She holds the record for the oldest athlete to complete a professional triathlon – and her competition is still going
You may have seen her streak up and down Brighton beach, running along the beach right up to her 80th birthday, just like any person who struggles to get out of bed in the morning. But now there’s another person still racing in and around the Sussex marina – and it’s just about as old as you can get.
Brigid Wright finished the Fifth South East Grand Prix at Portsmouth’s Her Majesty’s Naval Base in 1990, when she was 78. That meant she broke the record for the oldest female to race in an professional triathlon – which is even older than the record for oldest person in a pro race.
Fellow age group triathlete Eileen Davis finished the same race at the age of 78 last year, and will be back at the same event this year at the age of 87. If the locals can’t contain their excitement, it’s no wonder. “We have an ultra event here every year and we are quite know for it,” former Lord Admiral Stanley Wilson told the BBC last year. “Fifty-mile cycle and 5K swim.”
For Davis, being the oldest person in a race has posed its challenges. “It’s a little bit disheartening to know you are the oldest,” she told the BBC. “My son tells me to give them a smile and a wave but I find it hard.”
But for many of the other athletes competing this weekend at the seashore, there’s no stop sign in sight. Peter Willems, a 50-year-old from Germany, will be running the 1.2km swim in three hours, 43 minutes and five seconds. He’s already won 12 straight open-water swims, and now attempts to become the first to win six. His target is a new swimming world record. “I’m an empty vessel, that’s the best way to view it,” he says. “I love swimming, I can’t swim without swimming. So that’s why I’m going to do as many as I can.”
For those who fancy a whirl, you might want to check out the Freestyle wave, also aimed at reaching 18-30 year-olds. Scott Locke, 28, will be racing this year, after tearing his knee ligaments while competing in the Red Bull Youth Games in Istanbul, Turkey, last year. By the time he reached the swim, the race was finished.