Etobicoke, Ont. – At the recent Ontario championship in Sudbury,
Kalis Rasmussen actually stopped part way through her record attempt at the
It might have been the crowd, with teammates waving and yelling
beside her in lane 8. As she reflects on the attempt, Rasmussen, who
will turn 83 this year, thinks she went out too fast. “I couldn’t do it
But give up going for the record again? No way.
“I hate to give something up. I’m not very good at (stopping). Even
if I go slowly I want to finish.” She never has a time in mind: “All I
want to do is do it. The time is not important to me but it is to the
She may not be as fast as other women in her 80-84 age group, like Doris McEwan and Elsa de Leeuw, says Charlie Lane of EOMAC.
“But Kalis goes for the toughest events like 100- and 200-metre fly
and 400-metre IM. She has only two out of 35 EOMAC club records left to
swim in her 80-84 age group, the 1,500-metre long course and the
200-metre fly, short course. Care to bet these will be Kalis' next
(Canadian records) next year?”
Rasmussen, of the Etobicoke Masters, born and raised in Copenhagen,
Denmark, was always a swimmer. “It’s like somebody riding a bike. I
don’t remember starting.” By age eight she was competing around
northern Europe, specializing in breaststroke.
When she was 15 the war curtailed her swimming and went into an
apprenticeship as a furrier. They worked eight hours a day then went to
school at night. “There wasn’t all that much time to swim.”
The war was a presence but she remained optimistic. “If anything was
kind of bad I felt it would be good afterwards. I hated the (war) like
you couldn’t believe but it was a way of life. I don’t know how to
explain it. Most Danes of my age who lived it, we had to live through
It was nowhere near as bad as it was in Holland, Norway, Poland or
Belgium, she adds. “Our king stayed through the war. I think that
helped a lot. It was somebody to look up to.”
When the war ended she started traveling around Europe again and
Asbaorn on the ferry from Copenhagen to Fyn when they were going to
meet up with their then-respective partners. They were married in 1951
and moved to Canada. “We both wanted to see something else.” They
planned to stay for five years and move on, maybe to Australia.
But they found their home in Canada, settling near Toronto and
starting a family: daughter Debbie in 1955 and Toby and Kim, the twin
boys in 1957. Rasmussen now has two grandchildren.
It was not until 1988 that she returned to swimming. In 1987 she
survived breast cancer (the breast was later removed in 1998). She
joined the Bowmanville Masters. “I wanted to do something. I was
swimming for myself at the time. I really didn’t know about Masters.”
In 1996 they moved to Toronto where she eventually joined the Etobicoke Masters.
For Charlie Lane, Rasmussen is unique for any age group.
She is focused, “not tolerant of others in her lane who like to stop
during a set! Kalis has huge expectations that she places on herself,
in the pool, in the gym, everything she does.”
Yet she is also the swimmer who leads the charge to the dinner after
workout. Life has to be filled with “the most exciting activities, the
(best) parties, and the most fun possible. Life is too short for
moaning and groaning or dwelling on personal or health problems,” he
“Maybe it's her Scandinavian heritage that keeps her so clear-eyed,
confident, optimistic, and determined; but I think she's
At one time she was a breaststroke specialist; now she swims
everything: “I think breaststroke is harder on me than freestyle.
Breast takes an awful lot out of you. I never realized that before I
went back to it again. No wonder you can’t do anything else when you’re
a breaststroker,” Rasmussen says.
She swims four times a week and trains at a local health club another three times.
“For my age I’m pretty good. I do think that people my age, are
getting fitter than 20 years ago. Elderly people are more physically
In 2001 Rasmussen’s right hip was replaced. She did her
physiotherapy – of course – in the pool. Within four weeks she was
walking without a cane. “I got over that very very quickly.”