Most women cherish closet space — more room for clothes. Neighborhood resident Georgia Goggin loves hers for a different reason — more room to hang medals. In fact, the world-class U.S. Masters swimmer has 500 or so medals, labeled and ordered, dangling from hangers. The only thing that rivals Goggin’s love of winning has been teaching neighborhood kids how to swim, something she has done for the past 40 years. This year, she plans to retire from teaching and concentrate on competition.
How did you get into swimming?
I was in synchronized swimming as a student at OU, but I didn’t begin swimming competitively until I was 65 years old. [World record-holding U.S. Masters swimmer] Graham Johnson is a friend of the family. He got me into this. My husband [John Goggin] is also a competitive track and field athlete [some of those medals in the closet belong to him]. When John would go to track and field meets, I would enter everything. I’ve done the javelin and shot put and I learned how to do a high jump on a bed in a Motel 6. I’ve always liked to compete, and swimming is what I most love — just getting into the water boosts my confidence and my mood. I can be feeling down, I get in the water, and I’m great again.
Tell us about one of your proudest competition moments?
Swimming the open-water mile at Yosemite National Park. I didn’t know if I could swim a mile. At one point, I couldn’t see anyone else and had to ask the course guides which way to go. But I finished, and it felt pretty good. Also good, I was inducted into the U.S. Masters Hall of Fame, and I received All American during the 2007 season, meaning I was the fastest in the world in an event in the 75-79 age group.
You’ve been teaching swim lessons in your back yard for many years; why have you decided to quit?
I’ve been saying for several years that I was going to quit and just couldn’t. I decided I needed to set a date and stick with it. I will miss it. I had students who years later brought their children back for lessons. I loved being able to be creative with the kids, and I always taught classes rather than private lessons so they can learn from each other. It’s easier for a 6-year-old to see a 2-year-old under water and say, ‘Hey, I can do that,’ than for me to get them to go under – instead of telling them to touch the bottom, we might have a tea party at the bottom of the pool. Teaching has been so rewarding, and I know it is going to be very hard to let it go.
These regional, national and world-level competitions require a lot of travel. What’s that like for you?
Graham talked me into going to New Zealand the first time I qualified for an international competition. Before that, I would never have imagined traveling to all these places. I’ve been to California, Florida, Australia and met people from all over the world — Russia, Japan, Argentina, Ireland, even Kazakhstan. I usually trade pins or hats or something with people from around the world to remember them by.