11/25/12 — Swimmer Kanter wins two senior gold medals

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Swimmer Kanter wins two senior gold medals

By Dennis Hill
Published in Sports on November 25, 2012 1:52 AM

Jerry Kanter isn't the kind of athlete who lets anything get in his way, especially his age.

At 85, Kanter recently brought home two gold medals from the North Carolina Senior Games in Cary, winning both the 50-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle in the men's 85-89 division.

Kanter, who once played baseball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the 1940s and was a minor league player for a time, only took up competitive swimming in 1987, soon after the Goldsboro Family YMCA opened.

A native of Kinston, the retired businessman and aviator, said he swims not just to keep his body in shape but to keep his spirits up and his psyche sharp.

He is no ordinary athlete. At his age, most men are just managing to get around. Kanter is swimming laps around them.

"Jerry is a go-getter, a real inspiration for other people," said Kriquette Davis of the YMCA. "He never gives up. He's bound and determined that he's going to excel at whatever he does."

Kanter said he learned to swim as a boy in Kinston, in a slough behind an old cotton mill.

"We used to swim naked," he recalled, laughing. "We didn't have any money for bathing suits."

He later played several sports at old Grainger High School in Kinston and later was a walk-on on the UNC baseball team, playing behind a fellow by the name of Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice.

He played several sports, but started swimming at the age of 58 "because I got bored to death. I like competition."

He managed the pool at the Kinston Country Club for 22 years. The Family YMCA gave him a place to practice competitively and he was one of the first to join the facility when it opened in the mid-1980s.

Now he is an advisor for the Woodmen of the World Community Center in Kinston, which is planning to build a pool to rival Goldsboro's -- eight 25-yard lanes and a championship certified Olympic-size pool classification.

Kanter said he encourages other elderly people to stretch themselves, not to just sit back and let old age take over.

"You don't have an excuse," he said. "Older people ought to be doing something other than just waiting for the grass to grow."

And he is a big supporter of the Goldsboro YMCA, saying it gave him the motivation to take up competitive swimming as a way to keep himself sharp in his "declining" years.

"This has meant a lot to my health," he said. "There's no better facility around. One of the finest pools in the United States is in Goldsboro."