Every swimming instructor worth his pool agrees that you can't start them too young. The pride of Art Mercer, assistant physical director at the Rock Island, Ill. YMCA, is Dick Hainline, a 4-year-old who has been swimming half his life. "From my experience as an instructor," says Mercer, "I would classify him as a prodigy."
When Dick scrambles onto the starting block he looks as though he might get lost in the pool. But when he flattens out in a racing dive and swims 200 yards using crawl, backstroke and breaststroke he looks as much at home as a young porpoise.
Dick is the youngest swimmer ever to pass the 31 water tests that are required to qualify for a "fish" rating in the YMCA's national swimming program. (Among other things, he can swim 100 yards with his feet tied together.) Although he might well grow into a fine competitive swimmer, his parents and coach are eager only for him to enjoy himself. "Swimming at the Y is for fun and exercise," explains Mercer. "We don't allow any pressure to develop."
Says Dick: "I love water. When I can't go to the pool I make my mother fill up the bathtub for me."