By SUE WEBBER
Joel Mickelson can hardly remember a time when he didn’t swim.
The 16-year Lakeville resident recalls swimming on a YMCA team as a second-grader in Mankato; his two sisters and a brother also swam at the YMCA. Mickelson continued to swim through high school, college and even some in the Navy. As a submarine officer stationed in Hawaii, Mickelson did a lot of working out and swimming there.
Breaststroke is his main event.
“It’s a passion of mine; I really enjoy, and it’s good for you,” said Mickelson, who still swims regularly and competed in the National Senior Games, held in Minnesota in July 2015. He first had to qualify. Since he was too late to do that in Minnesota, he was able to qualify in South Dakota.
As a National Senior Games competitor that year, Mickelson won three gold medals, one silver and two bronze in the swimming events for his age group. Two of his gold medal times earned him Top Ten All Time honors for the National Games. The National Games involved almost 12,000 athletes ages 50 and up competing in 19 different sports. The games attracted athletes from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and nine foreign countries.
And now, having placed in the Minnesota Senior Games in 2016 and then qualifying, he was ready to compete in this year’s 2017 National Senior Games, scheduled for June 2-15 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Mickelson comes by swimming naturally: his dad, Warren Mickelson, formerly was a lifeguard and manager at the outdoor pool in Mankato, and later was swim coach at Mankato East High School. He was given the Association of Swim Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award and named he Assistant Swim Coach of the Year in 2002. He also was inducted into the Mankato East High School Hall of Fame.
“My dad picked up coaching when I was in high school,” Mickelson said, adding that the family also enjoyed a pop-up camper to travel to a variety of lakes when he was growing up.
Upon graduation from high school, Mickelson was recruited for the swim team at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He and seven other swimmers lived together and also competed together in swim meets.
As an adult, he began swimming for exercise at Lifetime Fitness, and then joined the Master’s Club at South Metro Storm Swim Club.
“I swim Tuesday and Thursday mornings with the team, and one or two other mornings each week at Lifetime,” Mickelson said. “On the days when I don’t swim, I run or walk.”
“I compete a few times a year usually,” he said. “I did triathlons while stationed in Hawaii, so I’m thinking of getting back into those. They are a lot of fun. Also, I did open water swims in Hawaii, and I am looking into those for this summer too.”
As head of procurement at Hearth & Home Technologies in Lakeville, Mickelson does a lot of traveling to visit suppliers in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. “I’ve traveled 92,000 miles so far this year,” he said.
He manages to find some spots for swimming or working out abroad, Mickelson said. “I’ll try to find a gym or place to work out,” he said. “In China, there was a really nice pool at the hotel, built prior to the Olympics.”
He’s proud to note that he and his wife, Kaye, did the Medifast diet together in 2014, and Mickelson lost 45 pounds. “I did most of the cooking,” he said. “I’ve picked that up since our sons have grown up and left home. It’s my artistic outlet.”
He uses a variety of sources for menu ideas and recipes, including Cooking Light magazine. “I love it,” Mickelson said. “I read each recipe and tear out those I want to try.”
He also uses other health magazines and catalogs, such as Eating Well, Experience Life and Williams Sonoma, as well as looking online at epicurious, food.com and Taste of Home.
He has a few cookbooks, too.
“Sometimes I just make up stuff, but only if I have a solid back up plan,” he said.
“I generally just stick to good healthy food,” Mickelson said. “I pick up stuff when I travel: hot pot spice mixes from China, truffle oil from Florence, olive oil and spices from Israel, balsamic and parmesan from Modena, Italy – things like that to keep it interesting. I love fish and seafood, so I make a ton of that, but I did get great compliments on a stuffed pork tenderloin recently.”
Mickelson said he also enjoys hunting and fishing.
The Mickelson swim tradition appears to be continuing. Mickelson’s two sons were swimmers at the South Metro Storm Swim Club in Lakeville.
“My son, Drew, swam for Lakeville South High School,” Mickelson said. “My other son, Clay, swam at Gustavus Adolphus College and was a captain his senior year.”
Mickelson’s wife, a physician, is not a swimmer. “She loves her work as an ob/gyn,” Mickelson said. “She has patients that have been with her for many years, and in a few cases, she is now seeing their daughters.”