Release Date: 
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

85-year-old HFC alumnus breaks records at Senior Olympics

Joel Lockwood, left, with medals he won at the 2019 Senior Olympics. Upper right, Lockwood in 2018 with medals he had won. Lower right, Lockwood in his 1952 form.

HFC alumnus Joel Lockwood, whose story we shared last year, is still going strong at 85 years old, setting records in the pool and showing no signs of slowing down.

On June 20, Lockwood, a retired General Motors engineer who served in the U.S. Army, turned 85. To celebrate this milestone birthday, he swam in a new age bracket – the 85-89 division – the next day at the National Senior Olympic Games in Albuquerque, NM.

“I’m low man on the totem pole, but I’m making my way up,” Lockwood, of Lake Township, said with a chuckle.

At the Senior Games, Lockwood earned four gold medals and two silver medals in the freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke events. He also set four national records.

“I did well there,” said Lockwood. “There was a woman there who was 100. She was the oldest swimmer. The oldest male swimmer was 94.”

According to Lockwood, there were 12 swimmers in the 85-89 age bracket at the Senior Games. There were approximately 800 swimmers, whose ages ranged from 50 to 100. The Senior Games featured 20 sports with approximately 15,000 senior athletes competing.

Bringing home the gold

Lockwood won gold medals in the following events:
• the 200-yard freestyle (3:02.23), setting a new record by 4 seconds
• the 50-yard breaststroke (45.75), setting a new record by 6 seconds
• the 100-yard breaststroke (1:47.68), setting a new record by 7 seconds
• the 500-yard freestyle (8:12.63), setting a new record by 9 seconds

All of the prior records had remained unbroken for 10 years.

Lockwood won a silver medal in the following events:
• the 50-yard backstroke (43.73), breaking the previous record of 49.86 set in 1997
• the 50-yard freestyle (35.41), breaking the previous record of 37.08

Lockwood’s main competition was Mitchell Clarke, 86, of Nevada. Clarke won the 50-yard backstroke in 39.72 and won the 50-yard freestyle in 34.66.

“Even my silver medals beat the national record time! Mr. Clarke was just a little bit faster than me. He beat me in the 50 freestyle by only 75/100s of a second, so that’s pretty doggone close. He did the back-style flip-turn. In my day, you had to touch the wall while swimming on your back. These days, you can approach the wall and do a flip-turn, which is much, much faster. He did the flip-turn and I went by the old style,” explained Lockwood. “It was a great meet. I knew I was in decent shape for my age bracket.”

US Masters Swimming

Not one to rest on his laurels, Lockwood also participated in U.S. Masters Swimming meet at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti on July 21.

At EMU, Lockwood set and broke records. He placed first in the following events:
• the 50-yard breaststroke (56.53), breaking the previous record of 137.39
• the 50-yard backstroke (50.81), establishing a new record
• the 50-yard freestyle (41.72), breaking the previous record of 1:00.93 set in 2009
• the 100-yard freestyle (1:36.56), breaking the previous record of 1:41.27
• the 200-yard freestyle (3:31.07)
• the 400-yard freestyle (7:39.91), breaking the previous record of 12:31.72

“Not too shabby for someone my age,” he said. “I did pretty well.”

Michigan Senior Olympics

On Aug. 12, Lockwood competed at the Michigan Senior Olympics, which were held at Oakland University in Rochester.

There, he placed first in all six events in which he participated, five of which he set new records:
• the 50-yard freestyle (35.97)
• the 200-yard freestyle (3:08.41), which dramatically broke the previous record of 4:33.00 set in 2015
• the 500-yard freestyle (8:15.22), establishing a new record
• the 50-yard backstroke (47.63), which broke the previous record of 52.30
• the 50-yard breaststroke (47.71), which dramatically broke the previous record of 1:09.90 set in 2015
• the 100-yard breaststroke (1:51.80), which dramatically broke the previous record of 3:20.07 set last year

High-tech swimsuit

For these meets, Lockwood wore a high-performance, carbon-fiber, power-skin swimsuit. He credited his improved times to his perfect-fitted high-tech swimsuit, the first he’s ever owned. He’s convinced it helped shave seconds off his times.

“They’ve got these new high-tech swimsuits, which run $200-$500,” said Lockwood. “At this stage of the game, there’s no way I’m gonna spend that kind of money.”

The swimsuit was a gift from ARENA, the swimwear company that manufactures the suits.

“That suit is fantastic!” marveled Lockwood. “There’s no drag whatsoever. No water gets in. It’s almost like you’re wearing nothing at all. It doesn’t hold you back. It’s unbelievable.”

Michigan Masters Meet

In his youth, Lockwood was a two-time All-American swimmer at HFC and set two U.S. Army national records. During his Dearborn High School days, he was on the swim team all four years.

In 2018, Lockwood was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in Dearborn.

He’ll be swimming in the Michigan Masters Meet in DeWitt on Dec. 7. Afterward, he’ll take a well-earned break.

“I’ll get a little bit of a break before the December competition. I can use it,” he said. “After that, I can rest for a while.”