Swimming: Great-great-grandma swims to world record

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MARY MAINA plunged into the Chander pool in Brisbane yesterday and with spectators on their feet applauding her all the way she set a world record for 50 metres freestyle - in 5min 12.34sec. Two weeks ago, 'Marvellous Mary', as she is known to friends, celebrated her 101st birthday.

Her swim, using sidestroke, stands as the fastest for the 100-104 age group, in which Maina was the only competitor at the World Masters Games. 'I think I'm glad it's over. I was determined I would get to the end,' said Maina, one of more than 23,000 competitors over the age of 25 from 71 countries.

Maina put herself on a par with Kieren Perkins, Australia's magnificent long-distance swimmer, as the fastest in her particular branch of the sport. No matter that Perkins, who has set the world standard for 400, 800 and 1500m would passed the 500-metre mark by the time the golden oldie from the Gold Coast had finished her 50.

Queenslander Maina, who has 12 great-great-grandchildren, began swimming as recreation when she was 60 and resisted the lure of competitive sport for 30 years before taking the plunge.

The oldest woman in Australia to have a heart pacemaker fitted, she brought with a letter from her doctor detailing her regular medication, just in case she was one of those selected for a drug test.