Official website of 16th FINA World Masters Championships 2015 in Kazan

Mel Goldstein: Swimming for life is what it’s all about

18.08.2015, 16:07 Interviews
Mel Goldstein, Vice Chairman of the FINA Masters Committee, has taken part in the 50m backstroke event. In his exclusive interview with a reporter of the Kazan 2015 OC's Press Office, he explained why the Masters tournament is more of a festival rather than a competition and what kind of message the federation wants to give to the whole world.

– I would like to start with your swimming race today. What was it like?

– It was 50m Backstroke. It’s been a wonderful experience being here in Kazan. The volunteers, the organisation, everything has been pretty nice, I liked it here.

– How did you start competing in the Masters tournament?

– I started Masters swimming in 1980. And I’ve been involved in the US Masters for 35 years. I’m also the past President of the US Masters Swimming and I’ve stayed with the sport all this time. Masters swimming is an adults’ aquatics fitness programme for those who have chosen aquatics as a means of exercise for a healthier lifestyle.

 – What is your favourite sport?

 – Swimming (laughs).

 – Why?

 – I enjoy swimming. It’s been part of my life since I was in college. I swam when I was in Indiana University in Indianopolis, IN. So I’ve been involved in it since 1950s. 

– Before the Masters tournament you’ve been competing at the Championships, haven’t you?

– I have, not the ones you would call elite actually but I’ve competed.  I’ve also enjoyed being the part of the Masters championships, primarily because of comradeship, friendship and relations that have been developing over the years.

– What attracts more and more people to compete at the Masters tournament? Is it sort of an inspiration for them?

– Yes, an inspiration I think so. I guess for those seasoned athletes it is important that it is an easy sport to participate in, it’s diverse in age and gender. It represents a great programme, a great sport for everybody not just a small group. 

– What is your opinion about the fact that the main event and the World Masters Championships are held at the same time?

– It has been an absolutely wonderful experience having the elite and then having the Masters right after that. This is the first time it has ever been done. And it’s been a tremendous success. Thanks to the organisation of the Kazan Organising Committee, all the volunteers and all the people that made this possible. We will have hard time duplicating  in the future what you’ve done here in Kazan. 

– What about publicity of the World Masters Championships? Is it enough in your opinion?

– Since the sport of swimming is not like your football (soccer) or my football (American football), obviously it would be nice if we get more publicity. People need to understand what the sport is about, that it is not just about the competition, it’s about having a healthier lifestyle, enjoying the people around you.  

– Do you know many Masters athletes? Can you share some stories about them?

– We don’t have enough time to talk about that (laughs). I think that coming together as we do for these World Championships, you renew the old friendships that have been over the years, when you swam with somebody you knew in the university or in college for instance, then thirty years later you are still swimming against the same person. And those are the things that are really great, memories that you obviously will want to keep. 

– What is the future of the World Masters Championships?

– I believe it will do nothing but grow. I think we change the people’s concept of what the Masters really is. I also suppose its future is very bright and the numbers will only increase. More people should be participating than are today. And I would say that in eight-nine years there will be more people involved. The World Championships is kind of like a festival. You are getting everybody together.

– You mean to say that it is more about relationships and communication than about the sport, isn’t it?

– I think that is a very good point. Relationships are quite important.

– At the next edition of the World Masters Championships we are going to have the mixed duets in diving. What do you expect of it? Is it going to copy the programme of the FINA World Championships?

– I think so. I think that what you have been able to do here in Kazan has never been done before and we’ve learned enough a lot and all that will happen is that next Championship will be a little bit better. I don’t think they will be able to duplicate what you’ve been able to accomplish. But I do feel that we will have a great Championship as we go forward because of what we’ve learned here.

– Is it true that the World Masters Championships are not about how many medals a country gets? So what are they about?

– I think that it is not about the competition, it’s not about the battles. I personally participate because I want to improve my time. Yes, the medals are nice but I first of all look at a time. The last time I swam. Did I do better? If I did better, I feel good. Is it as good as what I did when I was in college? No. But I do not expect to do that. Because I’m older. For the Masters athlete it’s trying to improve, trying to slow down the ageing process.

– Are you going to perform further as an athlete at the Masters Championships?

– Yes, I’ve been doing it for 35 years. Sometimes it’s very difficult in the position that I’m in, I mean the administrating side, to get involved with the things that are in here, like ‘Ok, now it’s time to swim’. So I don’t have time to really think about it. So yeah, it is difficult. But I will continue to swim.

– In your opinion, why should young athletes choose swimming?

– I think that young sportsmanship should definitely participate in swimming because they can carry on their careers and they can enjoy a healthier lifestyle. That’s what we are trying to develop and that’s the mindset that we have to change. There is swimming beyond. Once you no longer become an elite, and you either have got a family or you’re going to work, whatever, now is the time to want to do something that gives you a healthier lifestyle.  And swimming will do that, and you can enjoy it. You don’t have to do it as much as you used to do before. It’s a just a better sport. It is more fun!
What can you say about those people who want to make their first steps in Masters. Is there an age when it is too late to start doing sports?
No, I don’t think so. I think we have many people that have been away from this sport, many people who swam when they were in college. And thirty years later they are little bit overweight and they say ‘Hey, I used to swim a lot’ so they start to swim. And they get back into it and if they want to compete, they can compete. But if they don’t want to compete, they don’t have to compete. But it still helps them to develop a healthier life. Swimming for life is what it’s all about.

– Why were the World Masters Championships in Kazan hailed a success?

– That’s because of the organisation. Because the people here in Kazan have been unbelievable. They are friendly, the volunteers are very supportive. The Organising Committee has people in place. You have beautiful facilities. And I’m wondering how I can come back (laughs).

– Maybe we will organise the Olympic Games?

– Yes. Something like that.

– What is the main difference between the main event and the Masters tournament?

– I think every two years having a World Championship, getting everyone together from all over the world to come together to participate in an event is wonderful. I think that it is important from a cultural standpoint, I think that it is important even from a political standpoint because when you meet people from other countries, while your governments may not necessarily agree, you find out that those people are just like you and just like me, they have the same problems across the world and this brings everybody together for a celebration. Regular Championships that you have throughout your federation is OK, it is just bringing a small group together. But the World Championships bring everybody together and makes it very-very-very nice. And it’s a learning experience. It’s a wonderful thing to find out about other peoples’ culture, about other peoples’ history and how they got here.  

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