For a tournament held in Hiratsuka-city, Kanagawa Prefecture, she made an expedition from Yamaguchi Prefecture to participate in the 100-meter freestyle. Although she fell short of breaking a record, she was rewarded with a party to celebrate her Hakuju, or 99th birthday. This event included four generations of her oldest son’s family, who turned out to show their support. She began swimming at the age of 80, when a knee injury caused her to give up Noh theater, in which she had been active for many years. Her rehab exercise at a swimming pool led to her tournament debut at the age of 84. The tournament competitions are grouped in five-year age brackets, and in her second year, she set a new Japanese national record for the first time. Three years later, she won third place at the world tournament, yet she didn’t like the color of the medal. Hiring a coach for instruction at the age of 91, she began to break records one after another. She received gold, silver and bronze medals at the world tournaments in the U.S. By the time she was 95 years old, she had set twenty-nine new world records and forty-seven new national records. Among them, her world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle is 54 min. 9.81 sec. – under one hour! One of the rooms in her house is filled with medals and award certificates. Nagaoka, who continues to compete in various tournaments right up to the present, was also until recently the president of a wholesale business run by her in-laws. She lost her husband while in her fifties, and continued to fend for her family even after her sons left the town to attend college. “Nobody beats me now,” this strongest and fastest woman says and with a lively spirit continues to enjoy her independent life.

Mieko Nagaoka

Born in Shunan-city, Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1914. Graduated from a girls’ school in Tokuyama. Married into Nagaoka family in Tabuse-town in 1938. After her husband passed away, she operated the Nagaoka Honten that had been in business since the Meiji era. Joined the world tournaments five times. She has established records in backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle which are her strongest events. (The freestyle is not limited to the crawl.)
Cooperation: Mr. Eisuke Ichikawa, Mr. Shintaro Sawada, Yanai Swimming School, Japan Fitness Industry Association, and Mr. Hiroyuki Nagaoka

This article has been originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine,
June 2013 issue, published by RINRI Institue of Ethics. Partially rewritten to
update for this internet relaesing.

In 2013, he finally started his own Noguchi Brewery.

Spirit and Spine

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