),” Murray said. Everywhere I’ve moved, I’ve swum with Masters.”

Murray’s first international Masters competition was the FINA World Masters Championship in 2012 in Riccione, Italy. The experience of competing internationally was something that Murray loved. She was able to visit places including Montreal and Hungary, where she won the 800 freestyle. One thing that came in handy for Murray was her ability with languages. She emphasized this in a column she wrote.

“It was wonderful to meet swimmers from all over the world and to watch the other water sports as well,” Murray said. “While English is the lingua franca of the Worlds competition, there are always many opportunities to put one’s language skills to use. As I had majored in German and minored in French and having learned Spanish and Italian at my duty stations, I had a great time talking to other competitors from all over the world.”

The community of Masters swimming is something Murray hammered home. She said that there is nothing else like it, noting that it has helped her develop many long-lasting friendships, from the local to international level.

Like many other swimmers, COVID-19 grounded Masters swimming competitions to a halt. Murray admitted that it was challenging to be out of the water for around three months. As restrictions eased, Murray was able to get back into the pool, albeit while having to deal with time restrictions and reservation policies.

Still, Murray is continuing to keep fit so that she can compete in the future. She plans on competing in an open-water event in Oregon this Summer and she wants to attend more FINA World Masters Championships.

Murray noted that very few swimmers will ever reach the heights of the Olympics, but she encourages every person to give Masters swimming a look. She mentioned that there is nothing else like Masters swimming, and that there is a whole world of opportunity out there waiting for many athletes.