by David Miller
Loveland, Ohio – John Muenzer will be attempting to swim from Catalina Island to Long Beach California August 2, at 11 PM. If accomplished, this will be the final leg needed for his Grand Slam and Triple Crown of open water swimming.
Muenzer says it will be his last long-distance swim and he decided to add more purpose. In addition to obtaining his personal goal, he’s is raising money for his nephew Graeme who was born with Dravet Syndrome. “This is a devastating form of epilepsy. Children afflicted with this have many seizures from daily to monthly and often times are resistant to medication,” Muenzer said.
Muenzer was born in 1961 and grew up in Maumee, Ohio. He started swimming in high school and went on to have a successful career at the University of Toledo where he set 7 school records and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Muenzer had hopes of qualifying for the Olympics. However, in 1980, led by the United States, 66 countries boycotted the Olympics entirely, because of the Soviet-Afghan War so Muenzer went to Indiana University and trained under Doc Councilman that summer. Councilman had just become the oldest person to swim the English Channel. He was the Olympic Coach in 1976 and coached Mark Spitz to seven gold medals. Councilman told Muenzer, “You can’t make it deep into the Olympics, you can make the trials, maybe, but, I think you can be a great open-water swimmer.”
Muenzer said it was the first he’d ever heard of this sport.
If successful, the 60-year-old will become the oldest person and 27th person in history to accomplish the Grand Slam of Open Water Swimming which includes the English Channel, 20 Bridges, Catalina Channel, and Tampa Bay Marathon Swim.
Muenzer on August 25, 2018 at Manhattan Swim in the Hudson River
Fast forward, Muenzer set a World record in 1984, a 36- mile swim taking 24 hours and 20 minutes swimming from Point Pelee, Canada to Ohio. “There was no GPS in those days. Laugh out loud. So it took a long dang time,” says Muenzer.
Upon setting this record Muenzer got married to Mary and they have seven children. Their last three were adopted, “By the grace of God at birth. So, we have a blended family. My first four are white and my last three are black. It’s been a beautiful experience and I will forever be grateful to God,” said Muenzer
Muenzer also started a business, so from 1984 until 2007 he swam 4,000 yards 4 or 5 days a week waiting for the chance to do the swims. He did the Tampa Bay 24 mile and English Channel 20.5 mile swims in 2009 at 48 years of age. Then the economy hit his business very hard. “I had to take care of my family and business so back to the pool 4-5 days a week swimming 4,000 yards a day until the Fall of 2015. Then I started training for a “Manhattan” which is 28.5 miles.
“Then while training in March of 2016 my beautiful son Dan was killed in a motorcycle accident. Obviously, a tragedy I can’t explain except a deep sadness and loss that never goes away. My wife Mary and I made a pact going down on the 5 AM flight to the hospital that we would form a pact to keep our family together and navigate through the terrible loss. We knew Dan would want this,” said Muenzer. He added, “We have a beautiful daughter-in-law and granddaughter, so we were blessed.” Muenzer’s son’s best friend from West Point would eventually go on and marry his daughter-in-law. “Again, so blessed, I think my son Dan was involved with this, with God.”
“So, I heard Dan tell me, Pops, time to do the Manhattan Swim. I started training and did the swim in August of 2018 at 57 years of age.” He said that The Manhattan Swim Organization was gracious and let him in without having to go back on the waiting list. Then, started delays like Covid so, MuenzerI began swimming 4,000 yards a day again.
Muenzer said, “So, here I am four years later, just about 61 years old and way past where I saw myself doing these swims.” He began training again last October with world-renowned coach Marcia Cleveland who had been his coach on all of his swims.
Muenzer leaves on July 29 for Long Beach, California. His swim will start at 11 PM West Coast time on August 2. It’s a night swim so it is dangerous. He will leave at night so he can get a solid push in the first seven hours before the winds pick up. “My crew is coming in for the swim. They have been with me on all my swims. We have aged together,” said Muenzer. His lead is Mike Carson who he believes is the best manager. There will be real-time tracking and videos and pictures. Muenzer has a camera crew doing underwater and drone footage. He said, “I want to give people the opportunity to see what this sport is all about.”
Muenzer will be the 27th person to do the Grand Slam and the oldest. He will be the 269th to do the Triple Crown and the 6th oldest. To date, 268 have done this challenge, 103 women and 165 men. Only 124 of this 269 have been Americans.
“I hope the story is interesting. With my 12th and 13th grandchildren on the way, this has really changed for me over all these years. In the beginning, I was about the records, now, I want to make competitive swimmers aware of this world of open water swimming. Most importantly, I want to be an example to my grandkids that you set goals, work hard, and never give up. It’s funny how my mindset has changed with age,” Muenzer mused before he set out on his adventure.
Muenzer has had a title sponsor step forward in a big way. He said, “It’s the company MEGA CORP. They have been in the news lately for building a new corporate office and naming rights to the Cincinnati music pavilion. This was so appreciated. These swims cost $10,000 plus to do, so it’s a big deal for me.” Five Seasons Family Sports Club also provided Muenzer with pool facilities for training.
Muenzer is renowned for his feedings during his marathon swims. His menu for the Catalina Channel includes chocolate, Lays potato chips, peanut butter and jelly squares, three cans of Coca-Cola, tea, and water.
This will be my last swim and I decided to add more purpose in addition to obtaining my personal goal. I am raising money for my nephew Graeme who was born with Dravet Syndrome. This is a devastating form of epilepsy. Children afflicted with this have many seizures from daily to monthly and often times are resistant to medication. All funds raised will be donated to life saving research as well as necessary medical equipment to help these children with this debilitating disease. Graeme is happy go lucky and would steal your heart in seconds. He has inspired me at some of my toughest moments to push through and stay determined! Please help me to raise funds for the Dravet Foundation.
Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a rare form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy and proceeds with accumulating morbidity that significantly impacts individuals throughout their lifetime. It has an estimated incidence rate of 1:15,700. To better understand this condition, and the work DSF does, check out their website www.dravetfoundation.org