The first week in August, Montreal, Canada will host the world FINA championships in swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming and that event will have a Midcoast flavor.

The FINA championships are held every two years for athletes who are "deemed to be over the hill," said Bill Jones of Hope, who contributed to this story. "FINA figures that this happens at age 25."

Seventeen thousand competitors are expected to participate in the championships. Six of them are from the Midcoast — and two others have strong local ties.

Facing the toughest competition will be the 45-year-olds. Linda Moran of Hope, her life-long friend, Allison Stratis, Dr. Peter Giustra's daughter, now from Portland, and Margot Hayes of Montville. They face more than 100 competitors in almost all of their races, Jones said.

"Though the 200-meter butterfly thins the competition, even if Hayes were last in that race, she would rank 30th in the world," he said.

Dieter Weber of Bremen faces similar competition in the 50-and-older age group. One-hundred 77 competitors in the 50-meter freestyle, 179 in the 100 meters, and in the 200 meters, 97 from 23 different countries.

Among the 60- and 70-year-olds, there will be plenty of competition. The Midcoast swimmers are Ellen O'Donnell, 61, of Warren, Susan Rardin, 64, of Lincolnville, Kristi Panayotoff, 65, of Lincolnville, currently living in Traveller's Rest, S.C., and Jones, 77, of Hope, who has outlived much of his competition.

The Pen Bay six have been preparing for worlds for some time. Jones, Moran, O'Donnell, Rardin and Weber, the coach, train at Penobscot Bay YMCA in Rockport. Hayes and Rardin train at Waldo County YMCA in Belfast under coach Susan Cooney, a former Camden High School standout swimmer.

They all swam at the Waldo County YMCA meet in June. All but Moran traveled in July to compete in the Jenny Thompson Meet in Dover, N.H. Moran had to miss that meet because she was doing the Mount Washington Auto Road race that day.

The Midcoast worlds delegation is part of a 31-swimmer Maine Masters group at Montreal.  Sadly missing, Jones said, from the delegation are several locals who started training but had to drop out due to various physical or life-competition problems. That group includes Donna Edelbaum, 81, of Union, Frank Giustra, 77, of Waldoboro, Peter Giustra, 75, of Warren and Reed Lowden of Rockland. Edelbaum and Peter Giustra were shoo-ins for individual medals and were to have been part of two 80-year-old relays that would have had winning chances, Jones said.

On Thursday, Aug. 7 will be world relay day in Montreal. There will be about 1,300 four-person relay teams swimming 132 heats without break from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Twenty-four of them will be from Maine, half made possible by Midcoast participation.

Jones, O'Donnell and Rardin will team with Hans Wendel, a 78-year-old formerly from Dover-Foxcroft but now living in Hudson, Fla., to make 70-year-old medley and freestyle mixed relays. Wendel and Jones will team with younger men to make 70s men's medley and freestyle relays.

Panayotoff will key the mixed medley and freestyle relays for 60-year-olds. She will join O'Donnell, Rardin and Tish Noyes of Mount Desert Island for highly-ranked women's 60s medley and freestyle relays. Hayes will swim relays in three different age groups: the mixed medley with the 50-year-olds, the mixed freestyle with the 40-year-olds, and the women's medley and freestyle with the 30-year-olds.

"With such crowds, actual swims will be spread out, three to eight of them over four to nine days," Jones said. "There will be plenty of time to explore Montreal culture, use the free public-transport passes and savor Montreal food, especially with the team house strategically located in Little Italy. And to trade t-shirts with swimmers from far away places."

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