Janet McDonough, 56, Cranberry Township, PA and Patty Sweetall, 54, Louisville, KY
It was like old times when sisters Janet McDonough (right in photo) and Patty Sweetall gave dominating swimming performances in Cleveland at the 2013 National Senior Games Presented by Humana. Janet, of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, earned four gold medals while breaking national records in the 55-59 age group in the 100-yard and 200-yard individual medley plus the 50-yard and 100-yard backstroke. Patty, who resides in Louisville, Kentucky, swam in the 50- 54 age group. She victoriously broke records for the 100- and 200- meter breaststroke events and earned silver in the 50-meter breaststroke.
“We started swimming competitively at a neighborhood pool in Pittsburgh when I was eight and she was six,” Janet recalls. “We swam together through high school, and on relays I swam backstroke and Patty did breaststroke.” The sister act continued as Janet earned a scholarship to the swim team at West Virginia University, and Patty followed when she completed high school. They shared two years of NCAA Division I collegiate competition and again teamed up on relays.
After college both took a break from swimming. Janet says 15 years of intense competition “kinda burned me out” so she moved to group fitness classes while Patty turned her sport passion to running. Janet got back in the water at 40, and after gradually building up her fitness she decided to try competing locally again seven years ago. She was delighted to find she still had winning ways. “When I learned of the National Senior Games from a swimming teammate, I went to the Pennsylvania games in 2012 to qualify and talked Patty into going to the Kentucky games,” she says. “She was hesitant at first, but she surrendered to big sister pressure.”
Patty, who works in one of Louisville YMCA’s Child Care areas, is grateful for the nudge. “We don’t see each other that much, and we had such a good time,” she says. “It was fun to see what I was capable of doing. What was nice is that I had no pressure on me.”
In 2015 both will be in the 55-59 age group, but Janet explains there won’t be a dramatic sibling rivalry in their competition. “The odd and funny thing is that we never swam the same events. I was always backstroke and individual medley (which is a little bit of everything) and shorter distance freestyle events. Patty is a hardcore, solid breaststroker who also does some longer distance freestyle. So we won’t be in the same events and can cheer each other on.”
Janet adds that the sister act heads to the FINA World Championships in Montreal in August with their grown daughters for a girls week of swimming and fun. “We’re both really happy the Senior Games got us competing together again. We can’t wait to go to Minnesota next year!”