74yr Old Olympian Teaches Vets to Swim

Dr. Jane Katz has been swimming all her life. In the sixties she fought to get synchronized swimming into the Olympics, and though it wasn’t officially recognized by the international event as a competitive sport until 1984, she was part of the 1964 U.S. Swimming Performance Team for the games. And though she never got to compete as an official Olympian, she will be defending several gold medals this year at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

However, Katz recognizes that not everyone was raised to have a love of swimming ingrained in them like she was, and she thinks that’s a shame. “Learning to swim for the first time is life changing,” she says. “It’s a survival skill, and it’s fun!” That’s why, in her spare time between training for the upcoming games, the 74 year old Katz W.E.T.s 4 VETS, a program she launched two years ago at John Jay College in New York. The course uses holistic water techniques and physical therapy exercises to help rehabilitate American veterans who are reentering civilian life.

Each term, Katz gives out an award to a member of her class, an award named for her late husband, former Air Force Capt. Herbert Erlanger, who was also an anesthesiologist in New York City. This year, the recipient is a vet who served in Afghanistan, Jonathan Martinez. He credits Katz with easing his transition back into his normal life, no easy feat. “Water activities completely changed my life, and I couldn’t have done it without Jane, and without her program.”