Swimmer Jim Berk shows off the three Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals he won last month.
Swimmer Jim Berk shows off the three Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals he won last month. (Jim Berk)

Jim Berk won Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals last month in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.

Jim Berk could have taken the easy route to the 2022 National Senior Games.

The 2021 National Senior Games were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so organizers are allowing anyone who competed in the 2019 National Senior Games to compete in 2022 without having to qualify at the state level.

“I didn’t want to get to the nationals that way,” Berk said. “I wanted to compete to get there.”

So the 66-year-old West Bloomfield resident competed in the Michigan Senior Olympics last month at Oakland University and won three gold medals in swimming in the men’s 65-69 age group, qualifying for the nationals in each event.

Normally held every two years, the National Senior Games will be in Fort Lauderdale in 2022, and get back on a regular schedule in Pittsburgh in 2023.

Berk won Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals last month in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. The sportscaster turned personal trainer and exercise teacher’s winning times were :38.09, 1:26.41 and 3:12.39.

His times in the 50 and 200 breaststroke were faster than his times in the same events at the 2019 Michigan Senior Olympics, the last time the Michigan Senior Olympics were held.

Berk won a silver medal in the 50 breaststroke in :38.33 and a gold medal in the 200 breaststroke in 3:13.12 in 2019. His silver medal-winning time in the 100 breaststroke was 1:25.22.

Earlier in 2019, he finished fourth in the 200 breaststroke in the 2019 National Senior Olympics in Albuquerque.

Berk has swam in 25 events in eight years at the Michigan Senior Olympics. He’s won a medal in each event: 19 gold, five silver and one bronze.

He’s swam in the National Senior Games three times (2015, 2017 and 2019). His best finish was a silver medal in the 100 breaststroke in 2015 in Minneapolis.

At 5-foot-4, Berk is shorter than most competitive swimmers, so he’s at a disadvantage for many strokes. Not the breaststroke.

Another advantage is his dogged determination to do well in breaststroke.

“I didn’t start swimming the breaststroke until midway through my senior year on the swim team at Lincoln (Neb.) East High School,” Berk said.

“I was a freestyle swimmer, but I was mediocre at it, so I tried breaststroke and I won my first race. I went on to qualify for the state meet, but I couldn’t compete in it because I was sick.

“That has motivated me through the years. I didn’t get to see what I could do in breaststroke at the state meet, and I still want to see my potential.” 

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