Sue Wiles can thank a sore neck for her success in ocean swimming— a pastime that saw her take out second place in her age group at Sunday’s Cole Classic.
The 72-year-old Wentworth Falls resident took up swimming as a way of recovering from neck strain caused by prolonged computer work about eight years ago and has never looked back.
“I took to it like a duck to water,” she said.
While she initially enjoyed Masters swimming, Wiles soon started ocean events, undeterred by her Blue Mountains location hours from the coast.
“I grew up in Sydney and I never went in an ocean swim, but now that I live in the Mountains I do,” she joked.
She finished Sunday’s 2km Manly swim in 39 minutes and 28 seconds. Despite winning her age category the previous two years, she was narrowly pipped to the finish line this year by a swimmer from Avalon.
“She’s a courageous swimmer and she really really deserved to win — it’s just unfortunate she’s in my age group but there you go,” she said.
The long-time Mountains resident has never been motivated solely by thoughts of victory in any case.
“Every year it (the Cole Classic) gets a bit more of a mental challenge. You think, ‘Can I do this?’. Then you get in the ocean and you think ‘This is wonderful’ . . . There’s that wonderful feeling of achievement when you’ve finished. It makes me really enthusiastic about keeping fit,” she said.
Wiles trains regularly at Katoomba and Glenbrook pools and hopes her success will encourage other older people to step out of their comfort zones.
“I’m surprised there aren’t more women of my age group doing it (ocean swims) because it is completely do-able,” she said.
Nearly 400 competitors took part in the 30th annual Cole Classic, Australia’s largest ocean swim.
Ollie Signorini clinched the men’s two-kilometre race, finishing in 25 minutes and 18 seconds, while Josh Beard finished second four-tenths of a second ahead of Chris Fydler. Alicia Caldwell was the women’s two-kilometre champion with 26 minutes and 18 seconds, ahead of Siobhan O’Leary, with Zoe Whitfield in third.
The event is sponsored by Fairfax Media.