91 And Counting, Lorna Cochran Leads A Gang

91 And Counting, Lorna Cochran Leads A Gang

Photo and story background courtesy of Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media.

The incredible Lorna Cochran is training to set two unheard-of records: each record will be a precursor to the future of open water swimming.

Last year, the South African swimmer set the record for the oldest finisher at the aQuellé Midmar Mile, at 90 years young. For the February 7th 2015 race, Cochran will return and up the standard once again at the age of 91.

But the 91-year-old will also be to part of another record: 11 family members covering four generations will also take part in the race as part of Lorna’s Gang (Largest Number of Family Generations to Participate in an Open Water Swim).

While Cochran was born in 1923, the youngest member of Lorna’s Gang, Jessie-Clare, was born in 2006 and will be 8 when she joins the rest of her family in the aQuellé Midmar Mile. “That little one, she has been swimming very well. She has a very good coach and he has apparently had her swimming a thousand metres in training every day. That’s a lot of swimming.

Neil Cochran, who organized the Cochran team along with his wife, Patricia, was equally excited and proud about Jessie-Clare following in her great-grandmother’s wake, “She’s absolutely crazy. She’s a lovely child. She just wants to have a go at everything.”

Cochran’s participation in the Midmar Mile began at an unlikely age, 74, and unlikely reason. She started to look for a new challenge after she was dropped from the second to the third team at her tennis club, despite the fact that she had beaten the player promoted in her place in both singles and doubles.

The 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year nominee had not swum competitively in 60 years when she first participated in the 1998 Midmar Mile in 1998. With a 60-year gap in training, her first workouts consisted of swimming 50 meters at a time before having to float and rest on her back. But swimming came back to her and she has competed in 16 consecutive Midmar Miles since hanging up her tennis racket.

For the 2015 Midmar Mile, son Greg Cochran, who lives in Australia, is combining a business trip to Cape Town before joining Lorna’s Gang in KwaZulu-Natal. “We swam the Midmar Mile for the fun of it. Once mom did it, she became the motivation for everyone else in the family. It really is only myself and Greg at the first generation level that were swimmers,” said his brother Neil Cochran.

The matriarch admitted that her build-up to the 2015 Midmar Mile has not been exactly smooth. “I’ve had a few health problems. They’ve given me all sorts of funny medication, which doesn’t really agree with me. Apart from that, I am perfectly well and things seem to have settled down. I just feel somehow that this year, up to now, I haven’t put in as much training as I normally do. I will keep training and hope for the best. At 91 years old, you don’t say I am going to do this and I am going to do that. It’s a bit ridiculous, but I will give it my best shot.”

As the sport grows and more and more family generations take part in swims around the world, the sport can look to Lorna Cochran, the former tennis player, for showing the way it can be done graciously, competitively and with relatives.

For more information on the 2015 aQuellé Midmar Mile in the Midmar Dam, just outside of Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, visit here.

Photo by Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media of a few members of Lorna’s Gang that set the Greatest Range of Family Members to Participate in an Open Water Swim record.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones