Halter still going strong

By James Masters, January 2, 2013

Forget Rebecca Adlington and Kerri-Anne Payne, it’s Susan Halter who should provide inspiration to the next generation of swimming stars.

At the age of 85, the former Olympian hits the pool every morning with the gold medals still rolling in.

Just last October during the Masters and Senior Championship in Sheffield, Halter blew away her competition in the 85-89 age group.

Hungarian-born Halter, who competed at the London Games 64 years ago, won four gold medals after triumphing in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke as well as the 50m freestyle.

That was the first time she had competed since having a pacemaker fitted last June, although that failed to prevent her from recording the fastest times in her age group in 2012.

Last summer's London Games brought the memories flooding back for Halter, who still recalls her time at the 1948 Olympics with great fondness.

"I remember it being very, very hot and I was extremely excited," she said.

"It was so big and overwhelming. The Olympics are the biggest event in sport and we saw that during the summer.

"I didn’t get past the heats to make the semi-finals but it was a wonderful experience.

"I was lucky enough to get taken around the Olympic Village in London this summer and it was amazing.

"Unfortunately, I didn’t have a ticket for the Games as I competed for Hungary and not Team GB, but I was more than happy to watch from the comfort of my sofa.

"But the most important thing about the Olympics is that I am still swimming today.”

Not only does Halter swim five times a week, she also partakes in water aerobics and Pilates.

It was at the age of six in her native Hungary that she began swimming, before enjoying success at a school gala four years later.

When antisemtic laws prohibiting Jews from competing in swimming competition came into effect in 1941, Halter was forced to swim in a Jewish-only pool away from her rivals.

"It was a difficult time," she said. "I wanted to swim but we were told we weren’t allowed to compete.

"Then eventually we were told that we weren’t allowed to swim at all and were made to wear yellow stars.

"But I still managed to sneak out with a friend to go swimming at a pool where nobody recognised us.”

It was after the war that Halter returned to the pool and in 1950 she starred at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

There she won four gold medals and also met her future husband, Roman, who was representing the British Water Polo team.

Roman, who passed away at the age of 85 last January, also kept up his swimming into later life.

"I used to go to swimming every morning with Roman,” said Halter.

"Towards the end it was more difficult for him and I wasn’t sure about myself after having the pacemaker fitted.

"But I still love it and my children love it too. My son and daughter both live in Israel and love swimming.

After shaking off a recent cold, Halter is now hoping to swim in the British Southern Championships in February.

"I hope I am well enough to swim at Crawley but I am just so happy to be swimming still."

Last updated: 1:12pm, January 3 2013