‘In the water youre weightless’: the 99-year-old swimmer breaking world records | Naaman Zhou

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Queenslander George Corones remains humble after smashing two world records in four days

George Corones waited nearly 100 years for a world record, and then two came along at once. The 99-year old Queenslander, who is wary of causing too much fuss, broke his first on Wednesday last week and by Saturday he had two to his name.

He hit the wall at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in 56 seconds across 50m, and in two-and-a-half minutes across 100m, smashing the record for his age group 100 to 104. A delirious home crowd watched him become master of a very specific slice of the world.

Corones, who stopped swimming at the start of the second world war and did not start again until he was 80, is sheepish about what he has done. He is doing his best to be unimpressed with himself and is certain his time will be beaten.

All I can say is the public have amazed me, he tells Guardian Australia. Theyve overwhelmed me and theyve been overly generous in their response to what has happened. I certainly didnt anticipate any of this.

Speaking over the phone from his home in Brisbane, Corones is a reluctant worldbeater. Swimming is something he does in private. It lets him exercise without pain. He only ever competes alone, and he is happy if his record encourages other masters-level swimmers to join him.

I was a little concerned beforehand because Ive only just come up from a break away from swimming, he says of his recent efforts. I wasnt quite at the top but I was well enough.

It wasnt a great hurdle to beat, but it had to be done. Somehow, by someone. Were on unbroken ground, put it that way. These current figures are waiting for the attack from the burgeoning number of masters swimmers ladies and men who are waiting to see what can be done. They will surmount it, thats how it goes.

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George Corones dives in for the 50m freestyle event on the Gold Coast. Photograph: Darren England/EPA

In many ways, he swims for himself, and lays down records for others.

Its a goad, he says. An encouragement. The achievement of a performer is a goal for someone else to achieve a better figure. You can see there is value in making public what can be done.

Corones turns 100 in April, which puts him in this age category. He smashed the previous 50m record, held by Britains John Harrison, by 30 seconds. Most masters records languish in obscurity. At the time of publication, the official Fina website for masters records had a glitch that meant it didnt show anything.

While I was swimming I was conscious of the rumble of the crowd, says Corones. It as much as anything egged me along.

That constant consciousness is the key to Corones. He is acutely aware of what he has done. He is aware of how few people his age swim, of how the crowd watches and expects, of his own body its only when he swims that he isnt.

Swimming is the only activity that the human can indulge in that is gravity free, he says. You realise gravity incessantly is putting a strain on us. You cant escape gravity even if youre sitting down youre probably in a bad posture and your muscles and ligaments are aching because of it but swimming gives you that opportunity.

In the water youre weightless. While youre there, you can use all the muscles in your body, your sinews and elastic tissues, without that extra weight thats on you. In the water its just yourself and no weight at all.

In the water, Corones is the fastest man in the world (with caveats). For now, he is overwhelmed. He will go back to swimming three laps a week, sleeping well and eating a boiled egg for breakfast.

Im just going to continue to do what Ive been doing in the way Ive been doing it, he says. Which is repetitively and patiently. Im about to go through a stage of recovery, and as soon as I feel Im ready, Ill start again.

Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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