Our first guest on The Bolder Woman, a show that showcases women over 50 in competitive sport, is multiple world record holding Masters Swimmer Jane Asher who at 88 competes in different strokes and distances
Podcast length: 26′ 25″
The Bolder Woman tells the stories of women over 50 from around the world who are competitive in a variety of sports
Our first guest on The Bolder Woman podcast is multiple world-record holding Masters Swimmer, Jane Asher. Jane turns 88 this month and is currently swimming in the 85-89 year old age group. She holds 22 current world records in a highly competitive sport. In the United States alone there are around 60,000 competitive masters swimmers and in the UK there are 17000 registered in clubs. And it’s not just the number of world records that she holds that’s astonishing, it’s the variety of strokes that she holds them in, and also the different distances she’s swum. The records she made in her early 70s are still standing. She holds 50m records in freestyle, fly and backstroke in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m distances as well as the endurance swim of 1500m. Her 50m freestyle record for the 85-89 year old age group is 38.75 seconds; that’s 19 seconds each way in a 25m pool. And her record for 100m in the same age group is 1:28.60. .
Host: [00:00:01] Welcome to Season 1 Episode One of The Bolder Woman on WiSP Sports. I’m Alex Rotas and WiSP Sports we believe women in sport deserve equal coverage. Hello and welcome to The Bolder Woman. Yes The Bolder Woman is for you if you are sporty nudging 50 60 70 80 90 or even 100 we’re going to be talking all things sport women’s sport during our best decades. From local sport to national sport international sport intergalactic sport. There are no limits. I’ll be talking to women at different stages of different ages doing different sports. In the second half of life the best half as I say from elite athletes competing on the world stage to everyday Sportswomen Are you 50 plus and starting up in a sport. Now if so you’re a bolder woman and this is for and about you. If you’re a returner going back to a sport you used to love maybe decades ago then you’re up old a woman and this has also formed about you if you found your approach again in later life then you got it. The Bolder Woman is for and about you. So tune in every two weeks as we hear from some amazing women and their stories that will inspire and motivate you. But first a little about myself and why I’m thrilled to be hosting this new show.
Host:: [00:01:39] So I’m Alex Rotas and for the last eight years I’ve been traveling the world photographing older sportsmen and women people in their 50s through to 100 plus who are still competing in the sport they love both nationally and internationally. Lots of people don’t even know that there are championship events for these age groups. But trust me there are I’ve been particularly interested in focusing on older women. Why. Well if it’s true to say that sport has traditionally been seen as something that men do and that men follow and I think it is to the extent that as we know women’s sports have often been left out of the picture. Then it’s doubly true to say that the achievements of older sportswomen have been even more marginalized. And yet there are so many of them. That’s something I have been and I’m still keen to put right. I’m bringing my passion about sport and my activism against ageism and all my experience of these past years to WiSP Sports. Now on the boulder woman we’re going to be highlighting and celebrating sporty women of 50 and over world record holders and world champions will always be the superstars. And I know a lot of these but will also be normalizing the fact that if you’re a woman of 50 60 70 80 or 90 then doing sport is just a regular thing to do. Sport isn’t a guy thing and it isn’t a young person thing. It’s an everyone thing. And older women are an important part of the story.
Alex: [00:03:10] And my guest today is the multiple world record holding swimmer Jane Asher Jane who is British turns 88 this March. So she’s a master swimmer currently swimming in the 85 to 89 year old age group by multiple. I really mean multiple I mean a lot. She holds 22 current world records. And this is in a highly popular and highly competitive sport in theU.S. alone there are around 60000 competitive master swimmers. And in the UK there are 17000 registered in clubs. That’s just to give you an idea of the scale of this hugely popular sport. It’s not just the number of world records that Jane holds. That is astonishing. It’s the variety of strokes that she holds them in and also the different distances she swam them in plus the fact that now in her late 80s record she made in her early 70s is still standing. So is Jane a sprinter. Well clearly yes she holds 50 meter records in freestyle fly and backstroke but she also holds records in the 100 meter 200 meter 400 meter 800 meter distances as well as the endurance swim of fifteen hundred meters. Is that just because there’s no competition. Once you get over 70 or 80, well let me tell you a couple of her times her 50 meter freestyle record for the 85 to 89 year old age group that’s front cruelty you and me is thirty eight point seven five seconds. Think about that for a moment. That’s 19 seconds each way in a 25 metre pool. Could you do that. And her record for 100 meters in the same age group is one minute 28 60. The lady moves fast. Jane welcome to our podcast. Congratulations on your achievements. You are very definitely a boulder woman. Hello. Hello there. Could you tell us first of all a bit about Masters Swimming. What is it what’s most in swimming.
