Hilton teacher delights pupils by winning seven SA masters swimming medals

2014-03-28 00:00

“I LOVE the rush of adrenaline,” said Hilton teacher Jenny Ireland as she described competing in the recent South African masters swimming champs in Bloemfontein.

It was her 19th year at the event and to the delight of her Grade 3 class at Laddsworth Primary School, she came back with a fistful of medals, including three golds, three silvers and a bronze.

“The children think it’s fantastic. One little boy gave me flowers,” she said.

Her medal haul this year wasn’t her best. When she moved into the 60-64 year-old category four years ago, she won six gold medals. “Next year, I age up again,” she said with a grin. “We love ageing up in masters.”

Most afternoons, year round, rain or shine, she can be found splashing up and down the St Anne’s pool, swimming three kilometres a day with the guidance of coach Jan Kooiman.

“I swim with the kids. I have to train with a coach, otherwise I just don’t push myself,” she said cheerfully. “When it comes to nationals, he puts me on a special programme.”

Her club, Highway Masters, for swimmers living between Winterton and Westville, meets once a month for galas. She also does gym at the weekends and decorates cakes for fun.

Ireland swam for Northern Transvaal as a pupil and for Wits as a student, but it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that she took up swimming again when her nine-year-old son decided to train for the Midmar Mile. In 1995, she joined masters swimming, competing at the nationals in 1996.

“Our motto is fun, fitness and friendship. We have a very low profile as far as Swimming SA is concerned, but the nationals are very competitive,” she said, adding that her friend, Sanderina Kruger, broke three world records this year.

In 2000, she was awarded her first SA colours and went to the World Champs in Munich, where she got a fourth, fifth and sixth place.

“It was an experience,” she said, “but very expensive, because I had to pay for myself. I haven’t gone again.”

Ireland doesn’t eat junk food and sticks to three meals a day. She said she exercises because “it just feels so good. I have no aches and pains, and I feel fantastic after races”.

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