Six months out of the year he swims in his pool at Mountain Falls. His workouts last 45 minutes and in that time, he swims 1,000 yards. His dedication earned him six gold medals in six swimming events in the Nevada Senior Games held in Las Vegas.
Oliver Gruter has been in the valley for the last three years, and swimming is his life.
The senior games, scheduled for Sept. 23 to Oct. 13, are in the 34th year and the event is quite popular. It attracts about 1,000 athletes each year for the competition held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The mission of the games is to promote health and fitness of those 50 years and older.
Growing up, Gruter was never really a swimmer. He was more of a basketball player. At six feet five inches tall, he played college ball at Pacific University in Oregon and then semi-pro ball in San Francisco until he was 27.
After basketball he played grass volleyball for several years, but was never bitten by the swimming bug until he turned 40. At that time he lived in Palo Alto, Calif., and used to take his kids to swim meets and practices. When he moved to Pahrump at 57, he decided to get involved with the senior games in Las Vegas.
“I am not a swimmer. My kids were in a swimming club in Palo Alto. I watched a lot of swimming and I figured I would take it up,” he said. “So when I turned 40 I did Masters Swimming for about three years.”
Masters is a national organization designed to get adults into swimming and it is a club sport with over 60,000 members. It gives adults coaching and provides competitive events.
Gruter said a friend of his eventually got him involved with the senior games and began to take his competitive swimming to the next level. He said he now works out during the spring and summer months.
Gruter swims because he believes the intensity of swimming works your entire body without the wear and tear on the knees and other body parts associated with running.
“I am 59 years old,” he said. “A friend got me into the senior games. He is older than me and he got me interested in doing the games.”
Since he started, Gruter said the results of his physical exams have been good.
“When I went in for my annual physical, everything seemed to be fine and I don’t have any health problems,” the senior swimmer said.
This year Gruter took the gold for the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter individual medley, 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter breaststroke and the 200-meter freestyle.
He said his best event is the 200-meter backstroke. The gold medals make him the senior state champion in those events and he has the option of attending the nationals, which are held every other year.
This year the nationals were held in Cleveland, Ohio and the next one will be in Minneapolis, St. Paul in the summer of 2015. The national competition draws about 13,000 athletes over the age of 50. The event has about a $40 million impact on the local economies that play host to it.
When Gruter was asked if he would ramp up his training for the nationals he replied, “I would have to swim year-round and I am not that dedicated. I would like to take trips too. I like to do what is good for me, but I am not that serious. I think there is a burn-out factor and I don’t want that for me.”
Eventually Gruter would like to see the return of senior events to the valley.