We caught up with the incredible Daphne Belt, who if you haven’t seen or heard of before is an incredible 83-year-old triathlete who, to this day continues to compete in over one hundred triathlons. In this blog we learn about Daphne’s story and what she is doing now.
As a child, my cousin and I went in the sea at Worthing during the school summer holidays without a responsibly adult watching us.
We both went in the sea and splashed about until we could move around in the water with our feet way…. Off the bottom. It was great fun.
My cousin was better and stronger than me and for a while I swam with him, me being in the middle of an old lorry inner-tube.
I was not doing anything more than doggie paddle to start but developed my own movements of using my arms like paddles and kicking my legs hard.
Our parents were all out at work all day and nobody thought anything of the kids playing on the beach by themselves. That was in 1940-1950.
Later in life I went to swimming classes with the school and learned to do breast stroke and back stroke which was a big improvement.
Pool swimming became a weekly thing and when my daughter came along, having long realised how dangerous my own swim beginnings had been, I made sure my baby could swim which I later went on to teach her how to do.
Jumping to my 50th birthday, I had a serious moment of panic that I was not as fit as I was as a child and teenager when was a very fit regular dancer ballet, tap, acrobatics.
I talked to my husband and we both decided to join a gym and get fit again.
In doing that a young friend introduced my husband to the sport of triathlon.
Cutting a long story very short; I only swam breast/back stroke then, liking the idea of triathlon, I had to learn front crawl as soon as possible.
I watched my husband and friend doing several triathlon events during that summer and my husband started to teach my front crawl.
He had been a competitive swimmer in his teens and early twenties.
It took me a couple of months to start to look and feel ok and I swam my first mile front crawl in the pool in less than three months.
The first article I read in triathlon 220 magazine was about the Hawaii Ironman and with that the three of us entered a winter Swim-Run. It was called the Human Race Damp Dash – the race had the choice of either: 400 swim and 5km run or 800 swim and 10km run. The men entered the full distance and I entered to half.
The night before, the race director rang and spoke to me because he was cancelling the half distance because there were not enough entries.
He asked me a few questions which established that I had (only a month before) swum my first mile and run in a 10-mile road race - so no denying that I had the distances under the belt.
At 50 years old I was the oldest woman and nobody else in my age group but me, so I got a prize!
I have not looked back and have competed in literally hundreds of triathlons over all distances in the past 33 years in the sport.
I have great pride in adding that I have won my age group in ten world championships having travelled all over the world.
Canada, USA, Australia, Japan, Scandinavia and many places in Europe.
Moving on into the season I will spend my 83rd birthday competing in the ETU European Sprint Championships in Munich, Germany.
Then the season ends with the stonkingly scary, Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St George, Utah, USA:
1900 mtr/1.9km open water swim
56 mile/90km bike ride (mountainous)
1 mile/21km run
My husband and I qualified for that event last September at Ironman70.3 Venice-Jesolo which was a wonderful event.
We have both competed at that distance many times but we are not getting any younger of course but we love every second of it.