Betty Brussel, 99-year-old Canadian swimmer, breaks three world records

Betty Brussel, a 99-year-old Canadian woman, has broken three world records and become a sensation in the world of amateur swimming.

On Saturday, Ms Brussel set records in the 400-metre freestyle, 50-metre backstroke and 50-metre breaststroke at the Victoria Masters Swim Club Meet at the Commonwealth Pool in Saanich, British Columbia.

She broke three records in the 100 to 104-year-old age category.

Born on 28 July 1924 in Holland, Ms Brussel, despite wearing a hearing aid and having a pacemaker due to a heart attack 25 years ago, lives independently and continues to drive herself to swim twice a week.

“I love being in a pool and gliding through the water,” Ms Brussel told the Globe and Mail. “I feel better when I get out than when I go in. Swimming is my love. It makes me forget all of my worries and I feel great.”

It was only in her mid-sixties that she started competitive swimming.

Her world record-breaking wins have also inspired members of her local club, the White Rock Wave Swim Club, where she is an active participant.

Ms Brussel and her late husband, Gerrit, moved to Canada in 1959 and settled in British Columbia. She has three children, aged 69, 72 and 74 years old.

“I was surprised by my own swims yesterday,” Ms Brussel said. “I gave it my all. I never give up. It was wonderful. It was like being in a movie. I was totally overwhelmed by everybody’s support.”

She completed the 400-metre freestyle in 12 minutes and 50.3 seconds, surpassing the previous record in her age category of 16:36.80. She set a new mark in the 50-metre backstroke with a time of 1:24.91, breaking the existing record by nearly five seconds.

In the 50-metre breaststroke, she achieved a time of 1:56.22, establishing a record in a class where there was no previous benchmark.

“I like to win but records have never been the most important thing to me,” she said. “If somebody else wins, I am happy for them.”

Stanley Wilson who coaches Ms Brussel noted that her seemingly boundless energy serves as a source of inspiration for fellow club members. He told the Guardian: “Betty has the most twinkly blue eyes and biggest smile. She is very funny and a chatterbox. When it comes to coaching I really just make sure that she’s not doing anything biomechanically counter-productive or that she might sustain an injury from. The reality is, here’s a lot of paperwork with world records, and I have to fill all that out.”

Ms Brussel has already garnered attention from filmmakers, with Hannah Walsh and Emma Puchniak shadowing her throughout the year for a documentary anticipated to be released later in the year.

“I live life every day and enjoy it,” she told Globe and Mail. “I feel very fortunate to do what I do. I’m not ready for somebody to look after me.”

She reportedly has a mobile for emergencies. “All of my friends died on me. Who am I going to call?”

She lost her husband a few years ago and since then the swimming pool has remained a constant source of joy. “Whatever happened to me. I always go back to swimming. I always feel better when I get to forget all my worries. Always,” she said.

“I’m actually a bit shy, and so I get confidence from the water. I’m still getting used to all this attention. But with all of this focus and these records, I’m even starting to feel a bit proud of myself, too.”

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