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Betty Brussel stands on the blocks before a 4 x 50 freestyle relay.Hannah Walsh/The Globe and Mail

Betty Brussel learned to swim as a teenager in the canals of Amsterdam, but didn’t become a serious swimmer until she was 68 years old and living in Canada. She is a sprightly 99 now and a multiple world record holder.

On Saturday, Ms. Brussel set records in the 400-metre freestyle, 50-metre backstroke and 50-metre breaststroke at the Victoria Masters Swim Club Meet at the Commonwealth Pool in Saanich, B.C.

She competed in the 100- to 104-year-old age class because the divisions are based on the year a competitor is born. She was born on July 28, 1924. The second of 12 children, she developed a love for swimming in the capital of the Netherlands, even though there wasn’t money in the family budget for lessons.

Ms. Brussel spoke brightly on Sunday of her longevity from her home in New Westminster, on the mainland. “I am really very fortunate. I am healthy and don’t take any medicine at all.”

She wears a hearing aid, lives alone in a two-bedroom apartment, taps away on her laptop and drives herself to swimming sessions twice a week in Surrey, about 20 minutes away.

“I love being in a pool and gliding through the water,” Ms. Brussel said. “I feel better when I get out than when I go in. Swimming is my love. It makes me forget all of my worries and I feel great.”

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Moments after Ms. Brussel set a new world record in the 50-metre breaststroke, she celebrated with her coach, Linda Stanley Wilson.Hannah Walsh/The Globe and Mail

She grew up in the Great Depression and was 15 when the Second World War began.

“Those were not easy years,” she said. “We had to make sure we had enough food. My parents took me out of school so I could help look after the little ones. That was our life and we didn’t know any better.”

Ms. Brussel and her late husband, Gerrit, moved to Canada in 1959 and settled in B.C. She has three children – now 69, 72 and 74 years old.

She is a member of the White Rock Wave Swim Club, walks at a fast pace and never lets anybody help her with her bag full of gear.

On Saturday, she swam the 400-metre freestyle in 12 minutes and 50.3 seconds. The previous record in her age class was 16:36.80. She completed the 50-metre backstroke in 1:24.91, breaking the existing mark by nearly five seconds. Her time in the 50-metre breaststroke was 1:56.22 in a class in which there was no previous record.

“I was surprised by my own swims yesterday,” Ms. Brussel said. “I gave it my all. I never give up. It was wonderful. It was like being in a movie. I was totally overwhelmed by everybody’s support.”

She had a heart attack a quarter-century ago and wears a pacemaker but shows no ill effects. Before a race starts, she needs somebody to steady her in the starting blocks but that is about it.

“When I am with her, I don’t think about her being 99 because she doesn’t act that way,” said her coach, Linda Stanley Wilson, who is 65. “But when someone brings it up, I think to myself, ‘How many other people are doing this?’ ”

When her coach offers advice, Ms. Brussel tells her, “I will try to do better.”

“I mean, how do you approach somebody with advice when they are 99, setting world records and are doing just fine?” Ms. Stanley Wilson said. “Betty will set world, Canadian and British Columbia records pretty much every time she swims.”

Ms. Brussel doesn’t think about them.

“I like to win but records have never been the most important thing to me,” she said. “If somebody else wins, I am happy for them.”

Hannah Walsh, a former competitive swimmer and filmmaker, has been working on a documentary about Ms. Brussel. Ms. Walsh, who swam for one year in college in the U.S., reached out to her this summer and hopes to complete the project with possible assistance from a Canada Council grant. She and her partner, Emma Puchniak, hope to have the film released at festivals in the fall of this year.

Ms. Walsh asked if she could swim with Ms. Brussel and was stunned the first time she joined her.

“Due to her age, I didn’t really expect much,” Ms. Walsh said. “I thought that maybe she would do a couple laps in a training session. She swam 1,200 to 1,500 metres.”

On Saturday, Ms. Brussel competed in five events over all.

“If I swam five events in one meet, I’d be exhausted,” said the 26-year-old Ms. Walsh. “She recovered within an hour and said she felt very energized.”

Ms. Brussel still reads a Dutch newspaper online every day and takes a long walk. She lives with her rescue cat, named Mika, and enjoys knitting and embroidery.

“I live life every day and enjoy it,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to do what I do. I’m not ready for somebody to look after me.”

She has a cellphone primarily for an emergency.

“All of my friends died on me,” Ms. Brussel said. “Who am I going to call?”

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