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82-year-old Milton Keynes swimmer celebrates medals in Rome

At the end of August Janet Masters had reason to celebrate in Rome. The 82-year-old had just won a series of medals in the European Masters Aquatic Swimming Championships. Taking home gold in the 200m individual medley and the 50m butterfly, and completing the set with a silver medal in the 100m backstroke.

Originally from Leighton Buzzard and Great Brickhill, Janet now lives at ExtraCare’s Shenley Wood Retirement Village in Milton Keyes. Swimming for South Beds Masters swimming club she trains three to four times a week. Masters swimming (nothing to do with Janet’s name) is for adults aged 25 – 95+ who take part in age bands of which Janet sits in the 80-84 category.

These recent medals are just the latest to add to Janet’s collection as she has previously swum in National, European and World Masters Championships, winning medals in Sweden, Budapest, London and Rome, and missing gold by 0.003 of a second in Russia’s World Masters Championships in 2015.

Janet’s first swim wasn’t an enjoyable one, she comments: “I had swimming lessons aged 10 in an unheated freezing swimming pool at Exmouth seafront and I hated it.”

A few years later after moving to Watford her school took her for lessons at a local swimming baths and she soon learnt to swim all strokes (proving impressive at breaststroke especially). The school put her in a swimming gala where she was spotted by a coach who asked if she would like to join Watford Swimming Club. After joining, she was entered into The National Swimming Championships in Blackpool swimming the 100 metres butterfly and making the final!

After starting a family Janet’s swimming career stalled but when her children started school she saw an advert in a local paper for a swimming teacher. After completing the necessary qualifications she taught school swimming lessons for many years.

Janet was 65 before she decided to go back to swimming training. She says: “I’m a great believer in exercise and swimming is the best form of exercise especially for older adults. It’s a low impact sport that doesn’t put pressure on the spine, knees, or hips as its non-weight bearing. Swimming also works most major muscle groups and keeps joints supple improving flexibility. It is so good for everyone whatever age or ability.”

Janet isn’t the only swimmer in her family to swim competitively, in fact there are three generations swimming at Sheffield at the end of October. Competing at the Masters National Championships will be daughter Julie, son Peter, grandson Matthew and his partner Lizzy who will all be taking part with Janet. Granddaughter Beth only missed out due to giving birth to Janet’s first great-grandchild. Who knows, in time there may be four generations swimming together!

Daughter Julie adds: “Mum is a great inspiration to us as a family and to others. When I was young, she would get up and take me swimming at 5am… now it is me taking her (but we get a lie in until 6am)! Not many people of 82 can swim at her level and even fewer can do butterfly! We are beyond proud of her. Simply put, you are never too old.”