FORT PIERCE, FLA. -- When Peter Jurczyk broke four world records at a Delray Beach, Fla., swim meet last month, the occasion did not exactly receive the same attention that was focused on Mark Spitz's four records at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
But in its own way, it was just as impressive.
At 85, Jurczyk set records in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter backstroke and the 100 individual medley. His records are in a special category for 85- to 89-year-olds, and they fall far short of the overall world records. While Jurczyk swam the 100-meter backstroke in 2:12.69, for example, David Berkhoff's record time for the same event is 54.51 seconds.
Yet Jurczyk's accomplishment is not to be minimized.
"It is a very legitimate world record," said his coach, Tom Harmon. "I'm very proud of Pete. He is the typical example of what you would like to think of as persistence and diligence. He never complains, and he's willing to do whatever he needs to do for a workout."
Jurczyk is a deeply tanned, agile man with glinting blue eyes who looks the part of an athlete.
He estimates that he has won 300 medals and trophies over the past 15 years, with the high point a five-gold-medal performance at a world championship in Tokyo several years ago.
Jurczyk is part of a team sponsored by Indian River Community College that participates in competitions sanctioned by the Masters swimming organization. When Jurczyk talks about the life-giving effects of swimming, he waxes so enthusiastic that the words tumble out.
"I preach swimming," he said. "I think it's the healthiest sport. I don't believe in any common medication. I don't take aspirin. I don't need it. I can jump in a pool and I'm cured."
He talks of a man he knows who had a stiff neck for years, but 10 days of swimming cured it. A woman was on crutches when she joined the team; six weeks later she was not only walking, but running as well.
"What swimming does for these senior citizens is out of this world," said Jurczyk, who has been a swimmer for 80 years.