Sun City Center swimmer Ted Riley’s favorite stroke is the “freestyle crawl,” but don’t be fooled by the name: there’s nothing slow about it.
“Riley blows everyone else out of the water when he’s swimming laps,” said friend and fellow swimmer, Bob Long. “It’s as if the swimmers in the other lanes are standing still.”
A resident of Sun City Center, Riley can be seen swimming laps daily at the SCC Aquatics Center as he trains to compete in the Florida Senior Games, a multi-sport event program for adults 50 and over. The series draws top senior athletes to competitive events all over Florida, culminating in the FSG finale, to be held in Clearwater, Dec. 5-13.
A Florida resident since 1980, Riley, 65, swims a mile each day and lifts weights three times a week. His wife Elaine, a former scuba diver, can often be seen swimming alongside him.
“The first time I saw Ted, I could tell he was a special swimmer, zipping back and forth,” said Long, who took up swimming last May and has gone from swimming four laps a day to 72 laps, equaling a mile. Long kept a swim diary each day, documenting his progress. “It’s amazing how quickly you can advance in this sport,” he said. “The first time out, I could only do a few laps and was hanging on the side of the pool, exhausted. Now look at me.”
“Swimming keeps you in good shape physically and keeps you relaxed and attuned mentally,” said Riley. “I’ve been a swimmer all my life.”
Starting out as a kid swimming at the YMCA, Riley continued competing throughout high school and into his college years, swimming on an intramural team at Ball State University in Indiana. He carried his passion for swimming into his military career at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, playing water polo and swimming against other military teams. Later, he joined the U.S. Marine Reserve Corps unit in Tampa and kept swimming on teams to stay involved in the sport.
“Ted is in extraordinary shape,” said Long, yet despite his athletic accomplishments, “he is a very quiet, humble and unassuming man, a real Southern gentleman.”
Competing most recently in the Pensacola Senior Games held last month, Riley earned first-place medals in the 200-yard Freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard backstroke, and 100-yard freestyle. His average time for the 100-yard freestyle — his best stroke — was 1 minute, 30 seconds, a record he strives to keep as he travels to other Senior Games to be held in upcoming months. His next competition will be in Jacksonville Oct. 9-10.
“As soon as he told me about the Senior Games, I said ‘You’re going to be a winner,’” said Long, “and I was right.”
The Florida Senior Games are based on an Olympic-style format, and are sponsored by the Florida Sports Foundation. Seniors, age 50 and over, are invited to compete in a variety of sports, including archery, bag toss, basketball, billiards, bowling, croquet, cycling, fencing, golf, horseshoes, pickleball, powerlifting, power walk, racquetball, shuffleboard, table tennis, tennis, track and field and volleyball.
Every non-Olympic year, the National Senior Games Association hosts the National Senior Games for those who qualify at the state level. The National Senior Games is a 19-sport event, the largest multi-sport championship in the world for senior athletes. The 2016 National Senior Games will host 12,000 senior athletes in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minn., July 3-16, 2016.