Swimmer Spotlight – Joy Ward 1


Joy Ward

Joy Ward

Joy learned to swim in the Clackamas River.  As a youngster she took swimming lessons in the river, and later in her early teen years would swim there on her own.  Her goal was to swim across the river to a spot called “Monkey Rock” – climb up on the rock, and then turn around and swim back.  At times the current would carry her quite a ways past her mark.  And if swimming in a cold river and with strong currents weren’t enough, to build up endurance she started swimming with sweat pants, sweat shirt, gloves, shoes and socks on. (Author’s Note: Joy explains this as if it were no big deal, while I listen in wide-eyed astonishment)

She lived in Gladstone, prior to the high school being there, so went to West Linn High School.  Her high school coach also coached at the YMCA in Northeast Portland and her first “club swimming” experience was at the YMCA.  During that time her swimming success caught the eye of the Multnomah Athletic Club and she won an athletic scholarship there.  Every weekday after school she would commute by bus to swim at the MAC – leaving about 3pm and not arriving back home until after 10pm.  Because she arrived several hours before the 7:30pm practice, she started working out with weights at that time.  At the MAC she had the opportunity to train with the likes of Don Schollander, Carolyn Wood and Lynn Burke — all U.S. Olympians.  Joy relished the opportunity!  “To be able to swim with them, and keep up with them … that was my motivation!” she says.  Joy was a high school state champion in several events – freestyle, butterfly and backstroke.  In 1960, the year she graduated from high school, she competed in the short course and long course U.S. National Championships.

After high school, Joy gave up competitive swimming – worked and raised a family.  It wasn’t until about 38 years later, in 1998 that she started competing again when Kaiser sponsored the World Masters Games held in Oregon.  She almost immediately posted top USMS times, and has been doing so ever since.  In her Masters swimming career she’s posted more than 400 individual and 100 relay U.S. Top Ten times.  She earned U.S. Pool All-Star status in 2007, 2012 and 2013 by posting more U.S. #1 times in her age group than anyone else!  And she’s set many National and World records along the way.

Despite swimming fast times, Joy’s biggest motivation in swimming can best be summarized by the USMS. tagline, Swimming for Life.  “Just keep swimming your whole life,” she says, “it will keep you strong and healthy!”


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