Scott Lautman is not an Olympic swim champion
by Rob Clay
For several years in the 80's and even recently Scott Lautman (Highline High '71) was introduced as "Olympic swimming champion" when in fact he was far from it. From high school to the UW swim team, Scott was a good, fast, all-American swimmer but no champion.After learning to swim in Lake Burien nearly 60 years ago, Scott found getting in the water winter or summer was fun. Coach Earl McKinney at Highline High School trained and encouraged Scott. Scott comes from a very athletic family including brothers Mark, Chris, and Brian. The irony is that neither of the boys' parents were particularly athletic or even all that interested in their athletic pursuits.Beyond dropping the boys off at Gregory-Seahurst Swim Club or maybe attending an occasional game or meet, the parents were never a typical stage mom or dad. "They never had to wake us up to go to practice", Scott said. It was always about being a self starter and hard work."Trying to make the team is not the same as making it", Scott explained. He was 6th out of six in the '72 Olympic trials and 5th out of six in the '76 trials. The fact that his 5th place finish was faster in the 200 Fly than some athletes from other countries was little consolation since he needed to be in the top three for the U.S.Following those efforts Scott did not lose interest. He leveraged his love for the water by channeling his energies into distance swimming. In a 1979 swim at LaJolla he told his swim coach his left leg was aching but it was probably nothing to worry about. The coach was not so sure. He asked Scott to to check it out. Scott did, learning he had bone cancer just above his left knee. Three surgeries, and 7 years on crutches after a cadaver bone replacement pretty much resolved the cancer issue nearly 40 years ago. Scott kept swimming. "I knew I could not run but I could swim," Scott said. Swim he did, entering several long distance swim events around the globe.What most of us consider a good swim, say maybe three or four laps in the hotel pool, Scott sees as the tip of the iceberg. Sort of dipping your toes and heading back to the beach umbrella with a mint julip at your side. Now picture this. Lake Washington is roughly 20 miles from Bothell to Renton. That is a distance Scott would consider a decent swim. Twenty years ago Scott swam around New York's Mahattan Island from the murky Huron River through to the East River and back to the Huron, a distance of 27 miles. It only took him about as long as a normal work day at the office (8 hours 36 minutes).Was it cold? "yes", Scott says, "but you get used to it," he added. Last year in Vladivostok, Russia, Scott entered the fridgid 30 degree water in a 25 meter,10-lane lake pool that had been cut from three foot thick ice. Swimming in water that cold can freeze the hands and feet quickly to point that you cannot feel what you touch," Scott said numbly. He almost failed to mention the outside air temp was only 11 degrees. Though covered in vaseline (past swimmers used lanolin or even axle grease) Scott said it does not help much against the cold. "Your skin is pink from the burning cold," Scott noted but they are not in the water that long-- with warming rooms to bring the body temps back slowly.Swimming the English Channel (21 miles) can be daunting. Wind and currents change quickly from calm to white caps. The threat of sea creatures is always present, including jelly fish and sharks though Scott said he's never been bothered by either. He did say he was bumped recently at Alki Beach by a Harbor Seal who seemed very inquisitive about Scott being in the water.How does one avoid "tasting" the water? "The English Channel is very salty, much more than Puget Sound. Some lakes have different tastes, some bad. We mostly spit it out as we swim", Scott advised. In a curious moment we asked about bodily functions. In more than 40 yrs of distance swimming Scott has never had to hear the call of nature but acknowledged that during a 12+ hour swim, some swimmers simply have to swim away from the crew boats and do their business before continuing on. Sustenance on the other hand is ususally done through a feeding tube since the rules for distance swimming do not allow a swimmer to get out of the water. A previously prepared mixture of proteins and carbohydrates is taken from a bottle handed to the swimmer from a crew boat.
Now retired from 35 years with Alaska Air in the HR department, Scott is happy to get in a swim or two pretty regularly. He's slated to swim at Angle Lake Sept 14 in a Master Swimmers 1 & 2 mile swim with a group of 200 local and international swimmers.While all the distance Scott has covered, swimming from Burien to Vladivostok or Angle Lake to the West Seattle YMCA pool it does not make him an Olympic champion. He is, however, a champion of perseverance, a champion of hard work, a champion cancer survivor and a champion friend to swimmers around the world and here at home. https://iwsa.world/news/first-time-vladivostok