South African sisters Anne Jones (a year shy of 70), Janey Hulley (72) and Sue Leuner (75) have one thing in common besides genes: their love for swimming.
They have been swimming all their lives, taking part in competitions, splashing around in the oceans, and there is just no stopping them.
“We have more chlorine in our blood than anything else,” laughs Jones, when we meet them on a hot day at the Ellis Park public pools in Johannesburg for the SA Masters National Swimming Championships.
The sisters lost their mother when in their 20s, which helped strengthen their bond. Even though they have their own families – children and grandchildren – they are incredibly close.
Leuner, the eldest, was taught swimming by their father in a fish pond at their home in Melrose in Johannesburg. Last year, at the age of 74, she won gold (in her age group) at the 15th FINA World Masters Championships in Montreal, Canada.
Jones too made swimming a career and now spends all her days by the pool coaching.
“I just love little children and I love swimming and both are my passion,” says Jones. She does not see it as just a sport.
“It is a very forgiving sport, I used to teach at a cerebral palsy school, and you take these people out of a wheelchair who cannot move even an eyelash, put them in the water and suddenly they have all this movement. It sounds crazy but it’s almost like a spiritual thing, the sound of the water, the feel of the water, and we will go on to do this forever,” says Jones.
“I remember as a child, underwater was a really safe space, and that’s exactly what I feel now. I love to hear the water, feel it on my face,” adds Hulley.
For their age, all three are in fantastic shape, and the secret to a fit body – no prizes for guessing – is swimming about three-four times a week.
“It’s also hard work, but there is nothing like starting the day with a swim. We start at five in the morning, when the moon is still up, and when we get out we feel like we can take over the world. There has never been anyone in all the years I’ve coached that’s got out of the pool and said I wish I hadn’t done that,” says Jones.
The three continue to enter swimming competitions and at any given time, you will find at least one of them surfing the beach in the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.