Jane: [00:05:15] Well we are called Masters as from the age of 25. We are we are now allowing younger people to come in and swim with us which is lovely because it means we see people who are as good as the Olympic swimmers and it goes on from twenty five in five year age bands to the old person I know is a hundred and four. He can’t wait for next year. What happens when he’s up while he goes into a new age group and there’s new records to go for. A hundred and five yes. If you’re kidding me. No no that’s John Harrison. Anyone in England knows John Harrison. He’s recorded a hundred and four and now he was 105.
Host:[00:06:03] Absolutely astonishing…small potatoes at 88. How about you, when did you start swimming, have you been swimming all your life?
Jane: [00:06:15] Well no I haven’t been competing all my life. As a child the world war was on and we did things that were done now. And so I grew up and came away from my home where where we swam South Africa and lived in England and are married and had children and it wasn’t until I started teaching that I started getting fit again. And when I taught some children who I looked at and thought they’d look promising. I said How about some racing and they said no I didn’t fancy it. And I started by saying well I’ll swim in some races and you come and watch and see it’s from we so that’s how it started. And I didn’t do very well because I was swimming against children in the County Championship that someone came and told me then a friend Carol bikes. She said there is now Marsters swimming. And from then on I was in my late 50s. And now he’s been coaching and as a coach you weren’t amateur. So I had to wait until I was 60 plus that’s when I got going.
Host: [00:07:29] So you did your first Masters competitive race in your 60s is that what you’re saying?
Jane: [00:07:35] Yeah I’m really I did one before I was 16 just as a trial. But I was well over 60 when I really got going.
Host: [00:07:43] Can you remember your first ever race?
Jane: [00:07:47] Yes, I’d lost my husband. So I wasn’t really working hard. I was just swimming because it was good for a broken heart. And so I came into a competition in London and just not knowing anything about it. I swam a backstroke race and somebody beat me and I thought I must do some work here. And from then on I started training.
Host: [00:08:13] Tell me a little bit more why. Why is something good for a broken heart?
Jane: [00:08:17] It’s good for everything you concentrate on what you’re doing and you forget everything else. And then the water is your water’s like a mess. There’s a poem called the Black Masseur isn’t there and it is because it so it suits you smooths you if you use it properly.
Host:[00:08:37] So you started training in your 60s when you say training what does that mean?
Jane: [00:08:43] We’re looking at the clock and measured speed and thinking about improving your stroke thinking more carefully about how you do every little thing pushing off streamlining. All the things you teach about swimming you know right Bonnie position correct hands and proper amount of energy you put into every little part of the stroke. So you’re not wasting any because I was at university I used to do the short swims like 50 meters. Very very fast. But then when you go to a competition you white tie everybody else to swim and there’s a lot of waiting. If you’re only doing some 50 metre swims and I thought well instead of sitting around I’ll do some of these others so I will not try 400 meters and calculated that it was very very unpleasant.
Host: [00:09:47] That’s a big jump from 50 meters to 400 meters isn’t it?
Jane: [00:09:51] Yeah well I have done a 100 and I thought well if I multiply that by four and then add a cushion it’s possible and I went out faster than I should have done and it was a horrible horrible experience I learned how not to go out to start so fast. It’s nice when you sort it when you’re pacing properly and it’s easier than Sprint especially as you all know that you’re older. You must be a little more aware of your heart not being stressed you know plunging into a dive or a start or an older person has to be thought about your reaction slower. So what do you mean by thinking about diving when you when you start. You explode off the block. That’s the fastest you know because you’re going through the air and then have to hold onto the water and not grab and grab and push. Just get a hold of it gently and throw it at your feet in a comfortable manner and lengthen the stroke and hold yourself streamlined and make sure that you’re not messing about you’re making a nice and smooth.
