Ilse W.

Lakewood Family YMCA

When you're swimming laps in the Lakewood Family YMCA pool, you never know who might be in the lane next to you. Three days a week, that's where you'll find Ilse Walters, Lakewood's very own Olympian. 
 
Ilse's quest for gold began when she was 80 years old. Having recently joined the Y and begun attending a water aerobics class, she had what sounded like a crazy idea: At her 80th birthday party, she announced to her friends and family that she was going to swim in the Olympics. "I wanted to do it. It wanted to stay happy and I wanted to stay healthy," Ilse says. 
 
Ilse started a strict training regimen in the pool at the Lakewood Y. She never had a coach and instead relied on help from lifeguards and other aquatics staff to teach her the different strokes she would need to master. Seven years later, Ilse competed in the National Senior Games in Minneapolis. At 87 years old, she won a silver medal in the 100-meter women's breaststroke and a gold medal in the 200-meter women's breaststroke. "It was hard, but it was fun," she adds with a laugh. 
 
Returning home a champion, she set her sights on getting her friends to come with her to water aerobics. She admits it isn't always easy to convince them to join her. "That's the whole point of the Senior Games - get the older generation off the couch! Get away from the tube!"