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Just what the doctor oared

By: Susan Belknap, The Press-Tribune Editor
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By day she prescribes medicine and diagnoses diseases of children as a pediatrician for Kaiser Permanente in Roseville. But after working hours, Sue Hooten is an athlete extraordinaire. So extraordinary that she recently was named world champion (in the 55 to 60-year-old category) at the World Indoor Rowing Championships held in Boston. She also shattered the world record by completing 2,000 meters in 7 minutes, 23.7 seconds. Although she prefers to do her rowing outdoors in actual water, Hooten, a Granite Bay resident, said the Concept2 Model D Ergonometer rowing machines she practices on and used for the world competition, simulate the real thing most accurately. “Some people practice on these machines 1½ hours each day,” Hooten said. “But I just like to use them during the winter when the weather is not as good.” Although winning and being part of the world championship was a thrill for Hooten, being athletic has been a part of her life for decades. “I started rowing in 1974 when I was a senior in college at UC Santa Barbara,” Hooten recalled. “I did a few competitions in college and knew it was great exercise. It began as a social activity. I had some success with it and kept going.” After college graduation Hooten packed her belongings and moved to the East Coast where rowing competitions have been popular since the 1800s. She moved to Pennsylvania, which is a rowing Mecca according to Hooten, and began practicing and competing. Hooten knew her hard work paid off when she was able to compete on the United States rowing team in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. “I felt so privileged and honored to be on that team,” she said. “I didn’t really have any plans when I went to the East Coast but I ended up staying there for 10 years.” Some of those years were spent in medical school at Temple University in Pennsylvania. It was in Pennsylvania where Hooten met her husband, John, who was one of her rowing coaches. John was the coach of the 1977 national team on which Sue participated during her first world championship rowing competition held in Amsterdam. Currently Sue trains under the guidance of Nathan Wilson, the Sacramento State Masters Women’s coach who is pleased Sue is part of his team. “Sue brings a tremendous amount of experience to our team while at the same time she stays level-headed,” Wilson said. “She’s competitive and a really good rower.” Wilson said the Sacramento team consists of about 40 women who are committed to practicing four times per week at Lake Natoma. Claudia Schneider of Folsom is one of Sue’s teammates, who, like Sue, has been pursuing the sport for decades. “I actually rowed with Sue in the 1976 Olympics,” Schneider said. Sue said her rowing training today is not nearly as intense as it was 30 years ago when she used to practice twice a day, but she still always gets a good workout. In addition, she rides her bike to work each day – about eight miles round trip – swims laps and participates in spinning classes at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville and rows at Lake Natoma at least two times during the work week for 2 ½ hours. “I try to do something hard every day,” she said. “I did a triathlon last year and am planning to compete at another one in Spokane later this year.” With her win in Boston for the world championship Sue said she’s beginning to receive invitations to participate in other competitions including the Nationals, which will be held in Long Beach this summer. Although having years of practice and experience helps any athlete to be good, Sue said physical qualities of a good rower include having a strong, sturdy physique and some amount of height. Sue said she’s noticed an increase in the number of women who are taking up the sport. “Rowing is a good low-impact sport,” she said. “There are even some 90-year-old rowers.” Although Sue has a long time before reaching that age, she has no plans to quit any part of her physical activity anytime soon. She’s happy to use the facilities at Lake Natoma, and be able to compete with longtime friends like Schneider. “It’s just a nice group of people,” she said.