Host: [00:11:04] I mean when you started this training who was training you away. Were you training yourself.
Jane: [00:11:09] No I trained myself.
Host: [00:11:10] You trained yourself.
Jane: [00:11:11] Well It’s not hard. My father was my father was my mentor. As a child he taught us to ride horses and of course when you ride a horse you start by walking and then you trot before you can before you gallop and and that’s it.
Host: [00:11:29] Most people wouldn’t be able to train themselves. I mean you did mention that you were teaching children to swim. So most people and I’m guessing also it must be quite different teaching children to teaching somebody who’s 60 or 70 or 80 when.
Jane: [00:11:47] In your head you are still 16. I have to. I do have to tell myself the old lady I’m living in is looking after me up on the a bit more aware of looking after her.
Host: [00:11:58] So what are the differences then between training somebody. I don’t know over 60 and training children to swim?
Jane: [00:12:08] Well adults need much more rest not only between each set but between each day and between each competition. So you have to be aware that you don’t go to the Nationals and then on Saturday and Sunday you race and on Monday you’re back in there on Monday you know to take it a bit easy and so on and I have to also to be aware that I mustn’t enter every race in the program. You should do two in the morning and two in the afternoon providing one spot. Fifteen hundred you met you impression. I’m smiling now because I’m guessing that’s hard for you to stop yourself from enjoying all the events. Yeah it is. Because we’re made for the decathlon. We have to cover all 10 events or 10 at least 10 races which means all four strokes and the medley and from 15 fifty to fifteen hundred somewhere. And so you’ve got to try and fit it all into the Yeah. And so I thought well I’ll do everything in a year. And that meant 35 races and then after about 70 years I thought maybe I’ll cut out the something. So at 75 I think I cut out the 200 fly… but you see we go to Guernsey in April and you can do 10 races in the weekend and so you know you clear them off the board and that’s terrific. Now I just have to think this April I’ll do eight instead of ten and do some more later elsewhere in the year.
Host: [00:13:51] What’s your competition schedule looking like this year. You’re going to Guernsey in April. I mean how many competitions are you going to enter?
Jane: [00:13:59] Well I haven’t entered everything so far we’re going to Bracknell in March and then I’m going to swim a thon and then I’m going to Guernsey and we’re going to Italy ocean swim in them one it is a competition and won it for the long swims in Italy it’s just games and you can only some three races so I’ll have to do lots in July in on that the 800 and maybe 200 back home something and then after Italy come back and the ball sprints and then in November there’s the bond. Fifteen hundred and we’ve gotten into counties we’ve got a couple of into counties.
Host: [00:14:41] That sounds like a lot like your international event is going to be in Italy.
Jane: [00:14:47] Yes it’s games right.
Host: [00:14:49] Right. I think I know what you mean. You want to explain.
Jane: [00:14:53] That won’t count for the decathlon. I don’t think FINA will accept our times. So it’s just you don’t have to hurry you just swim for fun.
Host:[00:15:03] FINA is the international swimming?
Jane: [00:15:05] Fédération internationale de natation
Host: [00:15:10] I wanted to ask you too because you’re 88.
Jane: [00:15:14] In March.
Host: [00:15:15] In March and you were just talking about earlier on about is it John who’s 105.
Jane: [00:15:21] John Harrison yes next year he’s a 105.
Host: [00:15:24] So you’ve got a big birthday coming up. Well a year after next right here. Yeah. And how how’s that looking for you. Have you got some goals. I mean are you are you looking forward to?
Jane: [00:15:37] Well at the moment I know what the world records are for all the stocks I do. But there is a lady called Gail Rocla in America who’s very ambitious. She’s picked the event so I can’t do that to her. I and the 400 medley and so on. So I’m not looking at those but all the rest. I know what the records are present so I’m swimming the events just to see how close so I am to breaking those records. I have to keep doing it all this year and all next year so that when I get to 90 I know where I am I got my benchmark.
