June Krauser: The ‘mother of Masters swimming' who broke records well into her 70s

She oversaw the growth of the sport winning titles as a teenager and a pensioner

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The Independent Online

June Krauser was a dominant figure in the development of Masters Swimming and the Special Olympics, as well as in the establishment of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). She also set a remarkable 154 Masters records and 66 Fina (Fédération Internationale de Natation) Masters world records in the pool after coming out of retirement.

Known globally as the “mother of Masters swimming”, Krauser won national titles as a teenager and as a pensioner, her last being the 400m individual medley in February 2002, aged 76. In 1999 Krauser had confessed that competing was “more interesting than playing golf with the old ladies.”

As John Spannuth, CEO of the US Water Fitness Association, explained, “June literally wrote the book when it came to competitive swimming for adults and for the Special Olympics, doing more to kick-start those two programmes than anyone will ever know.”

The first Masters competition – promoting fitness, friendship, understanding and competition through its five disciplines, and welcoming athletes aged 25 to 100 and above – was first held in 1970, with just 40 formerly “elite” swimmers. In July 2014 in Montreal, Canada, at the 15th Fina World Masters Aquatics Championships, there were over 15,000 swimmers, divers, water polo players and synchronised swimmers competing from all over the world.

Born in Indianapolis in 1926, June Fogle was the second daughter of Robert and Florence. Aged four, June and her sister, Cynthia, learned to swim in Lake Michigan. At 16 she won a national championship in the 200m breaststroke and, with her sister, was a member of three Women’s AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Senior National Championship teams, representing the Indianapolis Riviera Swim Club (1941-43). They were also in line to compete in the 1944 Olympic Games – until they were cancelled because of the Second World War. After graduating with a degree in home economics from Purdue University, June retired from swimming to concentrate on raising a family with her husband, Jack Krauser.

In 1955 the family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Krauser began officiating at local competitions. According to her daughter, “Mom didn’t swim when we were children. She’d just lounge by the pool.”

Krauser got involved on the administrative side of swimming and helped establish the Florida Gold Coast Swimming Committee and served for a number of years as secretary/treasurer. In 1964, she was named as a member of the US Olympic Women’s Swim Committee and in 1968 took on the unpopular but necessary role of reorganising and enforcing the rulebook as the swimming rules chairman. She also served as manager on six international AAU trips.

In 1970, US Navy physician Ransom Arthur persuaded John Spannuth to organise a national age-group championship competition for older swimmers, to promote health and fitness for life. Spannuth immediately turned to Krauser to write the rules and organise the programme.

Krauser was the first and only rules chairman for US Masters Swimming and the founder and editor of the first national newsletter, Swim Master, which she printed for the next 20 years.

A few years later, when Spannuth moved over to work for Sergeant Schriver at the Special Olympics, founded in 1968, he again turned to Krauser to write the rules for that organisation. Internationally, she served on the Fina Masters Swimming Technical Committee from 1988-2004.

Krauser did not compete in the first Masters, explaining that she “needed to work out for a year before she would attend so as not to embarrass herself.” In preparation to regain her elite form, she swam two-and-a-half miles a day and, in 1972, aged 46, she returned to competitive swimming, setting records in the 45-49 age group in the 200m and 500m freestyle, the 100m and 200m breaststroke and the 50m butterfly. Krauser continued to race for the next four decades and never missed a USMS national competition from 1972-2006. She also competed in every Fina Masters World Championship from its inception in 1986 to 2006, setting records in all disciplines except backstroke. At the same time, she took charge of the family’s steel-tubing business after her husband suffered a series of strokes in 1971.

In 2000, Krauser had perhaps her finest year as a swimmer, setting 13 world records in the 70-74 age group. The following year, when she competed in the 75-79 group, she accomplished perhaps her most impressive feat, breaking eight minutes in the 400m and four minutes in the 200m individual medley; prior to that, no swimmer her age had ever broken four minutes in the 200m.

She was inducted into the ISHOF as a Contributor in 1994 and into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame as a Swimmer in 2003. In 2007 she was inducted into the Broward County (Florida) Sports Hall of Fame.

Krauser died of complications of Parkinson’s disease, aged 88; she is survived by her son and daughter.

June Krauser, swimmer, administrator, rule-maker: born Indianapolis, USA 13 June 1926; married Jack (died 2000), two children, Janice and Larry; died Fort Lauderdale, Florida 2 August 2014.