Pan-American Masters draws swimmers of all ages to Sarasota

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SARASOTA – Normally June is one of the slowest times of the year for the tourist industry on the Suncoast, but not this year. The Pan-American Master Championship is in town, and this town is jumping.

This is the first time the Pan American Masters Championship has been held in this country. And Sarasota is thrilled to be the host.

And not only do the participants spend a lot of money while they're here, but they also bring an international spirit of goodwill and cooperation.

Competing in the games are athletes from the Americas, from Canada to South America. But Rod Butcher, executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming says despite their differences, these swimmers come together as a family. "This is the first time Sarasota... 23 from Europe."

And for these games, they come together as a family, bonded by their love of swimming. "We are all a family bonded by water, and that's the impact of 800 athletes here; they're investing in our community and they're finding out what Sarasota stands for."

The youngest swimmers are 18 years old -- the oldest are 97.

Jeanne Hackett is 70 years old, and she's just getting started. She hopes for much greater successes ahead. "I’m actually a pretty new swimmer; I started swimming at 67. My progress has been quick. I found my niche and I absolutely love it."

95-year-old Nancy Dodson has some advice to the rest of us. "Just keep your diet and exercise. I wish I could walk as fast as I can swim."

And she's not done yet. "I'm going to Y Nationals next year in the spring."

Her 60-year-old son is also competing and he's really proud of his mom. "She’s the star of the show and she's learned that after all these years, don't you think?"

He says his mom has become a crowd favorite and the stands go wild when she appears.

And you still have time to get down there and watch. Pool events continue through Wednesday at Selby Aquatic Center (8301 Potter Park Drive, behind Sarasota Square Mall). The series wraps up Thursday with open water events on Siesta Key.

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