63-year-old Mesa Diver defying all odds

San Diego Mesa's Mike McKinney mid dive

San Diego Mesa's Mike McKinney mid dive

San Diego Mesa's Mike McKinney mid dive

Ray San Giovanni, Sports Editor

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Mike McKinney is defying all paradigms of a typical community college student-athlete.

McKinney, a 63-year-old freshman at Mesa College, was crippled with Sciatica, which is described as leg pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock down the large sciatic nerve. He was unsure about what the future held, but determined to move past his injuries. “A year ago, February, I was walking with a cane. I had just over 60 days of undiagnosed pain and disability, a lot of time for reflection. I went back to Dr. Barnet Meltzer, the Del Mar Surgeon who specializes in holistic and preventive medicine, and he brought me back to health in less than three weeks. With an all-vegan diet, some pantothenic acid, magnesium with other vitamins, some acupuncture, and a whole program of vitality he has developed,” said McKinney.

Dr. Meltzer got McKinney moving again and it was up to McKinney to make the most out of his rejuvenated health.

“Diving was an unfinished itch, so I rode my bike to Mesa last August, with swim trunks in my backpack” said McKinney. “I pedaled to Mesa and saw the pool for the first time: two one meter boards and one three meter. I had been off a three-meter maybe ten times, throwing nothing too fancy from that intimidating height. The lifeguard explained it was for students only, so I went to the athletic offices and met head coach Jim Fegan. He explained the basic procedures, times, and costs, and assured me I was welcome to join the class, with no pressure to join the team next semester when diving season would begin. It was the beginning of fall term, and I had only missed one week. A class session was beginning in a little over two hours. If I could register for one unit, he would write me an add slip. It took about that much time to find the registrar and figure out the system, fill out the forms, and wait in line at the cashier. For $46 plus the $19 health fee, I became a part-time student, with access to library and limited gym privileges. Fine deal! I hustled back to the PE office, then made it to the pool just 10 minutes late for my first Mesa class,” said McKinney.

Today he is not only competing in dive competitions with Mesa, but winning against athletes not even half his age. Earlier this year, McKinney was a PCAC mention for winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter events against Palomar helping Mesa to capture its third straight undefeated PCAC dual-meet championship. He also took first place in a combined 1- and 3-meter diving event against Mt. SAC, solidifying a 147-134 Mesa victory. McKinney’s success earned him a spot at the State Finals this year, where he placed 9th in the one meter event. “The first eight get medals,” said McKinney “but in lieu of medals, I got a big shout out: ‘old guys rule, take a bow Mike.’ It was cool.”

McKinney’s diving experience has motivated him to strive even further in the sport.

“My sons will be 25 and 30 this year, both natural, agile athletes who made different choices of play, exertion, and competition. I remember listening to them in the carpool, back in Portland, Oregon, when they talked about having a lot of respect for someone out jogging or putting on a rec uniform. Despite carrying extra weight, fighting for coordination, or coping with a frail frame. In diving, that played out every dive. Every diver as they rise to the sequenced movements and demonstrate that day’s personal best. I could watch my dream dive all day long forward one and one half with full twist and never stop being amazed at the elegance, the condensed power and stall, the momentary hover. No two divers completing it the same cookie cutter way. I get inspired to the point of action. That’s my goal for next year. That dive off one and three meter. Who knows?” said McKinney

Diving is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to McKinney’s’ amazing life. He’s also a one-man birthday party.

“Since moving back to San Diego after 25 years in Portland, Oregon, I’ve been stilt walking, doing events, parties, parades, Make-a- Wish fun run this week, March of Dimes 5K next week. Keeping up a variety of gigs with Looney Dooney Productions, magic shows, juggling, balloon sculpture, games, airbrush tattoos. Doing that work part time and seasonally, allows me to keep writing a book and thrive below the poverty line. The flexible scheduling makes a full load of classes possible with the occasional scheduling conflict.” said McKinney.

McKinney hopes that his actions can inspire others in tough situations and get others to participate in activities that challenge their abilities.

“If I can help encourage, and instill that itch, that sweat equity investment, to test it out, try yourself, in participation or competition or recreational blast, at that thing you want to do, or do again. Hey, I can just say it has been more than worth it and I’m coming back for another round. I mean, why not? Why would I not find the time for one of my favorite pursuits and then build the mental and physical muscle to keep sustaining it? That state of grace and short burst accomplishment; it adds life. Count me in.”





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63-year-old Mesa Diver defying all odds