Australian Masters Games

Wheelchair disability will not stop this 69-year-old in the pool

Genevieve Linden - 4 October 2015

Wheelchair disability will not stop this 69-year-old in the pool

The start beep sounds right on 9:15am for the first heat and first event of the day for Kris Apps. The 69-year-old dived into the water streamlining before coming up to breathe on Day 2 of 15th Australian Masters Games swimming events.

Apps was hit by a car when she was 41, and since then she’s been in a wheel-chair, but that didn’t stop her from competing today. She has swum in 5 Australian Masters Games the 15th being her 6th, and has also participated in two World Masters Games. Apps hails from Tasmania and is representing Tomatoes Swim in three events today.

Apps started from behind, but started to charge through. Every 100m she swam pass other participants that resulted her to come 3rd in the Mixed 400m Medley and 6th in the Mixed 200m Freestyle. She was still able to hold her own when she competed in the Female 200 metre Butterfly and got a gold disability for all her events.

When Apps was in the accident she landed on her should and hip. So one side of her body is slightly weaker than the other.

“My most favourite stroke is freestyle, and my second favourite use to be fly, and it has taken me a lot of years to get a fly that actually moves through the water, because legs are sort of important” Apps joked.

Apps’ first stroke of the day was Butterfly and doing fly requires a lot of upper body strength when you don’t have the use of your legs.

“I do a lot of wheeling outside and do fun runs and things like that. So that gives ‘me upper body strength without overloading the muscles. I think too many training things overload the muscles and when you are using the whole of your body,” Apps said.

“When doing backstroke you used to perpetually have to correct me. Masters in the UK I saw a bloke do double arm backstroke and I thought well that makes sense because then you’re using both shoulders and the work is coming from the shoulders not necessarily as a single unit, it’s the whole of your body which is involved.”

Apps managed to set a state record for Tasmania a few of years ago doing double arm backstroke.

“I’ve never ever set a backstroke record before in my life” laughed Apps

Apps moved to Tasmania 11 years ago as it was the nearest thing to her native Dartmouth. She says she has always been interested in swimming and swam when she was little her interest in swimming started partly due to her father working for the British Government in Nigeria.

“When go get to seven as a child you get posted back to Britain to go to school. In Nigeria I hadn’t been to school at all. In England the boarding school lessons on Saturdays as well as normal school days, except for those who could swim. So I told them I could swim,” Apps said.

“I didn’t know you could drown swimming, they took us down by the pool and I could see all these people swimming backwards and forwards, enjoying themselves, so I copied them and I swam. That’s how I learnt to swim”.

“I had no fear and it’s fear that stops people swimming. Fear is the biggest drawback in people learning to swim, because they tense everything and they sink,” Apps explained.

Apps says she had no idea that swimming was seen a fearful objective, and says she probably wouldn’t because of her upbringing.

“Fear didn’t often come onto things. You just did it. So I did,” she said.

When Apps finished school she became a scientist. Later on she became a canoe and kayak instructor and was asked to teach people in schools in the UK becoming a P.E. teacher.

Apps has participated six consecutive times in the Masters Games and hopefully a lot more to come.

“Hopefully until I die. I have no means of giving up. You’ve got to keep fit to keep living. If you’re not fit your body doesn’t heel itself, it just deteriorates and that’s a proven fact, you know you’ve’ got to create the right endorphins to maintain your and body and your brain particularly,” Apps said.

The Games aim to promote the benefits of long-term health and wellbeing with Apps she had just been a hard working P.E. teacher with no time to do anything until she retired. She says it’s nice being retired and that her sort has given her opportunities that she didn’t know existed.

“Even though you were a P.E. teacher you don’t have the opportunity to keep as fit as you should, and I’ve got hours to keep fit and I’ve been able to do work associated with swimming which is a role keeping thing,” Apps said.

The Australian Masters Games is regarded as one of the premier and largest mass-participation events on the Australian sporting landscape, and this year Apps has become the first wheel-chair user to be on pool deck volunteering as an official whilst also participating in the Masters Games. Apps will also be participating in the indoor rowing on Wednesday.

The 15th Australian Masters Games are being held in Adelaide, October 3-10, featuring more than 10,000 participants from across Australia and around the world.


The Australian Masters Games is proudly sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia. 

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