91-year-old Estero swimmer shines at National Senior Games

Suzy Notthouse of Estero recently competed in the 2011 Summer National Senior Games at the University of Houston where she captured two silver medals in swimming. Nothhouse recovered from a broken hip in time to compete. Kevin Johnson/Staff

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Suzy Notthouse of Estero recently competed in the 2011 Summer National Senior Games at the University of Houston where she captured two silver medals in swimming. Nothhouse recovered from a broken hip in time to compete. Kevin Johnson/Staff

While standing in front of her community's pool in Estero on July 6, 2011, Suzy Nothhouse shows the two silver medals she earned in swimming events at the 2011 Summer National Senior Games in Houston, Texas. Nothhouse, who will turn 92 later this month, competed in the backstroke and freestyle events. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo

While standing in front of her community's pool in Estero on July 6, 2011, Suzy Nothhouse shows the two silver medals she earned in swimming events at the 2011 Summer National Senior Games in Houston, Texas. Nothhouse, who will turn 92 later this month, competed in the backstroke and freestyle events. Kevin Johnson/Staff

“It’s just as big a thrill as the first one I ever got, which was around 1985.”

— Suzy Nothhouse

— It will take a lot more than a broken hip to keep Suzy Nothhouse out of the water.

Less than three months after she underwent an impromptu hip replacement operation, Notthouse entered the water at the Summer National Senior Games, proudly competed to the best of her ability and emerged from the pool with two silver medals.

The bubbly swimmer from Estero had hoped to celebrate her 92nd birthday later this month in the company of a slightly higher grade of medal, but being picky isn’t in the fiber of someone who good-naturedly admits that she “doesn’t buy green bananas” at this stage of her life.

“I was looking for a gold, but two silvers isn’t too bad, especially when I started out with a broken hip,” Nothhouse said after she returned from the competition that was held last month in Houston, Texas.

Making it to the Lone Star State seemed like an unrealistic journey for Nothhouse after she stumbled and fell while alone at her home eight weeks before the competition. For two agonizing hours, Notthouse remained on the floor. Finally, a passerby in her Cypress Bend community heard her calls for help.

The hip operation came that night at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers followed by six weeks of rehabilitation. Nothhouse praised her doctor for the new hip. She also extended gratitude to the rehab team at Life Care Center in Estero for helping her get back on her feet. “They did great with me. Great bunch of young men and young women,” she said.

Nothhouse, who taught swimming to youngsters for more than 50 years in her hometown of St. Joseph, Mo., didn’t allow the injury to alter her plans for the Summer Games, nor dampen her spirits.

“It never did hurt,” she said about her new right hip. The left hip was replaced eight years ago.

As a veteran of swim events at Summer Games, Nothhouse’s résumé includes stops in Syracuse, Baton Rouge, San Antonio, Tucson, San Francisco and Pittsburgh among others.

Buoyed by encouragement from her children, the grandmother of six and great-grandmother of four made the 1,100 mile drive around the Gulf to the University of Houston with her son Bernard.

Up first for Nothhouse was the 50-yard backstroke, which she completed in a satisfying time of 1:51 in the 90-94 age group.

“I was pleased with that. I was happy,” she said.

Two days later, Nothhouse earned her second runner-up behind Gladys Williams, 92, of Illinois in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 1:52.

“I wish I had a chance to congratulate Gladys. She was a good swimmer,” Nothhouse said.

As she clutched silver, Nothhouse said the excitement that comes from earning medals has never waned.

“It’s just as big a thrill as the first one I ever got, which was around 1985,” she said.

Will there be more?

The 2013 Summer Games will be held in Cleveland. Nothhouse said she’ll attend only if her swimming is up to par.

“I feel as though I’m representing Florida when I go (to Summer Games) and I want to do well,” she said. “If I don’t think I can do well, then I won’t go.”

Reach Kevin Johnson at (239) 213-6014 or kjohnson@naplesnews.com

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