Stradbroke swimmer hails grand milestone as he notches 1,009th medal

Stradbroke's Len Phoenix.

Stradbroke's Len Phoenix.

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A well-known north Suffolk swimmer has proved age is no barrier after he broke the 1,000 medal milestone.

Len Phoenix, 67, Stradbroke resident and long-time member of Stowmarket Swimming Club, took his impressive medal haul to 1,009 after a successful day at the Sudbury SC Masters earlier this month.

If someone told me at that stage what I would go on and do I never would have believed them

Len Phoenix

It’s a passion that has taken him all over the world - and estimates he has swum more than 7 million metres in training, and covered 336,065 metres in competition.

Mr Phoenix swam as a teenager. But it was not until a back injury ruled him out of playing rugby just before he turned 40 that he returned to the pool, wanting to keep fit and have “something to do.”

And his feat is made all that more incredible after he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, five years ago.

“It really is quite an amazing milestone, but the journey has been far more awesome,” he said. “If someone told me at that stage what I would go on and do I never would have believed them. I have met and made some amazing friends.”

Mr Phoenix, who has swum in local, regional, national competition, travelled to Melbourne, Australia to compete, as well as take part in European and World Championships, said he took inspiration from Jane Asher, who he met at the start of his swimming career. Turning 85 this year, she has broken more than 75 Masters World Records and used to carry a notebook with all of her results. Mr Phoenix followed suit.

“She has been inspiration all the way, encouraging me, and she is an amazing coach, and swimmer,” he said.

Retiring from work two years ago Mr Phoenix, a swimming instructor at Stradbroke Swim and Fitness Centre, said he “nearly fell off his chair” when he tallied up his medals on a spreadsheet he was well into the 800s.

Averaging about 30 medals a year, he had the milestone in his sight, last year taking home 107. He was 12 short at the end of 2015, and in a competition on the Isle of Wight he scooped nine more before reaching 1,000 in Sudbury.

He will celebrate with a party in Stradbroke at the start of March.

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