On a recent morning by the Mercer Island Country Club pool, a man glanced at swimmer Wendy Hoffman sporting a pair of gold medals hanging around her neck and said he was impressed with the awards.
Those golds signified just two of the four first-place swims that Hoffman notched at last month’s Washington State Senior Games at the Briggs Community YMCA near Olympia. The aquatic athlete added two silver medals to her award haul for the games.
Hoffman, who turned 60 on Aug. 2, snatched golds in the 60-64 age group in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard butterfly, 100-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley; her silvers came in the 200-yard IM and 200-yard breaststroke. The games also featured tennis, golf, track, archery, softball, bowling and more.
“A lot of swimming practice beforehand,” the 30-year Mercer Island resident said of her success at the games. “I swam probably 20,000 or so yards a week, up to over 400 miles so far this year. I swim long distances, so I just need that yardage to keep the stamina up. I don’t go out very fast, but I can keep going at the same speed.”
In 2021, Hoffman — who generally swims six days a week — reached a milestone of amassing 1 million yards at the local pool that year. That lofty mark translates to 568 miles, which she hit with about a month to spare. She finished the year with 620 miles under her belt.
The Unionville, Canada, native began swimming as a child at an age-group club and stayed with the sport until her college years. She returned to the pool in her 30s with a masters club and has continued her journey one stroke at a time into her sixth decade.
“I think it’s helping a lot just to keep active, stay healthy, and I think it’s helped me with my arthritis, so I have the strength in my legs just to keep going,” said Hoffman, who dropped 16 seconds over the last seven years in the 400 IM. It’s her favorite event because she enjoys utilizing the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle throughout the race.
While checking out the assemblage of medals before her, Hoffman said: “It’s a little humbling. I keep thinking, I’m just a regular swimmer. I’m just somebody who goes out and does what I do, but I always see other people out there who are older and keep going and that’s my motivation — to keep going.”
Success follows Hoffman wherever she dives into the water. In the full year prior to the recent Washington State Senior Games, Hoffman was ranked 16th nationally in 200-yard fly and 23rd nationally in the 400 yard IM in the 55-59 age group in the masters yards season.
Dina Deitz, who swims in a group with Hoffman and three other ladies at the Island country club, said that Hoffman brings out the best in her fellow swimmers.
“She is always teaching and motivating us, but when she does her swim competitions what she does most is impress and inspire us. When Wendy is not in the pool, she is doing something else active: paddle boarding, hiking, cross country skiing or walking her dog,” Deitz said.
Hoffman said she especially thrives in the group situation by experiencing camaraderie, and setting and achieving group goals.
“We root each other on. Some people are better at certain things, so you’re always trying to keep up. Somebody’s better at the shorter distances, the 25s, which I’m not as good at. So, I’m trying to keep up with them there, and it just inspires you to keep going and to show up,” Hoffman said.
While getting in her workout on a recent day, Hoffman’s mind became focused on how swimming relates to life. It’s necessary to put in the daily work to reap rewards — in and out of the pool.