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Swimming a family affair for Alvaro clan

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By Rita Mingo

From here on in, there will be a circle around the date of the annual Canadian Masters swimming championship in every calendar in the extended Alvaro family.

At the 2023 meet in Calgary in late May, Winnipeg’s Ruben Alvaro gathered his son and two daughters to form a team and the result was a terrific experience that is sure to be repeated.

“I hope so,” said Alvaro. “Now that they got the swimming back into their heads, we’ll be able to do it.”

“It’s very cool,” smiled daughter Sheila Grant, 33. “We got to do two relays together, which was the main reason Aileen and I decided to come, so we could do a relay. That was lots of fun.”

The squad, comprising dad, daughters Grant and Aileen Besharat and son Martin, competed in the mixed 4×50 freestyle relay and the 4×50 medley relay.

“Especially because we haven’t swam in so long, it brings back memories of being at the pool,” acknowledged Besharat, 36 “Now we have all our kids watching us swim, so that’s cool, too.”

Ruben and Martin Alvaro, members of the Manitoba Marlins swim club, took part in last year’s Masters nationals in Quebec City.

“It’s very cool,” said the 39-year-old Martin. “My sisters I think got a little bit jealous so they decided they wanted to swim this year. It’s a family event.”

Ruben Alvaro, originally from Argentina, said he swam backstroke in a pair of South American Games championships in his early 20s.

“When we came to Canada (in the 1980s), I stopped swimming for 40 years,” he related. “Then about three or four years ago, I started swimming again.”

All three siblings were competitive swimmers as youngsters, but as life and families got in the way, they drifted from the pool.

“I went to the Masters last year and my son joined me,” Alvaro explained. “This year we said ‘What about you two? Will you join us? We can put a relay together as a family.’ So it was hard for them, one has four kids, the other has two, a one-year-old. But they did it. They found the time to train. And I’m proud that I was able to recruit them back into swimming.”

His daughters made sure they were able to put in the training necessary, even with small children at home. As an individual, Grant was thrilled to have amassed three medals in her age group.

“And my times were better than I thought they’d be,” she added. “You don’t have any expectations, coming into your first meet, so anything seems good.

“We were all competitive swimmers with the Manitoba Marlins as kids and now Manitoba Marlins as masters. We’ve come full circle.”

Martin swam all through university and has returned 15-plus years later, focusing on the backstroke and the butterfly.

“A little slower than last year, but not by much,” he indicated. “I think it might be the altitude here in Calgary. Just off my best.”

Alvaro the elder, meanwhile, is pleased his offspring have come back to the sport, just as he has at 65.

“It’s a very healthy sport,” said Alvaro, who swims every other day. “It’s a whole body exercise. It’s good for you, especially as you get older. I’m glad that I decided to start again.”

And on this particular weekend, he managed to set a national age-group record in the 100m backstroke – an added bonus.

“I was very close in 50 back, extremely close in 200 back and I said, ‘I can’t miss the 100 back. It’s my last chance,’ ” he smiled broadly, “and I did it.”