Q&A: Beth Carey, Masters Hall of Famer

Aug. 26, 2018, 11:10 p.m. (ET)

On Sept. 28, 2018, Beth Carey, an 81-year-old synchronized swimmer from New Jersey, will be inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in Jacksonville, Fla.

Carey, a member of the Ramapo Aqua Masters since its inception in 1981, has won 20 medals (eight gold, seven silver and five bronze) at eight FINA Masters World Championships from 1992 to 2010, and a gold and silver at the 2013 Pan American Masters Championship. She has competed at the US Masters National Championships since 1984 and has won 77 medals.

We asked Carey about her upcoming induction, her success in the sport and why she loves synchro.

What does this honor mean to you?

This is probably the biggest honor that I have ever received because it is an international award.

Do you know how you were nominated for the Hall of Fame? How did you find out you were going to be inducted, and how did you react?

United States Synchronized Swimming nominated me in 2016, which was announced at our national championship that year because I had more world medals than any other Masters swimmer. I was totally surprised and thrilled since I knew nothing about it. I knew six Masters swimmers who were in the Hall of Fame but had no idea how they got there. I didn't know there was a process to nominate anyone. I was told that I would stay nominated for five years and probably wouldn't get in right away. I decided to check my PC on July 10 of this year to see who might have gotten in, and there was my name. A couple days later I got emails from people in charge. I couldn't wait to tell my family as they have been so supportive of my swimming.

You have been involved in Masters synchro for more than 40 years. Did you compete in synchro before that? How did you first find out about synchro?

When I was in college in the 1950s we had a water ballet club, strictly Esther Williams-type swimming. We didn't even need nose clips. There were no competitive sports for women at that time. Our club put on a show once a year in which I also was a diver. In 1982 I saw an article in my local paper that a synchro team was putting on a demonstration. I went to see it and told Sue Welsh, who had started the team, that I would love to join them. I didn't even know there was competitive synchronized swimming. I was 44 at the time and now am 81 so it isn't quite 40 years.

You have been with the Ramapo Aqua Masters since it began -- are you the oldest active member of the team? What year did the club start?

The team started around 1981 and was called the Aqua Masters of Suffern, N.Y., as Sue lived in Suffern. This area is right on the border of New York and New Jersey so our team consisted of swimmers from both states. We held the national meet in 1993 at Rockland Community College, which is where we still practice. In 1994, Sue (now Bessette) moved to Richmond, Va., and I took charge of the team. We changed our name to the Ramapo Aqua Masters because the Ramapo Mountains run from New York down through New Jersey and no one was from Suffern. I lived in Rockland County, N.Y., for 47 years but moved 2 miles 10 years ago and now live in New Jersey. At 81 I am the oldest competitor on the team but not the oldest active member. Bette Whalen is 94. At one time we had a 70+ team but she is the only one left. She has shoulder problems and can't compete but swims laps with us every Sunday morning and goes to meets with us and keeps score.

What are some of your highlights from international and national competitions?

I loved all the meets. I got to go to places here and abroad that I never would have gone to. My husband went to most of the international meets and we would travel after the meet. I think my last international meet in 2010 is the most memorable. We didn't have anyone but my duet partner, Carol Motyka-Miller, who was able to go, so we went together. I was 72 and she was 68 so we were a 70+ duet and we won gold. We both swam a solo, which we never swam internationally before. I won a bronze medal in that. We were interviewed on Swedish TV and a couple people recognized us on the street after the meet. In 2013 Carol and I swam our last duet in Sarasota, Fla., at the Pan American Masters Championships and won the gold. We were both battling cancer at the time. I had pancreatic cancer and she had a brain tumor (glioblastoma). Unfortunately she passed away on Labor Day of that year. I no longer swim duet.

What is it about synchro that you love? What would you tell someone who might be interested in the sport but doesn't know a lot about it?

To start, I love the water. I have always been athletic and this sport uses every muscle in the body. I guess I'm a bit of a ham so performing is fun for me. To be able to do something athletic while performing is the ultimate for me. If you have the desire and willingness to put in the time, you can do synchronized swimming. We have never turned anyone who can swim. We will teach you. Some just find it too hard and eliminate themselves, but we have a gal swimming our team routine at nationals who just started last year for the first time ever.

What do you think about synchro today compare to when you started?

It is quite different. For years everyone did figures and we spent a lot of practice time working on them which made all of our routines better. I think we lost something when we stopped figures. Personally, I prefer swimming routines, so doing a tech routine is great but for new people the figures were a better learning tool. Also, all the routines were scaled back by 30 seconds. At my age I don't mind them being shorter.

Anything you'd like to add?

I have a large family - five married children, 22 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren. They mean the world to me. I think of Masters synchro as my second family. We have always had a wonderful close team. We look forward every year to the reunion of the US Masters teams that we have gotten to know so well over the years. There are always lots of happy greeting and hugs even though we are competitors. It is the best sport in the world.