‘Late bloomer’: 97-year-old B.C. resident smashes swimming records

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This is BC: Competitive swimmer says you’re never too old to start
WATCH: Betty Brussel has a bag full of medals for competitive swimming. She's on the podium a lot, but perhaps more amazing, she's 97-years-old and did not start competing until she was in her late sixties. Brussels is proving you are never too old to try new things on this is B.C. – Feb 10, 2022

B.C. resident Betty Brussel has so many medals for swimming, she’s lost track of them.

“I don’t know where these are from,” said Brussel, looking over a handful at her kitchen table in the Lower Mainland.

Most are gold — Brussel usually stands at the top of the podium — but what’s really impressive is the fact she didn’t start swimming competitively until she was 68.

“I am a later bloomer, yes,” said the 97-year-old.

Brussel grew up with her 11 siblings just north of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. They learned to swim in a canal near their home and would take the plunge any chance they could.

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“Going out at seven o’clock in the morning before I went to work and just swam in the canal. Man, was it cold,” she recalled.

Brussel never could have guessed that one day, she would set two world records at masters competitions for adults.

“I was quite happy with that. That was really, really nice,” she said, holding up two certificates to commemorate those achievements. “I’m sort of proud of that, yes.”

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Life is getting busy for Brussel again. Twice a week she drives herself to the pool at the Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey to train.

There’s still a lot of work to do.

“Her goal in life is to make it to 100 and break all the records in the 100 to 104 age-group,” said Carole Gair, Brussel’s former coach, in an interview.

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Brussel has suffered a heart attack, broken both feet, cracked a vertebra in a bad fall, and had an operation on her shoulder. None of it has stopped her.

“I always, when I’m recovered, I go back,” said Brussel. “I want to swim the 800-metre when I’m 100, that’s what I want to do.”

Her other hobby, sewing, isn’t nearly as demanding, but there are still medals to win and records to break. Brussel said she plans to keep coming to the pool for many years to come.

“Always. Always. I always feel always the best when I’m swimming” said Brussel.

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