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Meet the Oregon 1956 Olympian still going strong in the pool

The Hillsboro man has a number of Masters world records in dozens of freestyle swimming events.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Tualatin Hills Barracudas has a star on the team  And the Masters swimmer is 85 years old!

Dave Radcliff is also an Olympian from 1956 and a Masters world record holder in dozens on freestyle events. But it is the rigorous practices that keep him going.

“I’m a strong believer in that saying 'Use it or lose it',” said Radcliff at a recent workout.  

Radcliff began competitive swimming as junior in high school. In his senior year he was named an All American, an accomplishment he repeated in college at the University of California.

Then when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Cold War, he was able to travel in Southeast Asia as a swimming ambassador and train for the 1956 Olympics in Australia.

Radcliff qualified for the Olympics in part due to advice a coach named Bill Lucas gave him a few years earlier after he swam what he thought was a good race.

“I was just a young swimmer and I came up to him and said ‘Bill how’d I do’ and he looked at me and said ‘Dave could you climb out of the pool?  And I said ’yeah I could climb out of the pool’, and he said ‘then you didn’t give 100 percent.' And boy that stuck with me and at the trials I could not climb out of the pool, they had to help me out and take me to the first aid room.  But I could call Bill and say hey I gave 100 percent and got a spot on the team.”

Radcliff didn’t medal in Melbourne in 1956, but he came away with an amazing experience, an appreciation for his country, and for people from countries around the world.

“When you walk into the opening ceremony with 100-thousand people and you get goosebumps, it meant a great deal to do that and have that whole experience," he said. 

File: 2020 Olympics medals made entirely of recycled electronics

File: Oregon Olympians at the PyeongChang 2018 winter games

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The Olympian then met his wife of 60-years, Nancy, and settled into a life of coaching and school administration.

But eventually the urge to swim competitively returned.

Radcliff returned as a Masters swimmer in his 60’s and started setting records. He has set and holds dozens of U.S. and world records swimming freestyle in numerous events, including long distance open water swimming.

Radcliff is an individual phenom, who loves his Tualatin Hills Barracudas team.

“I’m hanging on with friends and they’re helping me and I’m helping them and I beat them sometimes and they beat me a lot, but I get to get in and work with them and it’s kept me going and I’m pretty active for 85 and doing things and I like that a lot.”

And Barracudas Head Coach Jon Clark says Radcliff is always giving back.

“He is the friendliest man in the pool, in the locker room, in the parking lot, he’s an ambassador to the sport,” said Clark.

And that’s the way Radcliff likes it.

“To me swimming has been my life and if I can give anything back to it, that means a lot.”