Clara LaMore Walker, a 1948 U.S. Olympian and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, died on Friday. According to her great-niece, Alyssa Kent, she died of natural causes at an assisted living facility. She was 94-years old.
Walker won AAU breaststroke national championships in 1945 (200 meter breaststroke, outdoor), 1947 (100 yard breaststroke, indoor) and 1948 (220 yard breaststroke, indoor), and qualified for the 1948 Olympic Games. There she finished 6th in her heat and 19th overall in the 200 meter breaststroke with a time of 3:23.6.
After those Olympic Games, she retired from swimming, but resumed the sport three decades later in 1980 on her doctor’s advice to relieve back pain. In the time since, she set more than 180 World Records and 465 American Records in masters swimming and won 8 consecutive Outstanding Masters Swimmer awards from US Masters Swimming.
She didn’t lose a masters race for over a decade, and at one point she held every World and National Record in the 65-69 age group aside from the butterfly events.
That effort saw her inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame not for her Olympic qualification, but for what she achieved after that qualification in masters competition.
After the 1948 Olympics, Walker graduated from Providence College, where she had been training, and began to work at a telephone company. Eventually she would become a teacher at Western Hills Middle School
“Clara was an extraordinary woman and athlete who excelled at all she did,” said current Providence head swim coach John O’Neill. “She loved her time working and training at PC, and was a huge Friar fan. A member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, she was one of the most focused and driven athletes I have ever worked with. She will be missed by all who had the privilege to know her.”
Walker was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1968.