The 86-year-old German Reich, first gold medallist in masters swimming: “Swimming is healty”
The spotlight is back on the lanes of the Foro Italico Swimming Stadium with the European Aquatics Masters Championships, inaugurated by the women's 800m freestyle. The European baton has virtually passed from Roman middle-distance queen Simona Quadarella to German Helga Reich, the 86-year-old dominator of the first swimming competition in the pool. The new European champion touched the plate first in 16:07.26, beating off competition from younger opponents (aged 75 to 84) swimming alongside her in the pool.
A two-coloured swimsuit, black and blue, like her eyes that light up when she talks about swimming, at her age Reich embodies the spirit of the true competitor: she wins, she laps the others, but she is not completely satisfied: "I wanted to swim under 16 minutes. There were no other swimmers next to me who could push me, but I think I set a new German record in my age category," she said. "Before going into the pool, I always look at the others, check their times and then try to orient myself to finish my race. The 800 metres is a long distance, I swim calmly, check my position and then start counting to avoid making mistakes. With my ear I can't necessarily hear the bell, it has happened to me recently especially as I get older, so I have to count all the laps exactly,” she added.
It is impossible to stop Reich's grit, who has always had a special bond with water since childhood and then landed in the masters competitions at the 2000 world championships in Munich and continues to follow the circuit around the world: "Water is my life. I love water and its feelings. I have always been on the move since I was a child. I started swimming when I was 14. Before that, there was the world war and there was no possibility to do it. Swimming is the best chance to move. Especially when you get older, the benefit is even bigger: the body is more flexible, the legs are more elastic, the shoulders are more mobile, the circulation remains stable. For health, it is the best sport,” she said.
Reich's competitions in Rome are not yet over. She will be back in the pool tomorrow, 29 August, for the womnen’s 400m freestyle, her favourite race, and on Wednesday for the 200m: "I am happy to be swimming here. There are three reasons why I decided to participate in this competition: for the city, for the swimming and for the trips I will make in the days after the races. The masters gives me the opportunity to travel. Before, I did organised trips with my mother and my younger sister. Now I follow my masters group and have a lot of fun,” she said.
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