Tireless swimmer Eliana Busch: four gold medals at 89 year-old. GETTY IMAGES

At the age of 89, Chilean swimmer Eliana Busch demonstrates her exceptional stamina and skill, winning a gold medal in an international competition by confidently navigating the 25-metre pool with unwavering determination.

At the beginning of March, at the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Doha, Qatar, Eliana Busch prepared to compete against Japanese rivals who had previously won in Kyushu, Japan. Although they were in the same age group, their rivals did not appear at the event.

"I was swimming against myself. (...) I had no reference of how I was doing. I was forced to break records to prove that I was the best even though I was swimming alone," she told AFP in an interview before her training session.

The Chilean swimmer, who turns 90 in September, dominated the competition in the Qatari capital, winning four gold medals in events including the 100m and 200m freestyle, the 50m breaststroke and the 50m backstroke, which she completed in just one minute and four seconds to set a new world record. "If I had been swimming against men, I would have beaten them," Busch told AFP.

A natural athlete, Eliana Busch began swimming at the tender age of 9. By the time she was 13, she had won the title of national champion, demonstrating her exceptional talent and dedication.

By the 1950s, her achievements were widely recognised and her swimsuit shots graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines, a collection she proudly cherishes and displays.

"I don't like to lose. I do my best to win. "One day I'll have to stop. I'm not forever, but as long as I'm winning and getting decent and correct marks, I'm going to keep swimming," Busch told AFP.

At the age of 20, after marrying a cavalry officer, she swapped swimming for horse riding, excelling in the new discipline to become a national champion, but at the age of 78, a life-changing accident brought her back to swimming, not for rehabilitation purposes, but to rekindle her competitive spirit in the pool.

"I fell while trying to tame an Arabian colt and broke my forearm, collarbone and a couple of ribs. I had broken bones before (...) but this time it hurt a lot. My children told me, 'Mum, if you love competition so much, why don't you concentrate on swimming?", she stressed. 

She took their advice and began winning veteran major competitions such as the 2016 South American Championships, the 2018 Pan American Championships, and the 2019 World Aquatic Masters Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Despite suffering a heart attack during this time, she persevered, competing for seven years with a pacemaker and swimming up to 1,500 metres.

Eliana Busch trains at least four times a week and also teaches swimming lessons at a municipal pool in Viña del Mar. Arriving in her own car, she brings her boundless optimism and energy to the pool, inspiring a diverse group of adult students with her strength and disciplined approach to swimming. 

"I want to teach the elderly that life is lived to the last minute. It has a lot to do with the mind. Do something, you don't have to be a swimmer, but don't stay at home lying down," she said. 

"The energy it gives you is wonderful. You get tired and exhausted, but you see her, she just keeps going and going. It's impressive," 55-year-old nurse Patricia Aravena told AFP of her teacher.