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Watch: 99YO Canadian Swimmer Betty Brussel Smashes 3 World Records

Meet Betty Brussel: Earlier this year, the Canadian swimmer made history by smashing three world records in a single day. In July 2024, she will turn 100 years old.

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Tanya Savkoor
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Images: Master Ducks Swimming/Youtube (L); Monia Blanchet/Radio-Canada (R)

Betty Brussel, a 99-year-old Canadian swimmer, created history this year by smashing three world records in a single day. On January 20, she crushed the world record in the 400-metre freestyle swim (100-104 age category, as per birth year), knocking nearly four minutes off the previous time and went on to repeat her record-breaking strides in the 50-metre backstroke and the 50-metre breaststroke that same day. 

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Born in Holland in 1924, Brussel did not get the opportunity to participate in extracurriculars growing up during World War II. Soon after her retirement, she got into swimming in her 60s and soon started competing. She said, "I always try to find a pace that I can sustain — you’re asking a lot from your body in these races. And on the last lap, well, I give it everything I have." The secret to the swimmer's breathtaking performances is her eye on the prize and nothing else, she says. Speaking to The Guardian, Brussel said, "When I’m racing, I don’t think about anything. Nothing. I just count the laps."

Betty Brussel, Strokes Of Triumph

In January 2024, competitive swimmer Betty Brussel from Westminister, British Columbia, broke three world records in the 100-104 age group category in just a day. The Holland-born athlete's journey in swimming began in the canals of Amsterdam, where she took a dip with her siblings. However, growing up during World War II, extracurricular activities were not a luxury they could afford.

When Brussel was 14 years old, she had to drop out of school to help care for her 11 siblings. After her marriage, she and her husband moved to Canada in 1959, where they had three children. Brussel told the Washington Post that she cleaned houses for a living and later became a seamstress. She retired in 1982, in her 60s, when she started to use her free time to go swimming.

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image: bbc
Image: Hannah Walsh, BBC

She would swim at least twice a week and completely fell in love with being in the water. “I really enjoy swimming. I’d love the feeling of gliding through the water and it just makes me feel very good,” she told The Guardian. Soon, the leisure activity turned into a strong passion and Brussel began swimming competitively. 

image: bbc
Image: Hannah Walsh, BBC

Her coach, Stanley Wilson, says that the 99-year-old swimming champion is almost inexhaustible and her energy has become an inspiration for others in the community. Brussel lost her husband a few years ago but the pool has become a source of comfort for her. "Whatever happened to me. I always go back to swimming. I always feel better when I get to forget all my worries," she says.

 

 

Betty Brussel Women Swimming Records women swimmers World Record
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