WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- An eight-time gold medalist at the National Senior Games,94-year-old swimmer John Tatum of D.C. took home two more gold medals at this year's national competition in Cleveland. The competition ended Aug. 1. The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) also honored Tatum with a "Personal Best Award" for his dedication to health and fitness.
It wasn't an easyjourney for Tatum. In January, he lost his younger brother and swimming partner Bradford to colon cancer.
"That took a little starch out of me, and I didn't really feel like swimming anymore," Tatum said in his Personal Best Award profile.
Later this year, Tatum also lost his sister. His heart was heavy, but he pushed on. His determination paid off: Tatum won two gold medals in the 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard breaststroke and a silver medal in the 50-yard freestyle in the men's 90-94 age division.
The NSGA is a non-profit member of the U.S. Olympic Committee that works to promote health and wellness through education, fitness and sport. Tatum and his brother Bradford participated in the National Senior Games for more than 15 years.
But swimming wasn't always so accessible.Tatum remembers his childhood, when he didn't even have a pool to swim in, and he would splash around in the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall.He said heleaped at the chance to swim at the Francis Junior High School pool that opened in 1928.
"All the schools were segregated and there wasn't an opportunity to get on a team, get coached and enter competitions," he said in his Personal Best profile. "Now we have a couple a black swimmers on the Olympic team. That's something I wouldn't have imagined when I was doing the dog paddle back then."
Now, he trains three days a week and keeps up his stamina through gardening.
Tatum's Personal Best award recognizes him for persevering in and out of the pool and for serving as a role model for active, healthy senior citizens in the D.C community. The NSGA hopes to redefine "personal best" as something anyone can achieve.
"People always want to know what I eat and how I exercise and such," Tatum said in his profile. "But I don't think I do much different than others. I just do ordinary things, no special diet or regimen, just common sense."