Naomi’s Great challenge

Splash hit: Naomi Crowder
Splash hit: Naomi Crowder
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SHE’S the Sheffield septuagenarian famous for being fitter than a fiddle on a health fad.

Now Naomi Crowder is to celebrate her 75th birthday not by putting her feet up and taking it easy, but with perhaps her hardest challenge yet – taking part in the Great North Swim.

“I thought ‘It’s a big birthday, so I better make it a big test for myself’,” laughs the ever-green mother of two. “It’s the best way to celebrate if you ask me? I’ve done mile- long swims before but never in the temperatures which it will be at Lake Windermere in Cumbria.

“And, you know, every time I get in the water I’m older than when I’ve done any other swim so it’s always a challenge in a way.”

Older maybe but Naomi shows no signs of letting up after being bitten by the fitness bug when she was but a girl. Or, at least, but a 70-year-old.

“That’s when all this started,” says the retired Crucible usherette, of Westminster Close, Fulwood. “I went to visit my daughter Rachel who lives in Australia now but was living in New Zealand at the time and, for some reason, for my birthday she’d entered me into this swimming race, called the Masters where people from around the world take part for fun.

“Well, I didn’t even have a swimming costume but I thought I’d give it a go, and I loved it. They give out medals and I won a few, and I’ve been swimming ever since. I’ve taken part in several other Masters, I did the Great London Swim and now I’m doing this.”

Here’s to another five years, it seems.

“Another five years?” laughs Naomi. “What do you mean by that? That only takes me up to 80 – I want to be going after that. I’m very fortunate in that I’m perfectly healthy at the moment and I’ll keep doing these things while ever I can.”

Indeed after Sunday’s race at Windermere she is hoping at some point to go for a dip in the – wait for it – Antarctic Ocean.

Yup, you read that right.

“I went on a trip to the Arctic from Norway on an icebreaker and, as part of that you can have a swim in the sea,” she explains.

“You don’t spend long in the water, just do a few strokes and then they pull you out and give you a vodka but it was incredible. There’s a doctor on board in case anything goes wrong but it was wonderful.

“Now I’d love to do something like that in the Antarctic. It’s not just the swimming. It’s the whole holiday that’s amazing.”

For now she’ll have to do with the warmer (but only just) climes of Windermere.

Race sponsors British Gas couldn’t confirm but it’s entirely possible she will be the oldest person competing – at a similar British Gas Swim in Salford last month the oldest swimmer was just 68.

She will be swimming with 11 other members from the Sheffield Swimming Club based at Ponds Forge.

“I’m not being sponsored,” she says. “Because I’m not pretending I’m doing this for anyone other than myself. I just love swimming. I can’t wait to get in the water.”

We wish her luck.