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99-year-old woman smashes 3 world swimming records proving that age is just a number

The veteran continues to train hard for her upcoming swimming contests and is gearing up to celebrate her 100th birthday.

99-year-old woman smashes 3 world swimming records proving that age is just a number
Cover Image Source: YouTube | CBC Vancouver

People often say that age is just a number but this veteran swimmer is proving the statement right with her accomplishments. 99-year-old Betty Brussel has been making waves on the internet and around the world because she has a lot of celebrations to look forward to. According to CBC, the competitive swimmer shattered three world records recently and is also about to touch a century in 2024. For Brussel, swimming is not just a fun leisure activity and she takes it seriously by committing herself to the water sport.


"When I swim, I count my lanes and you can't think of anything else because you lose count," said Brussel, who lives in New Westminster, B.C., told The Current while visiting the Guildford Aquatic Center in Surrey. Competing in the age category of 100-104-year-old swimmers' meet in Victoria, Brussel broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle on January 20, 2024. Then she broke two of her previous records including 50-meter breaststroke and 50-meter backstroke.

Born in the Netherlands, Brussel learned how to swim in the canals of Amsterdam. Then she moved to Canada and settled in Grand Forks, B.C. in 1959 where she continued to pursue swimming as a hobby while raising her family side by side. But competitive swimming is something that Brussel took up in her late 60s. As a 68-year-old, she first participated in B.C. Seniors Games which is now known by the name of 55+ B.C. Games. "I did one lane of breaststroke and I didn't even do it right," she said, laughing. "I'd never been taught anything. I just picked it up." According to BBC World Service, Brussel did admit that she feels a bit "overwhelmed from all the attention" she is getting lately.


Brussel has now become a part of a competitive swimming team and hits the pool twice a week. Whenever she is not treading the waters, Brussel goes out for a walk and stays active. "I live on a hill. I go uphill slowly — and when I go down I go fast," she mentioned. "My kids are always telling me to not go so fast." According to Global News, the veteran has earned so many medals in swimming that she ended up failing to keep track of them. “I don’t know where these are from,” said Brussel, looking over a handful at her kitchen table, during an interview with the outlet.

“I am a later bloomer, yes,” Brussel said, recalling about her childhood. “Going out at seven o’clock in the morning before I went to work and just swam in the canal. Man, was it cold. I was quite happy with that. That was nice. I’m sort of proud of that." Brussel's former swimming coach, Carole Gair has nothing but positive remarks about her elderly student. “Her goal in life is to make it to 100 and break all the records in the 100 to 104 age group,” Gair said, per the outlet. However, being 99 years old means Brussel had to deal with her share of health setbacks as well.

She suffered a heart attack, had broken both feet, cracked her vertebra after a bad fall and even had an operation on her shoulder but the determined swimmer was not about to let any of those health problems hold her back from achieving what she had achieved. “I always go back when I am recovered,” said Brussel. “I want to swim the 800 meters when I’m 100. That’s what I want to do. I always feel the best when I am swimming.” Brussel, who had previously been a seamstress by profession also takes pleasure in sewing when she is not competing against her fellow swimmers.


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