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Olympic Gold Medalist Learns to Love Open Water Swimming

After winning a gold medal in the pool in 1960, Carolyn Wood found that open water swimming can be enjoyable

As I walk to the dock where Portland’s “River Huggers,” the Willamette River swimmers, gather daily to swim across the river under the Hawthorne Bridge, second thoughts crowd against third and fourth. The chilly air on this early Wednesday morning in August brings back memories of early morning workouts at Jantzen Beach, the 55-yard Portland pool where I trained in 1959 and 1960 to prepare for outdoor nationals and Olympic Trials.

I’m meeting Judy Rees, a teammate from “way back when” who has agreed to join me for the half-mile swim. It’s our first time. At 6:30 a.m., she and I are the only swimmers on the dock. We watch the water, gray-green and murky, flow through the bridge pylons. Wind muffles a coxswain’s shouts from a crew upriver.

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