Fast lane living at 85: Medalist’s ultimate goal is not the podium

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Fast lane living at 85: Medalist’s ultimate goal is not the podium By ARISA INABA/ Staff

Fast lane living at 85: Medalist’s ultimate goal is not the podium

By ARISA INABA/ Staff Writer

July 18, 2024 at 07:00 JST

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Fusae Maruyama, 85, practices four days a week at Saginuma Swimming Club Miyamaedaira in Kawasaki and cross-trains on Tuesdays for domestic and international competitions. (Video by Arisa Inaba)

Photo/IllutrationFusae Maruyama initially began swimming at Saginuma Swimming Club Miyamaedaira in Kawasaki’s Miyamae Ward for physical training after a motorbike accident. (Arisa Inaba)

  • Photo/Illutration

Fusae Maruyama is not your conventional athlete, but neither is wearing makeup to accentuate a cap and goggles. Most 85-year-olds also don’t rock silver nails.

This past February, Maruyama competed at the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Doha, Qatar, where she placed second in backstroke.

She also competed in other events, including the individual medley and butterfly.

Maruyama didn’t start swimming competitively until she was well into adulthood, but she has always been something of a jock.

She said she did not study much during her elementary school days and instead devoted herself to sports.

However, she went on to become a hairdresser after graduating from beauty school.

It was breaking her collarbone in a motorbike accident after turning 40 that got her into the sport. Some of her physical therapy took place at Saginuma Swimming Club Miyamaedaira in Kawasaki’s Miyamae Ward where she lives.

This marked the beginning of her “swimming life.”

Maruyama started out with the doggy paddle, quickly refined her skills and progressed through beginner and intermediate levels to advanced.

After winning first place at a local swim meet, she was hooked.

“I sleep like a dog on the days I swim,” she said with a smile. “I go back to sleep in the morning sometimes.”


Maruyama has lost count of how many medals she’s racked up.

They were originally displayed in her kitchen, but the lack of space meant adding some to her bedroom. Every time she sees the results of her efforts, she feels “how great swimming is.”

It’s not just the feeling of victory, but how accessible the sport is.

She recalls trying to ski and the hurdles bundled with it. “If they lose sight of their companions, skierscan go missing in mountains,” she said. “They have to buy a set of dedicated gear as well.”

In contrast, Maruyama said swimming only requires swimwear, goggles and a cap.

“My feet can touch the pool floor,” she said. “Coaches always stay nearby to eliminate any danger. Anyone can casually start the sport.”

She currently swims four days a week and stretches every day. In a 50-minute class, she covers 1,500 meters.

“Working hard can exhaust me so I sometimes skimp on practice,” said Maruyama, grinning.

She may be mischievous, but the swimmer also has a one-on-one training session to build muscle every Tuesday.

“I am converting my fat into muscle,” said Maruyama while tapping her abs.


Her current goal is to surpass the late senior swimming legend Mieko Nagaoka, who began the sport at 80 and continued until she was 106.

“I must retain my health above all else until I become a centenarian,” said Maruyama. “Exercise, rest and nutrition will be important.”

Her energetic training approach has inspired other members at her pool.

The club touts itself as providing a place for “people between 0 and 100 years old to swim.”

This is not too far from the truth: the 1,870 members range in age from 0 to 90. And 120 swimmers are in their 60s or older.

“I will keep on swimming until I turn 100,” said Maruyama, thrusting her fist forward with a determined smile.


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