Natchez native headed to Italy for World Master’s Swimming Championships
natchez — For Natchez-native David Read, swimming really fast is like riding a bike.
Twenty years after Read finished his career as a collegiate swimmer at Northeast Louisiana University (now Louisiana-Monroe), he is taking to the pool again to represent his country in the World Master’s Swimming Championships.
Read, 42, first hit the pool at age 4 and developed into an exceptional youth swimmer. Youth swimming turned into an opportunity when he ended up at Northeast Louisiana and became one of the school’s best swimmers.
After college, Read did not compete for 20 years until a challenge from a few friends turned into months of rigorous training for the United States Master’s Swimming Championships.
“I started training and some friends told me I really should go to nationals,” Read said. “So I said, ‘I’m going to dedicate a year,’ and woke up at 4:30 every morning to train.”
Read said from November 2010 to the end of April 2011, he did four to five hours of cardiovascular exercise a day until the championships started on April 28, 2011 in Mesa, Ariz.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I got to nationals,” Read said. “It really shocked me. I won All-American honors on the No. 1 relay team in the nation.”
Read also had four national top-10 finishes at the event, and his performance qualified him to participate in the World Championships in Riccione, Italy beginning Sunday.
“I’m excited about swimming against different people from other countries,” Read said. “It’s overwhelming, but I think it will be a lot of fun. I am going to represent the U.S. and swim against the best swimmers at my age in the world. That will hit me when I get there.”
Read will compete in three individual events at the World Championships: The 800-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle.
“I did the three events I thought I’d be best in,” he said.
Read said getting back in the pool and training after a 20-year layoff was difficult, but he may have made it harder on himself than necessary.
“The hardest part was trying not to be competitive and forgetting I was 42 years old,” he said. “I was learning that I was not going to be as fast as I was when I was 21. I’m always hard on myself, but this last year was the first time I was doing it for me. It wasn’t for a scholarship or for college. I was doing it because I wanted to and having so much fun.”
Read said after the National Championship meet, he started training for World’s, but this time he feels like the pressure is back.
“Training for World’s, it’s not just for me anymore,” he said. “That made it a little more difficult, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, so I said I could suck it up for one more year.”
Read said he hit several waves in his training for World’s, including several injuries.
“My goal was to go back and train after I finished National’s in August, but my body said, ‘You have to stop,’ and I ended up with an infection,” he said.
Read also battled carpel-tunnel and a strained calf during his training, but now he is back on track.
“The last month, I’ve been doing two practices a day,” he said. “I’ll do that for two more days, then start resting.”
Read said he has never been to Europe, but he is looking at this visit as a business trip more than a vacation.
“I’m actually trying not to think of it as a trip,” he said. “But one of my daughters (Katherine) is going with me. I’m trying to incorporate a vacation for her, while I focus on swimming. But once the meet is over, I’m looking forward to going to the Eifel Tower on Father’s Day. That will probably be the highlight of the whole time we’re there.”
Read said he has been training and working so much that he has not had time to learn any Italian.
“It’s also going to be tough, because the TVs aren’t going to be in English,” he said.
Read was a youth swimmer with the Natchez Swim Team, and he said he still has fond memories of growing up in the local pools.
“Most of my memories of Natchez are swim meets,” he said. “That’s what I grew up doing on weekends.”
Read said after the World Championships he will begin training to compete in the 2013 Pan American Master’s Championships in Sarasota, Fla.
Read’s mother Nickie Read Hicks, and two of his sisters, Eileen Ball and Carolyn Read still live in Natchez. He said his youngest daughter, Maddie is unable to travel to Italy with him, because she will start school before he leaves.
Read now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.