JANUARY 29, 1962
It had been 15 years since Chet Jastremski had opened the wood-bound book containing his world-record certificates, a volume that even his three children and five stepchildren had never seen. But after watching the swimming in the 2000 Olympics, Jastremski pulled the dusty album from behind his basement couch and relived his athletic attainments. "It brought back memories," he says, "and brought a smile to my face."
Jastremski and his college coach, Indiana's renowned Doc Counsilman, revolutionized the breaststroke. Instead of the big frog kick and wide arm pull that breaststrokers had long used, Jastremski popularized a more compact, efficient stroke and a whip-kick from the knees down. Between 1961 and '64 the "ferocious tugboat" (as SI described Jastremski in '64) won 17 AAU titles and set 12 world and 21 American records. Though he did earn a bronze in the 200 meters at the '64 Olympics, he failed in four other tries to make the U.S. team. At the '56 trials he was disqualified for using his new kick. Four years later, after qualifying as the third breaststroker, he was left home when the Americans mistakenly took only two to Rome, though they could have taken three. In '68 and '72 he wasn't in peak form because of the demands of his medical studies and later work as an Army flight surgeon.
Jastremski practiced family medicine from 1972 until '79, when pain from rheumatoid arthritis, primarily in his ankles and knees, forced him to give it up. He didn't sit idly, though. As a member of the FINA medical committee he helped swimming's governing body refine tests for performance-enhancing drugs, and he served as an assistant director of the family-practice resident program at Community Hospital in Indianapolis. Since '79 he has been teaching a kinesiology course at Indiana, where in '86 he returned to the pool deck for a five-year stint as the Hoosiers' women's coach. In '91 Jastremski launched another comeback by reopening his family practice. "I was putting in 70 hours a week as a coach," he says. "I said to myself, I can do this."
Jastremski, 60, has never been tempted to dive back into his sport in the masters division. "Swimming was such a great part of my life," he says. "I know I'd be too competitive and try for records." Still, Jastremski and his second wife, Connie, occasionally take their nine grandchildren (four his and five hers) swimming. "We go to the water parks in Wisconsin Dells," says the amphibious physician. "When I go in the water there, I just bob like a cork."