A 99-year-old Canadian swimmer has amazed the world by breaking three world records in her age group in a single day. Betty Brussel, who lives in British Columbia, competed in the 400-meter freestyle, the 50-meter backstroke, and the 50-meter breaststroke events at a swim meet in Saanich on Saturday. She beat the previous records by a wide margin, but said she was just swimming for fun and did not care much about the medals.
A late bloomer in competitive swimming
Brussel was born in Holland in 1924, and learned to swim in the canals near Amsterdam. She moved to Canada with her husband Gerrit in 1959, and raised three children in Grand Forks, a small town in British Columbia. She did not take up competitive swimming until she retired in 1982, when she joined the British Columbia Senior Games. She said she had no idea what she was doing at first, but she enjoyed the feeling of gliding through the water.
She later joined the White Rock Wave Swim Club, where she met her coach and friend, Linda Stanley Wilson, who holds a doctoral degree in kinesiology. Wilson said Brussel was always energetic and enthusiastic, and never complained about anything. She also said Brussel did not follow any special training or diet, and only swam twice a week, without any drills. “What can I say? I’m a bit lazy,” Brussel admitted.
A record-breaking performance
Brussel turned 99 in October, but she was placed in the 100- to 104-year-old age group, as swimming goes by the birth year. She said she did not mind the age difference, and was confident in her abilities. She proved her point by smashing the existing world records in her category, which were set by American swimmers in 2016 and 2017.
She swam the 400-meter freestyle in 12 minutes and 50 seconds, beating the previous record by nearly four minutes. She completed the 50-meter backstroke in one minute and 45 seconds, and the 50-meter breaststroke in one minute and 48 seconds, both faster than the old records by more than 20 seconds. She said she did not think about anything while swimming, except counting the laps and finding a sustainable pace. “And on the last lap, well, I give it everything I have,” she said.
A humble and happy swimmer
Brussel said she was not interested in the records or the medals, which she had accumulated hundreds of over the years. She said she was just swimming for fun and for her health. “I don’t even think about the records. I just swim. I just do the best I can. And if it’s a record fine. If I win, I’m happy to win. But if I have a good time, I’m happier,” she said.
She also said she was not bothered by the attention and the media coverage that her feat had generated. She said she was grateful for the support and the encouragement from her family, friends, and fellow swimmers. “But with all of this focus and these records, I’m even starting to feel a bit proud of myself, too,” she said.
She said she had no plans to stop swimming, and hoped to continue until she was 100 or beyond. She said she loved swimming, and it made her happy. “When I swim, I feel so happy,” she said.