ROGERS — Olympic distance swimmer Janet Evans takes her health more seriously at 40 than she did when she was winning medals at 20. She took 15 years off from swimming to marry and start a family, then in June of last year, she took a leap of faith — back into the pool.
Evans, the keynote speaker at the Go Red For Women luncheon Tuesday (Feb. 14) at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center, discussed the history of heart disease in her family (a grandfather and uncle died of heart attacks) and her commitment to take a different road. She’s the spokeswoman for the cholesterol-lowing Metamucil fiber supplement while training for the 2012 Olympics in London. She’ll know after trials in June whether she makes the team.
The petite brunette dressed plainly in gray slacks and a black turtleneck told the red-clad crowd of 1,360 that she learned to swim when she was 15 months, but didn’t take swimming seriously until she had attended the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She hails from southern California.
“I decided then and there that going to the Olympics was something I was going to do,” Evans said. In 1987, at age 15, she broke the world record in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle. She competed with varying degrees of success until 1996. She admitted being more interested in winning than she was taking in the Olympic experience.
Then as Evans’ 40th birthday approached last summer, she vowed to take better care of herself and to compete again. To prepare for the upcoming trials, she does swim workouts nine times a week and works with weights three times a week, often beginning at 4:30 a.m.
“It’s giving me more satisfaction to do this at my age than it did in my 20s, when I took it for granted,” Evans said.
In addition to Evans, the audience heard from survivors Cyd Scheuermann and Julie Murdock.
The luncheon was expected to raise about $250,000 for the American Heart Association, mostly through ticket sales, sponsorships and auctions. Shirley Esch was the high bidder on a “Ruby” evening handbag donated by Romance Diamond Co.
Chairwomen for the event were Cindy MacNaughton and Suzy Fehlig. In addition to the luncheon, guests had the chance to visit vendor booths and attend workshops on heart health. Giant red and pink goody bags contained healthy snacks, literature from the sponsors and some toiletries. Every place setting held a small red Macy’s bag with a $10 gift certificate to Macy’s and a container of Elizabeth Arden lipstick in “Red Door Red.”