The sky is the limit

79-year-old among Truro swimmers at world championship; nine provincial records fall

Ryan Cooke
Published on August 12, 2014

TRURO – Two heart attacks, three months in a body cast and 79 years of hard work have yet to deter Peter Grant from a life of competition, and nothing likely ever will.

Verging on 80 years of age, Grant is fresh back in his George Street home after returning from the 2014 FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal, where he went headfirst into the 200-metre backstroke, 400-metre individual medley and a daunting 3,000-metre open water swim on Île Notre-Dame.

Grant was a part of the Truro team that sent 10 athletes to the adult competition, bringing home nine provincial records.

“The whole team did a fabulous job,” Grant said. “It was a great team effort there, and everybody really represented the province and the town well.”

For his part, Grant finished 11th in the 400-metre after a disappointing 200-metre showing, and finished the daunting 3k swim in 76 minutes – 14 minutes faster than the qualifying time he needed to post indoors.

“I was very pleased with that result,” the quiet, humble Grant said. “I finished in pretty much exactly the time it takes me to do 3,000 metres in the pool.”

Despite being a quiet man, Grant’s lifetime accomplishments speak a little louder, both in the pool and in the sky.

An avid skydiver, Grant has completed nearly 600 dives, including a 1974 national championship jump that ended with a fractured vertebra in his lower back. Grant would trade in his jumpsuit for a body cast for the next three months.

After getting into competitive swimming while his son was in swimming lessons, Grant and Terry Wassen started the Truro Masters club for adult swimmers to train weekly.

Since then he has competed all over Canada, attending national championships nearly every year. He also attended the Masters in Denmark in 1989.

More than 30 years later, the club is going strong and posting big results.

Many of the current members posted person bests in Montreal last week, including Carl Ballard, Darrin Belliveau, Mike Brown and Margot Begin-Gillis, who set provincial records. The men’s 200-metre relay squad also topped a Nova Scotia best.

For many of the swimmers, it was the first time in the pool competitively for a long time. One of those swimmers was Begin-Gillis, who suffered a knee injury last year.

“After the surgery, I got back in the pool to help with the rehab process,” she said, adding it had been more than 20 years since she last competed. “It actually all came back to me pretty fast. It wasn’t long before I was setting pretty good times.”

The athletes rented a townhouse in the city for the week, riding the subway to the venue in the early morning hours.

“It was a really good bonding trip,” Begin-Gillis said. “We had so much fun being in a house together for a full week.”

For Grant, it wasn’t his first rodeo and it likely won’t be his last.

In 1997, a pair of heart attacks put the then-62-year-old on the sidelines. Suffering from a congenital heart disorder, Grant decided he’d change his life around.

“I stopped eating all fatty foods, and I relaxed a lot more,” he said. “I thought that was probably it for swimming.”

The decision didn’t last long. Six months later, he was back in the pool again. In another three years, he was back on the competitive circuit, competing at nationals.

“Sometimes my blood pressure still gets a little high, and I have to take it easy,” he said.

"But I think I made the right decision to keep swimming."

That’s not all he picked back up again, however.

“I started jumping again before long, too,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know if my wife liked that too much.”