John Stafford Claims USMS Title in Comeback After Heart Attack, With Son Matthew Stafford Counting

Photo Courtesy: USMS

John Stafford returned to the sport of swimming only to suffer a minor heart attack in 2021.

But he stuck with it.

Two years later, his a USMS national champion.

Stafford won the national championship in the 1000 freestyle on the first day of the USMS Spring Nationals and then dropped 17 seconds in the 500 freestyle on the second day.

“It felt pretty good,” Stafford told USMS. “Probably about halfway through, I could tell that I was going faster than I’ve ever been before. I just tried to stay long and strong and get through it. I noticed the gentleman that I was swimming next to, probably at about the halfway point, I knew we were in a race. It was a lot of fun. At the end, he goes, ‘Good race,’ and I did the same thing. It’s what Masters is all about.

“I decided I was going to go with a program where I had somebody on deck in case I needed it,” says Stafford, 75, who joined Jim Montgomery Masters Swim in Dallas. “And I love [Coach Jim Montgomery]. His program is great. Everybody is there for workouts and camaraderie, and he’s terrific. I just love it again.”

It was just his fourth meet in 45 years.

Counting for him in the 500 free was Matthew Stafford, the NFL quarterback of the Rams.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to come watch him do his thing,” Matthew Stafford says. “I obviously haven’t gotten the chance to do it. He was obviously at a million of my games growing up, so I’m happy to be here just watching him do his thing.”

John Stafford was a graduate assistant coach at the University of Georgia—where one of his first swimmers was Jack Bauerle, who went on to coach Georgia and Team USA—and was the head men’s coach at Florida State before leaving coaching in 1982.

Now, he is enjoying the second wave of his career.

“I enjoy watching the 85- to 90-year-olds,” John Stafford s]aid. “I love the Masters concept. There’s 2,500 swimmers here … they’re in the sport, they’re doing great things, and I love it. I just love what this program is all about.”


More Masters Coverage

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x