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Gold Coast seniors smash swimming world record

Charntel Cleveland | July 23, 2021

Image credit: Vanessa Teece

Four Gold Coast women with an incredible combined age of 320 years have taken out the FINA Masters world record for 4x100m freestyle relay in their age group.

 

Margaret Fittock (80), Denise Robertson (86), Margaret Watts (78) and Carole Simpson (76) recently took out the title during a swim meet at the Chandler 25m short-course pool in Brisbane.

The awesome foursome from Miami Masters Swimming Club shaved a whopping 25 seconds off the previous world record held by a team in Japan.

It’s incredibly exciting,” says Denise, who also holds the women’s world record for 1500m freestyle in the 80–84 age group.

“No other Australian swimming club has a world record in Australia.

“We have got world record holders in their own right, but no club has its own world record.”

 

Lining up the title

Margaret Fittock says the suggestion to attempt the world record initially came from Denise.

“She gave the rest of us the idea in January that the world record was possible,” Margaret says.

A world record attempt can be quite a mission to pull off, according to Denise, not only in terms of training and timing, but to have the attempt officially recognised.

“There are lots of hoops you have to jump through. The attempt has to be sanctioned by Masters Swimming Queensland and you have to have the proper timing equipment as well as someone who is qualified to oversee the event,” says Denise.

Denise says the team knew they could achieve the world title during the attempt at Chandler, as they had beaten the previous record earlier this year.

“We swam it in a 50m Queensland Masters championship at Kawana on the Sunshine Coast in April, but that pool wasn’t ratified. We knew we could do it—we just had to make it official.”

With no signs of slowing down, Denise says the team have three more world records in sight.

“We hope to do the same 4x100m freestyle swim in a long-course (50m) pool and we also think we can break the world records for 4x200m freestyle in both a long and short-course pool. We plan to do our own relay swim meet as we might not get the opportunity otherwise. Half the battle is just staying alive!”

 

L-R: Denise Robertson, Margaret Watts, Carole Simpson, and Margaret Fittock
Image credit: Vanessa Teece

Denise Robertson
Image credit: Vanessa Teece

Life in the fast lane

The team trains regularly at the Miami Aquatic Centre, but not always together.

“We all train differently. Margaret Fittock and Carole train about five to six times a week, but Margaret Watts and I are lazy,” she laughs, “We only train a couple of times a week with our coaches,” says Denise.

Denise says the Miami Masters Swimming Club has a motto of ‘Friendship, Fitness and Fun’, which ticks all the boxes for the team.

“We just love the social aspect of swimming. We like our coaches and doing squads together, and we love catching up afterwards.”

Saturday afternoons at the Miami pool are a bit of a social affair, where swimmers often meet in the club room for drinks and nibbles after training.

“Everyone stays and has a chat and a drink while catching up, and then we often go across the road to Burleigh Bears for dinner. Our club has a terrific social vibe.”

Denise and her teammates have been members of Miami Masters for many years and hope to be for many more.

“I’ve been there for 21 years, but Margaret Watts was there at least a decade before me. Margaret Fittock came from Canberra about 15 years ago and Carole arrived on the Gold Coast not long after that.”

Denise says the club is always open to new members.

“Anyone who wants to swim for fun or fitness, you couldn’t do better than to join Miami Masters. You can join at 18 and keep swimming well into your 80s like us.”

 

Surviving cancer

While age is no barrier for these ladies, a couple have also overcome some serious health issues.

Margaret Fittock has a pacemaker and in 2016, the “baby” of the team, Carole Simpson, was diagnosed with stage 4B lung cancer as well as metastasis to the lymph nodes and tongue.

“After many visits to many specialists—who all but told me there was nothing much to be done but palliative care—I was referred to a wonderful young oncologist doing trials, who told me he couldn’t cure me but hopefully could offer me longevity if the treatment worked,” Carole explains.

The trails involved six rounds of chemotherapy followed by 10 rounds of radiation, then immunotherapy fusions, which are continuing.

“Every two weeks I have a blood test on Friday, followed by the immunotherapy infusion on the following Monday,” Carole says.

She also has a CAT scan every three months and a PET scan every couple of years.

“I still have the primary in my lung, but it’s much reduced. The mets are not visible and the cancer is controlled,” says Carole.

Swimming for life

Carole says swimming is her happy place and getting back in the pool has been some of the best therapy.

“After spending seven weeks in hospital, I was pretty weak when I got home. My husband Jim asked what was something I’d really like to do if I felt up to it and I said, to go swimming,” says Carole.

Carole remembers Jim taking her down to the pool on a Friday morning while the club was having their endurance swim session.

“I got in the water and felt absolute joy.  So, I decided to train again with a twofold purpose: firstly for my health and secondly to improve my swimming competition outcomes. The support from Jim, my family and friends was invaluable, however so was the support of my swim family at Miami Masters, who offered nothing but friendship and positivity,” says Carole.

Denise says although Carole will be managing her cancer for the rest of her life, she hasn’t let it stop her or even slow her down.

“After her initial treatment, Carole was back swimming in six months and within a year she was leading the lane again. She’s an inspiration to many,” says Denise.

Advice for others

Carole says regardless of age, you can achieve anything if you put the work in.

“There’s an old saying that the hardest part of exercise and training is getting out of bed and putting on your training gear. This is so true, but if your life or quality of life is dependent on it, just do it!”

She also says a positive mindset is paramount.

“Step away from the negatives in your life. Be single-minded about what you want to achieve with your health and exercise. Find what is right for you.”

Margaret Fittock says the team’s world record is proof age is just a number.

“It just goes to show it’s never too late!”