Despite medical setbacks, Swain still swimming like a fish

Chris Swain is a former synchronized swimmer.
Chris Swain is a former synchronized swimmer.
Clay Schuldt/The Caledonia Argus

By Clay Schuldt
Special to the Caledonia Argus


Over the past year the Caledonia community has rallied to raise money to make improvements for the town’s pool. The pool has received numerous donations through fundraisers.

One particular Caledonia resident and passionate swimmer, Chris Swain, managed to raise $2,380 at last year’s pool fundraising event.  How did Swain manage to raise this much money?  She did it by treading water for over two hours.

As part of last year’s pool fundraiser, pledges received donations for every five minutes they could successfully tread water. Swain managed to tread water for two hours and ten minutes.

“I could have gone longer, but they made us stop,” Swain said.

The ability to tread water for over two hours is no easy task, but it’s even more impressive considering Swain is old enough to collect social security, has undergone brain surgery and has a pacemaker.

Of course, these are all attributes Swain brings out when seeking donations. Meanwhile, Swain neglects to inform donators that she was once a synchronized swimmer in days at Winthrop College in South Carolina.

Swain has always been an avid swimmer having grown up on the east coast. Before college Swain’s swimming abilities were limited to being able to keep her head above water.  “I had been in water all my life, but I really didn’t know swimming.”

One of the more challenging aspects for Swain was learning to swim in fresh water. As most of her early experiences involved swimming in the ocean, which due to salt content, makes it easier to float. Swain tells a story about her first attempt to swim in fresh water at camp.

“They asked me if I could swim. ‘I said of course.’  I jumped in and went straight to the bottom.”

Once on the Winthrop Synchronized Swim Team she was able to learn the proper technique and become the strong swimmer she is today. As a strange coincidence Swain’s College synchronized swimming team was called The Dolphins, which is appropriate as she is currently a member of a different group of swimmers that go by the same name.

As a member of Caledonia’s Dolphin swimming group she attends a water aerobics class at the pool every morning.

As for her swimming endurance, Swain explained that the secret to treading water long term is “knowing how to relax your muscles and stay afloat without too much movement. You have to keep moving and be upright, but you have to be able to relax your muscles so they will float.”

Swain is modest about her achievement, explaining at last year’s event five individuals managed to tread water past the two-hour mark. She  admitted treading water for two hours became dull after awhile without a little conversation.  “It’s not hard to tread water; it’s just being bored,” Swain joked.

Swain also attended the University of Pennsylvania for physical therapy. As a graduate with a degree in physical therapy, Swain is a strong supporter of swimming as a way to stay healthy, and as a result is one of the strongest supporters of the pool. “I just feel it’s so important to the kids and the community. It’s just as important to the adults as it is the kids.  I just think it is one the most worthwhile things we can do.  It’s an individual lifelong sport.”

In addition, Swain said, “Swimming is cheap.”

Other sports require a lot of equipment, but for swimming all you really need is a season pass to the pool.

The water treading pledge drive was part of this year’s fundraiser as well, and Swain once again agreed to participate. However, Swain did not seek as many donations, as she feels she called in all her favors the last time around saying, “they’ve already been taken once, they aren’t going to fall for it again.”

Swain continues to support the pool as she sees it a vital part of Caledonia. “I just feel this is so important to the community,” said Swain, asking “Why live in a community that cannot support a pool?”

Evidently, the Caledonia community agrees with Swain as the response from other members of the community has been great.  At last year’s fundraising event the combined pledges managed to raise $12,000 for the pool.