Host: [00:16:17] So you’re talking about the records for the 90 to 94 year olds.
Jane: [00:16:21] Yeah.
Alex: [00:16:22] Wow, so that’s pretty exciting.
Jane: [00:16:26] I’ve got to get there in one piece.
Alex: [00:16:29] Are you super super human a superhero. I mean I’m just wondering about meeting 18 eight. And have you look forward to having any of these sort of arthritis or the joint stuff that a lot of people get as they age?
Jane: [00:16:42] Now I have arthritis. I’ve had both my hips replaced.
Host:[00:16:45] You’ve had both your hips replaced?
Jane: [00:16:47] Yeah but that’s great you know they’re really good operations. I had one done when I was trying to do some gardening and I pulled some ligaments and I messed it up. So I think that’s why I had the first one.
Host:[00:17:00] How long ago?
Jane: [00:17:02] Fifteen years ago yeah. And then the other one began doing tricks. So I thought I wasn’t I hurt my leg. And I waited a long time thinking it would get better and it got much worse. That was silly. So when the second one began to hurt I thought I’ll get this done before it gets any worse. And I had a sick surgeon and he did it so I could get back and swim quickly.
Host: [00:17:29] Did you talk to your surgeon about the fact that you were a swimmer?
Jane: [00:17:33] Oh yeah. I had the same surgeon both my operations so he knew me for the second one and I told him I wanted to swim the Hellespont in August.
Host: As you do.
Jane: Well it’s tricky that because it’s a sea swim but it’s not smooth sea, so you have to do some breaststroke to get up the top of the wave to see where you’re going. And that’s my weak stroke and they do tell you not to swim breaststroke after a hip operation but he knew what I wanted to do so he made my cuts where it didn’t affect the muscles I needed.
Host: I love that.
Jane: Yeah he’s lovely man. Anyone wants to know, I’ll introduce you know.
Host: [00:18:19] Fantastic, so no ageism there. He just took on board the fact that you were a swimmer a competitive swimmer and he was going to get you OK?
Jane: [00:18:28] And that was… I had it done in May. I know I was recuperating at my daughter’s house and she had the London Marathon on her television and I was pleased to be doing my exercises every so often for so long and watching the runners, it’s jolly painful the operation is (you’re under anesthetic) but the aftermath you have to do these unpleasant stretches and it’s good to have something else on your mind and body and make you do them. So watching them was good for me. They they were amazing those runners because some of them are quite badly injured are quite old will not runners. If you watch them running and you think well it’s worth doing this so I can swim because it’s easy.
Host: [00:19:17] How how long did it take you to get back swimming after you had your hip done?
Jane: [00:19:21] Well as soon as the scar… as soon as you can get Into water I think about three weeks after you just have…
Host: [00:19:30] Three weeks?
Jane: [00:19:32] Yeah yeah. It heals very quickly you don’t just you mustn’t do silly things you. I told you what not to do. You can’t push very hard. But you can you can so not use your legs very much and just you know swim but it goes well in the sea then you’re going to use everything but it was I had it done in May and I swam in August. What the Hellespont. Yeah. So the Hellespont is from where to where in Greece and Turkey. That’s what I thought. That’s phenomenal. Magically it’s Turkey and Turkey. It’s only three kilometers and that’s an hour. Yeah. And it’s salty water. So you’re quite buoyant.
Host: [00:20:11] But this is three months after you’ve had a hip or your hip replaced.
Jane: [00:20:16] You know I did wonder because there were 400 people swimming and you all dive in I had some Russians behind me. Because actually the water turned very rough that day and we were all standing on the pebbles waiting to go and some trekked man came and said look it’s all off which is what we’re talking about he’s you know it’s it’s off it’s too rough. It’s not it’s not safe. We we know the noise went and we dived in. That was it. And everybody disappears because it’s quite a big piece of water and I thought a granny maybe granny shouldn’t be here. But what we hear so we keep going. And when you get to the top of a way if you can see the pole the other side so you just some tell you get up top of a wave and then you see and you keep going. It’s actually quite nice.
