Age no barrier for Penny Slack


Have you ever noticed that older person round the gym, at the pool, in your fitness classes?

They tend to shuffle about the place, systematically moving from one exercise to the next with a quiet and consistent manner.

While training at AUT Millennium, I begun to notice an older woman getting ready for her swim. I didn’t really think twice about it. I swim six days a week after all.

That was until the 1st of August 2015.

The ‘First Splash’ event provided an opportunity to take a look around the new Sir Owen G. Glenn National Aquatic Centre at AUT Millennium.

That’s when I officially met Penny.

Penny was the older woman I had seen at the pool so often; at 81 years old she was swimming every second day. I have heard of a number of people swimming at this age and even later, but what impressed me about Penny was how long she had been swimming for.

At 72, Penny had her first ever swimming lesson.

Penny Slack & Laura QuilterThat in itself is incredible. As a swim teacher, I know how difficult it can be to learn to swim.

The fear of submerging for the first time, learning to roll and breath, kicking without spaghetti legs. Not only did Penny have to learn right from the beginning, but at 72, her strength and flexibility was likely to be limited.

What really struck me about Penny was her energy. The world vitality really suited her.

She displayed a level of persistence many younger athletes would struggle to match.

Despite having had only a couple of lessons, Penny was determined to master the life-skill of swimming.

She turned to books for help, which explained the key to swimming was repetition, or time spent in the water. With a positive attitude, and tenacious desire Penny persisted with her swimming alone.

I admire that.

At times swimming can be extremely hard, not just physically but mentally. The pool doesn’t change, the line on the bottom doesn’t change, the only way around it is to change your attitude.

Meeting Penny and seeing the love she has for swimming helped remind me why I do this ridiculously hard sport.