On the coldest winter days, when the steam was hanging above the lap pool at Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center, Vanda Nohinek made herself go swimming.
Getting in the water was the easy part, Nohinek said. Getting out was the struggle, but she wanted to be competitive at the 2004 YMCA Masters Nationals.
Nohinek, 72, knew the only way she would be physically prepared to swim nearly 10 events at the April meet was to stick with a training schedule that began shortly after Christmas.
Her discipline paid off. Not only did Nohinek complete her seven individual races and additional relays, she was competitive, returning to Steamboat Springs this week with a handful of medals from nationals.
Competing in the 70-74 division, Nohinek captured second place in the 1000-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle and the 50-yard backstroke at the April 15 through 18 YMCA Masters Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
She brought home additional medals in several other events, including a sixth-place medal in the 65-plus 200-medley relay. One of her teammates in the mixed event was a 91-year-old man.
"I've been a swimmer all my life," Nohinek said. "Swimming is kind of like golf. You can do it all your life. It's great aerobic exercise."
Nohinek learned to ski in Steamboat in 1991 and moved here permanently in 2002 after her husband's death. She competed in the YMCA Masters Nationals two years ago and had no plans to go back. Now, she is looking forward to next year's competition in Indianapolis.
Swimming is a sport Nohinek has passed down to her seven children -- four daughters and three sons -- though not all took up the sport. Two of her daughters joined her in Fort Lauderdale; one is a swimming coach in Maryland.
"I'm hoping all my daughters come next year, and we can have a family relay," Nohinek said.
The YMCA Masters Nationals is open to YMCA members 19 and older. Competitors can swim up to eight individual events and four relays.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.