Portrait of a Master: John H. Harrison (GBR)


John H. Harrison (GBR)

John H. Harrison – a Veteran of the British Royal Navy who served from 1938 to 1945 - joined Masters at age 79 because he had an enthusiasm for swimming and keeping fit. Before that, he was a swimming and life saving instructor/examiner and a sports sub aqua diver until the age of 70. “Unfortunately,” he recalls, “at the age of 70 whilst diving off Portland Bill in Dorset, five divers were reported missing on the TV news. I was one of the five. My wife who saw the article said, ‘That’s enough,’ so I continued with the other water sports.”

Thereafter he saw an advertisement in the paper asking for Royal Navy swimmers. So, at age 79 he joined Godalming Swimming Club and the Royal Navy Swim Team. “My first swim for the Royal Navy was at Sheffield where on times I was beaten by an 83 year old,” Harrison says. “Give up? Too old? No. The result is I have improved over the years.”

Indeed he has improved, with the following record performances to show for it: 80-84 years, two long-course & one short-course; 85-89 years, nine long-course & seven short-course, including butterfly, 800m and 1500m British and European records. In the 90-94 years age group he earned 16 long-course records (British and European), as well as butterfly, 800m and 1500m world records. In the 95-99 years group he garnered four long-course British and European records, 6 short-course British records, five European short-course records, and the 200m backstroke world record.


John Harrison (GBR)

Last year, Harrison set his sights on the 400m and managed to break the British record on July 19, 2009. In 2010, he shows that he still has plenty of resources, by incidentally breaking the World Record for the 200m Backstroke long course at the K2 Crawley event on January 31. Harrison assured that he will still try for more records in the 95 – 99 age group.

His advice to any Masters swimmer is as follows: “Keep doing your best, if you come in last, so what? You have done it to the envy of others who don’t try.” And regarding the future of Masters, Harrison thinks it depends on more publicity, to encourage swimmers. “My life,” he adds, “has maintained good activity through the sport.” Harrison currently resides in Surrey, Great Britain.