Jesse Van Muijlwijk, right, is pictured with Zone 2 swimming teammates, from left, Russel Sharock, Ian Burvill and Brian Staton. File photo

Courtenay swimmer didn’t compete until 55

Jesse Van Muijlwijk didn’t take up competitive swimming until he turned 55. But the lack of competitive experience didn’t stop him from winning a pile of medals at the 55+ BC Games in Coquitlam in 2016.

“I was the rookie,” said the 58-year-old Courtenay resident who hails from Holland. “I said to the guys, ‘I couldn’t wait to get to 55.’ It was a good feeling to be the youngest of the group, again. We as a team, Zone 2, came home with a lot of medals. And the team spirit was great, too. We had a lot of fun.”

Van Muijlwijk added to his medal collection the following year in Vernon. He won the 400m freestyle and three breaststroke events in the men’s 55-59 division. He was also part of three relay teams that won gold.

His favourite event is the breaststroke, owing in part to an unforgettable teacher in his home country.

“We all got very good swimming lessons because Holland is a country full of water. Especially the breaststroke was hammered into me by a fantastic, bellowing swim teacher,” he said with a laugh. “I can still hear him: ‘Spread! Go out with those feet!’ After Coquitlam — I think I got seven medals or something — I wanted to contact him and thank him for all the shouting and bellowing, but I found out that he had died 30 years before.”

Breaststroke racing does not exceed 100 metres at the 55+ Games, but Van Muijlwijk has been able to compete over 200 metres at club meets.

“I came in second in a meet last year, and in January at the provincials, I got a bronze medal for it.”

He joined the Nanaimo Riptides Swim Club, thanks to the encouragement of Zone 2 teammate Ian Burvill — a provincial record-holder in the butterfly.

Another Zone 2 teammate, Brian Staton of Black Creek, has been “kind of a coach” to Van Muijlwijk.

“He explained a lot of things about technique, and how to get better.”

In the world of masters swimming, Van Muijlwijk is discovering that advanced age doesn’t tend to slow people down.

“The competition will be more difficult when I’m past 60 or 65. There’s more people then who can join, because they’re retired. Some people in their 70s are just as fast as me.”

Case in point at the 200m freestyle race at the Coquitlam Games, where Van Muijlwijk and the competitor in the next lane touched the wall at the exact swam time, three minutes sharp.

“Then it proved that he was 65 and I was 55. And he said to me, ‘Well done boy’.”

Kelowna is the host city of this year’s Games, which run Sept. 10-14. Van Muijlwijk plans to compete in breaststroke, freestyle and relays — seven events in total.

“There’s an enormous amount of volunteers every year who do a wonderful job (at the 55+ Games),” he said, recalling volunteers in Vernon who drove swimmers to and from their hotel and the pool.

Aside from swimming, Van Muijlwijk works as a cartoonist, creating comic strips for daily newspapers in Holland.

“Even during the Games, in my hotel, I make my daily comic strip and send it off. I have a portable tool kit, you could say, a laptop and a portable scanner and a portable iBox. My comic strip runs 26 years now. And I do cartoons, caricatures as well. I was at the Filberg Festival a number of times.”

Just Posted

Comox Valley chamber celebrating its centennial in style

Collaboration key to one hundred years of business advocacy

Courtenay’s Public Works inspector cycling the sidewalks in search of trip hazards

Courtenay is on a roll with sidewalk inspections, using two wheels and… Continue reading

Ammonia leak triggers evacuation of the Comox Valley Sports Centre

The centre was evacuated for just over an hour Thursday evening while crews contained the leak

Four Comox Valley dragon boat members earn medals at worlds

National team only fully practised together for a few days in Thailand

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Vandals target North Island-Powell River NDP candidate’s office in Comox with swastikas, graffiti

Rachel Blaney’s Comox office has been vandalized with swastikas and tagging overnight Friday.

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

Most Read