Swimmer Spotlight

People swim for many different reasons.  Some swim for the benefits of health and fitness. Others swim to compete.  Still others swim to rehabilitate from illness or injury.  Our swimmer in the spotlight swims for all of these reasons. For the last 40 years, Tony Christo has been managing chronic back and neck pain.  But he hasn’t managed it with painkillers or surgery. He has managed it with swimming.

Tony grew up playing football and received all conference honors at UC Davis, where he played from 1966 - 1968. But his football injuries started to catch up to him, and by 1979 he was experiencing significant back pain due to degenerative discs. In looking for alternate forms of exercise, he thought about swimming and asked a friend, Forrest Charmichael, about it.  The very next day, Forrest showed up at Tony's office (which happened to be at Hickey Pool) with a Speedo and a pair of goggles. Thus began almost 40 years of swimming. At first, Tony had a hard time just getting across the 25 yard pool (as a lot of newbies can attest, it’s harder than you think!).  Eventually he settled on doing 150s.  He was persistent and tenacious.  Eventually two things happened: he became a better swimmer and the pain receded into the background.

Tony’s involvement with DAM began at this time, although unofficially. He had a friend named Dave Scott who caught wind of Tony’s use of Hickey Pool.  Always looking for opportunities to swim, in spite of being busy leading a fledgling masters swim club called Davis Aquatic Masters, he asked Tony if he could get in on the Hickey pool action.  Tony reacted with enthusiasm: “C’mon man, we’ve got the key!” So Dave joined Tony. Of course, Dave would do a 500 in the time Tony would do one of his 150s (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration).  During rest periods, Dave would give Tony some tips and instruction. Also during this time, Tony would drop in unofficially on Dave’s DAM workouts. However, he never officially joined DAM until 1982. He has been an active member ever since, competing in meets and open water events, and serving on the board of directors for three years, two of which he served as president.

As an exercise physiologist, Tony has applied his conviction in the value of exercise in preventing and managing illness.  In 1982 he started the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento and ran it for 14 years.

Every time he is challenged with a new physical obstacle, instead of giving up, he has persevered, finding yet another way to stay in the water. The stakes are too high and the health benefits, both physical and mental, are overwhelmingly positive.  Most recently, neck pain has made it difficult for him to turn his head for breathing in freestyle, breast and fly.  Did he give up? No, he found a way around it.  Coach Mary recommended using a snorkel, and he’s been using one ever since. Has he stopped competing? No, he did the 50M free at the last End of Summer Splash virtually without breathing (OK, another exaggeration...he did breath a few times)! Keep going Tony, you’re an inspiration to us all!