Hometown: Bronxville, New York
When Charles Urstadt swam his first race at age 12, the next day's paper read "Wistadt Triple Winner." The headline writers have had a lot of opportunities to make up for that in the six and a half decades since. Urstadt went on to win three city championships and set a city record in the 100-yard breaststroke while attending Bronx High School of Science; was a Junior National Breaststroke Champion, two-time All American, and captain of the swim team at Dartmouth; and set New York City and State records with the New York Athletic Club after finishing his studies. He even played for the Armed Forces Olympic Water Polo Squad while serving in the Navy, but gave up swimming in 1957 in favor of other sports.
While Urstadt didn't make headlines in running or tennis, the press certainly paid attention to his work. He served as New York State Housing Commissioner under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and was the first chairman of Battery Park City, serving from 1968 to 1978 (he rejoined the board of Battery Park City in 1998 and is currently Vice-Chairman). Urstadt recounts the planning, politics and construction that went on during those years in "Battery Park City: The Early Years," published this summer. Of the development's design, he notes, "If we knew so many people would one day be swimming in the Hudson, we would have added a better way to get into the water."
Urstadt returned to swimming in 1999, and quickly returned to his old form, winning the national championship in breaststroke in 1999 and the world championship in 2000. He improved on that in 2003, winning gold, and setting a national record in the 200-yard breaststroke at the Senior Olympics, and setting national records for 50-meter long-course and short-course breaststroke for men 75-79. The next year he broke both of those records (42.40 in the short-course, 41.69 in the long-course), and added a record in the 50-yard short-course breaststroke (37.07).
As much as he enjoys setting records, Urstadt wishes he had a little more competition. "I don't understand why more of my contemporaries aren't swimming. It's such a healthy pastime, and it helps keep you young. I couldn't imagine being as inactive as some people my age." There's little danger of that happening. Urstadt, who will turn 77 next week, is already looking ahead three years. "I can't wait until I'm 80, and can set some new records."
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