Masters swimmer teaching the new fish some old tricks

Competitive swimmer and coach Sue Weir. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Whoever coined the phrase, “Those who can do, and those who can’t teach,” wasn’t describing Sue Weir.

The 57-year-old masters swimmer is head coach of the Sarnia Rapids swim program, but she’s just as comfortable competing in the pool as instructing students from the deck.

At the Michigan Masters State Championships last month, the retired teacher won five gold medals and two silver, adding to a lengthy list of career accolades.

Weir has attended three World Masters Championships and won a medal at each. When the Sarnia-Lambton Sports Hall of Fame gave her the Amateur Award in 2013, she had already broken four Canadian records and 75 provincial records.

“All of the experience I’ve had with my mental game… it lends itself so well to coaching,” said Weir. “I’ve been there, and I’m still there.”

Swimming was a hobby growing up outside of Burlington, Ont. But at the age 28, she discovered masters competitions for athletes between the ages of 18 and 105.

“I realized I wasn’t too bad at it,” she said. “I figured it was something I could do. I’ve been competing and training ever since.”

And yes, there are competitors over the age of 100, she added with a smile.

Over the past three decades, Weir has competed across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. She often races in a variety of categories but prefers 50-to-100 metre events.

Weir moved to Sarnia in her early 30s and got her feet wet by coaching a high school team while on a teaching contract at SCITS. Soon, she was attending workshops and earned coaching certifications through the 1990s.

“I’m very much technique-oriented, and I have a good eye. I have been picking apart swimming for 30 some odd years or so.”

The former Lambton College professor is now a full-time coach with the Rapids program, overseeing three other coaches and about 30 swimmers. She personally coaches the athletes age 12 older, tailoring their workouts and training six days a week.

Her own personal training schedule involves a mix of several hour-long swims and gym workouts.

While her students are vying fiercely for provincial titles and college scholarships, masters’ competitions are more relaxed, she said. Often her staunchest opponents are pals.

“It’s very social … all my friends, basically, are masters swimmers.” And everyone looks the same in a bathing suit, she added.

Weir has won more medals than she can count, and sometimes wonders if things might have been different had she started competing earlier. But she has no regrets.

“I know that I’m fit, and I can’t think of any other activity where I would’ve kept exercising all the time.”

Her younger students like to cheer her on, but she has no interest in going head-to-head with them in the pool, she said with a laugh.

“No way. Because as I get older they get faster than me.”