Host: [00:21:10] So you’ve just had a hip operation and just swimming the Hellespont. And how old were you?
Jane: [00:21:14] Well I set about eight years ago. So you are 80 I suppose. Yeah somewhere down there.
Host: [00:21:22] I’m smiling I’m laughing I’m shaking my head in disbelief. You are incredible.
Jane: [00:21:27] Well you forget how old you are. It’s better not keep thinking about your age.
Host: [00:21:32] That’s true although when you’re a master swimmer they keep reminding you don’t they with all the age categories so I suppose you do keep remembering.
Jane: [00:21:40] Yeah yeah look at it because you’re looking for what you coming up to next. That’s what matters really looking forward.
Host: [00:21:48] Supposing someone like me and I bet there are other people like me out there said I really want to get into swimming. So I’m coming up to 70. I know a little bit about swimming because I used to swim in the under tens I’ve got strokes that very hidden. I’ve got them how would I start. Do I just go to a pool and start swimming every day?
Jane: [00:22:08] It’s a good idea to find a Masters club if you can. There’s a lot to be corrected because people come to me now and they do things in a way that I used to teach. And I realize how much things have changed since I used to teach kids so that different things mean nowadays we do quite a lot more out of the pool than we used to do. No not in the gym and go into parties or yoga or some flexibility work so start off just like once a week and gradually build that up but you’ve got to remember that you mustn’t go at it like you did when you were 11. You need more rest, and you just build, it comes, it only comes with doing it.
Host: [00:22:58] Yes I mean my problem would be I’d want to go at it hammer and tongs you know I get enthusiastic and throw myself at it but that’s not a good idea you’re saying?
Jane: [00:23:08] Well it feels bad…the first time I got in that I did about two lengths. She was my arms and placement. And I don’t you don’t realize you’ve gone too fast. So then you do another two links. Not quite so fast and until you can do more without it feeling unpleasant and change from one stroke to another because a lot of people when they were children the school would put them in. They were the breaststroke summer and that’s all they swam all the backstroke summer and that’s all. So you must now try and do medleys even if it’s only drills little measure a butterfly a little bit a race row and then more you know you can do and build it up. It’s like building a wall you’ve got to start at the bottom you get the basics right.
Host: [00:23:57] I’m guessing also that joining a Masters club it’s not just because you’re going to get good tuition. You start making friends don’t you, you’ve got camaraderie.
Jane: [00:24:09] That’s the major part for a lot of people. A lot of people come in once they’ve lost a partner or a job or they’ve moved to a new area. They want friends and you very soon make friends because nobody knows what your position in life is whether you’ve got money or not. You don’t talk about those things you talk about your swimming. I knew when I started there was a man who was a dustman and what we were we never knew until he started talking about it and because we have eye surgery suite we have I think some of the royalty do actually swim they don’t tell you you know and there are people from other countries they you know in other languages and you learn so much more than you would have done if you’d stayed at home.
Host: [00:24:58] I love that. Jane that’s a wonderful wonderful note to end on. I think I feel very very fired up and I like the idea of it being a level. And yeah that’s just great. Thank you so much for talking to us today. Jane. HALL And very good luck through this year and also as you head towards your new age group where I’m sure you’re going to add to your 22 outstanding world records.
Jane: [00:25:27] Thank you very much indeed.
Jane[00:25:30] Thank you. Bye bye.
Host: [00:25:52] And that’s our first episode. That’s our show for this week. I’ll be back in two weeks with another inspiring guest I hope you enjoyed it. In the meanwhile be sure to subscribe to WiSP Sports on your Podcast player. The show notes that this episode can be found on The Bolder Woman show page at wispsports.com. While you’re on the website you’ll find a lot more coverage of women’s sports from podcasts to videos interviews and blogs. Covering all sports around the world. Follow us and share your comments on social media @WiSPSports and #alexrotas, we’d love to hear from you have any suggestions for guests so we’d like to tell us what you think of the show drop us a line at email@example.com. Until The next time thank you so much for listening, we know you’ve got a choice when it comes to listening to podcasts so thank you for being there and thank you for supporting our women in sport everywhere.
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