Slowest swimmer makes big splash at annual Kelowna race

After the medals had been handed out and as the stage was being dismantled, there was still one swimmer in the water completing the 2.1 km Across the Lake swim in Kelowna, B.C. When organizers asked the swimmer if they could pull her up onto the boat, she replied: “No damn way.”

Supporters stayed around long after the race was over to cheer on lone swimmer who refused to give up

Linda Sharp, 70, believes she swam twice the distance of the other racers, because the current kept pulling her downstream. (Sarah Penton/CBC News)

After the medals had been handed out and as the stage was being dismantled, there was still one swimmer in the water completing the 2.1 km Across the Lake swim in Kelowna, B.C.

When organizers asked the swimmer if they could pull her up onto the boat she replied: "No damn way."

That swimmer was 70-year-old Linda Sharp, who competed in the race across Okanagan Lake for the first time in her life.

Although most of the crowds had long since left, there was a group of about 100 watching an up-close demonstration on the power of perseverance.

"When I saw everybody cheering I thought 'OK, it can't be for me, it's gotta be for somebody else.' But then I started realizing, as I got closer, they were cheering for me. It was beautiful," said Sharp.

Aside from sore shoulders and cramped legs, Sharp was in good spirits, even though the waters were rougher than expected. 

"The water would just come over my head and I'd try to take a breath and just take in water," said Sharp.

"I think I actually swam twice as much as everyone else, because I kept getting pulled over to the bridge and then I had to keep coming back."

Sharp finished the 2.1 kilometre swim across Okanagan Lake with a time of 2h 30 min. (Sarah Penton/ CBC News)

A family affair

Standing in the cheering crowd were Sharp's son and grandchildren.

"She is the fastest swimmer I ever knew. I don't know a faster swimmer. I feel like she's done a really good job," said her grandson, Brandon Sharp.

The fastest swim of the race clocked in at 23 minutes, but it was Sharp's will — and a two-and-a-half hour time — that had everyone talking.

"Seeing my Mom do this at 70 is really inspirational for me. She's always been an inspiration for me," said Trevor Sharp, Linda's son.

"I was so pumped seeing her there. Just tears welling up."

With files from Sarah Penton

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