Photo/IllutrationMieko Nagaoka and son Hiroyuki Nagaoka at a swimming pool in Yanai, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Sept. 11 (Koichi Fujimaki)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TABUSE, Yamaguchi Prefecture—At 105, Mieko Nagaoka boasts 18 world records in swimming, but that is apparently not enough for the centenarian.

Nagaoka has set her sights on two more records at the FINA World Masters Championships scheduled for later this month in Fukuoka.

Her chances appear good. She will be among the youngest competitors in the 50-meter freestyle and backstroke events for people in the age category of 105 to 109.

Her races on Sept. 22 and 23 are expected to be her last.

“I would like her to round off her swimming career,” said her 79-year-old son, Hiroyuki.

Hiroyuki has lived with his mother at her home in Tabuse for several years to support her training sessions and everyday living.

During a recent practice at a pool in Yanai, a nearby city in the prefecture, Hiroyuki held his mother’s hand while she repeatedly walked in the water.

After that, Nagaoka floated on her back and slowly moved her arms to practice the backstroke.

Nagaoka’s husband died when she was 53. From the ages of 55 to 87, she took part in Noh performances as a hobby.

Nagaoka started going to a swimming pool when she was 80 as part of a rehabilitation program for her injured knee.

Her competitive drive accelerated at the age of 90, when she won the silver medal in the women’s backstroke in the 90-94 age category at the FINA World Masters Championships in Italy.

“I can win a gold medal if I try very hard,” Nagaoka recalled thinking to herself.

After dedicating herself to training, she won a gold medal when she was 92. Since turning 95, Nagaoka has set or renewed age-related swimming world records.

“My mother is amazingly strong, given her age, as she trained her abdominal and back muscles when she was learning how to perform in Noh,” Hiroyuki said.

But she has used a wheelchair since suffering from knee injuries in April.

Her injuries have not prevented her from working out to retain her strength. When she is not swimming, she continues to do resistance training with an instructor.

After the competition in Fukuoka, Nagaoka is expected to leave Tabuse--and her swimming career--for good to join Hiroyuki at his home in Yokohama.

Nagaoka is feeling weak, and Hiroyuki has not found a swimming facility in Yokohama that is willing to take her in.

Still, the son says he will always cherish their time together in the pool.

“We have had blissful happiness swimming together until this age,” he said. “There must be no other examples like us in the world.”