Lifestyle

Olympic swimmer Wayte on MI for ‘Swim Across America’

Islander Mary Wayte Bradburne won three medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. - Contributed photo
Islander Mary Wayte Bradburne won three medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Mercer Island’s two-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Mary Wayte is returning home next month to help raise money for cancer research in the waters of Lake Washington.

Wayte, who now goes by her married name, Bradburne, and lives in Virginia, will be on hand to cheer on fellow former Olympians and friends as they swim in Lake Washington from the Mercerwood Shore Club to Luther Burbank Park on Saturday, Sept. 12, for Swim Across America Seattle, a fundraising event to benefit the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

“I’m so excited to come home,” she said. “To go back to Mercer Island is a real treat.”

Swim Across America Seattle is the first event in the Pacific Northwest for Swim Across America (www.swimacrossamerica.org), an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. The two-mile swim begins at Mercer Island’s Mercerwood Shore Club (8 a.m. start); the half-mile swim begins at Luther Burbank Park’s swim beach (8:30 a.m. start), also on Mercer Island, where both will finish. All participants and volunteers are invited to a post-swim celebration and award ceremony at the swim beach.

Wayte, after whom the Island’s Mary Wayte pool is named, will be restricted to the sidelines due to tendonitis in her shoulders and legs. But former Olympics swimming teammate Janel Jorgensen, who won silver during the 1988 Olympics and is currently executive director of the Swim Across America organization, is planning on joining in. Wayte won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, swimming the 200-meter freestyle in 1:59:23. In 1988, she was part of two relay teams and earned a bronze and a silver medal. One of her teammates was Dara Torres, who still swims for the U.S. Olympic Team.

“The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s finest cancer-focused facilities and a passionate swimming community, so we are especially pleased to bring Swim Across America to this region, benefiting a very worthy organization in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance,” she said.

“Swimmers can enjoy the beautiful courses set along the shores of Lake Washington while knowing that their efforts are going a long way toward helping those affected by cancer.”

Proceeds benefit Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which unites the adult and pediatric cancer-care services of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Organizers hope to include Olympians Jeff Float, Dana Kirk, Kathy Smith Connor and Janel Jorgensen.

During the past 23 years, Swim Across America has raised more than $25 million for many of the nation’s top cancer institutions, attracting involvement from current and former Olympians along with thousands of swimmers and volunteers.

Though she moved away years ago (she now lives with her husband and two girls in Fort Valley, Va.), Wayte, 44, still credits the support and encouragement that she received as a young girl here as key to her athletic successes. She fondly recalls her best friend, Lisa Bjornestad, encouraging her to join the Mercerdale Swimming Club (now the Mercer Island Youth & Family Services Thrift Store at Mercerdale Park) and introducing her to competitive swimming.

“What a great place to grow up and make your mark on the world,” she said.

Wayte will be there with her brother, Mike, coordinating with volunteer boats that will join more than 100 swimmers already registered for the event. Swimmers can also form teams in honor or memory of someone who has battled cancer.

The Wayte family spent their Fourth of July holiday in Boston, because their uncle had died from pancreatic cancer.

“This is just a small part of helping so that maybe someone else’s uncle won’t have to die,” the swimmer said.

Interested swimmers can learn more and register at www.swimacrossamerica.org. Each swimmer is responsible for a registration fee of $50, along with a minimum fundraising requirement of $300. Volunteers are needed who can help support the swimmers by boat or kayak. E-mail mike@fastenix.com for more information.

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