Baranek: Betty Burfeind still astonishing at age 66
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org September 22, 2013 5:34PM
Betty Burfeind won six medals in swimming in the 2013 Senior Olympic Games. | Supplied photo
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:23AM
Our subject today is a true phenomenon.
Her name is Betty Burfeind. And what makes her a phenomenon is this remarkable 66-year-old woman seems to get faster as she gets older.
We first wrote about Betty four years ago after the Frankfort resident won three gold, two silver and one bronze medal in swimming events at the 2009 Senior Olympic Games in Palo Alto, Calif.
This year, the games were held in Cleveland on July 23-25, and if you can believe it Burfeind won three gold, two silver and one bronze medal in swimming events.
The phenomenon part is that in two of her three gold-medal performances she eclipsed the time she swam in 2009.
In 2009, in the age 61-64 grouping, she swam the 100 backstroke in 1:30.07. This year in the age 65-69 grouping, she posted a 1:29.85 and won gold.
In 2009, she swam the 200 backstroke in 3:11:00. This year she posted a 3:10.26 and won gold.
In 2009, she swam the 200 freestyle in 2:49.49. This year she just missed beating it with a silver-medal time of 2:49.83.
“I don’t know exactly how to explain that. Maybe I was more rested, more tapered, less tired,” said Burfeind, who also won gold in the 500 freestyle, silver in the 200 IM and bronze in the 100 IM.
If you’re into high school swimming, hers should be a familiar name to you. From 1981 to 2005 Burfeind was a swimming coach at Andrew. She coaches today as an assistant in the boys program at Sandburg to Jim Caliendo.
In her daily life she pretty much goes nonstop, from working out and swimming on a daily basis, to ballroom dancing, to golfing, to bowling.
“I was born being active,” Burfeind said. “I walked at nine months of age. When I was two years old we lived in a rural avenue and the streets were right at the back of your yard. My mom told me once that she tied me to a tree with 50 feet of line so she could put the wash out so I wouldn’t be out on the street.”
Swimming is her passion. The benefits, she says, go way beyond garnering gold medals.
“I need something to keep me physically fit,” Burfeind said. “It makes me feel good to swim in the morning. It helps keep my body supple. It helps keep my joints lubricated.
“I feel better as a result. I don’t feel like I’ll be one of those people who is stricken with arthritis and crippled. I’m 66 years old and people tell me I look like I’m 40. And I feel like I’m 40.”
Somehow, I don’t think she’s done winning gold. We’ll check back in at the next games in a couple of years in Minnesota. Until then, one more story about a true phenomenon.
Burfeind was shooting a round of golf at Old Oak Country Club on Aug. 15 when the par-3, 110-yard 12th hole brought a first-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s got water on two sides, sand on one side and a huge dropoff to water in the back,” Burfeind said. “The green was relatively big, but I said, ‘OK, I’ll pull out my seven iron because my six iron usually goes too long and my eight iron doesn’t usually get there.’
“I swung away and the ball landed on the green in front of the pin and started heading toward it. I couldn’t believe it. It fell right in the cup. I was ecstatic. People on the next tee box were yelling at me and clapping their hands.”
They should see her swim.