Avid swimmers, Simpson and Steel compete each year in the games’ swimming championships, held this year in Williston on June 8. Simpson won four gold medals, one each in the 50-meter backstroke, 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter breaststroke, and the 50-meter freestyle, and one silver medal, in the 100-meter freestyle. Steel won two gold medals this year in the 200-meter and 500-meter races, along with two silver medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter races.
Simpson and Steel started competing annually after Simpson’s sister Claudia, convinced her to join. Both of Simpson’s parents were Senior Games participants as well, but never competed in a national event. Simpson has joined her sister in taking on that legacy, has been to the nationals twice, and has finished in the “middle of the pack” of nearly 1,000 opponents each time, an achievement that makes her proud. “It’s a stretch for me because I don’t see myself as an athlete at all,” said Simpson. “I’ve never won any awards at the national competition, but I haven’t come in dead last either, and as long as I’m not dead last, I’m a winner in my book. It’s just really wonderful to be around a lot of old people who are in really good shape and enjoy athletics.”
Steel, who has turned her love of swimming a mile in Lake Raponda into winning medals, is mulling joining Simpson at the national games in Minneapolis MN in 2015. This year’s events in Williston were part of a qualifying year, and both Simpson and Steel’s medal wins have qualified them for nationals, where the participation balloons from 20 in Vermont to close to 1,000.
“The people that go are just fun people,” said Steel. “There’s always people older than you that are great inspirations. The oldest woman there was 78 and she competed in more of the events than anyone else. Two times I’ve gone to the games and she competed in 10 events. It’s not about winning even, it’s about encouraging each other.”
According to Simpson, depending on the category, there are participants into their 90s and in two categories on the national level, participants over 100.