MARIANNE BENNISON showed that there is no substitute for class when taking three titles at the Wiltshire Swimming Masters held at the Swindon Link Centre on February 18.

The 52-year-old mum of three knocked five seconds off the age-group championship record for the 100-metre butterfly, which comes as less of a surprise given her pedigree – as a teenager she represented Denmark in a friendly international gala against China.

Bennison, an osteopath and lecturer who lives in Lechlade and the founder and co-director of The Faringdon Clinic, bridged an almost 35-year competitive gap in taking her three titles – the 100m fly and 100m freestyle in the 50-54 age category, as well as combining with much younger clubmates to take the 100m medley relay.

“I was a national age-group champion at 14 in Denmark and finished fifth in the national senior championships in butterfly as a 15-year-old,” said Marianne.

“By the age of 18 I had switched to breaststroke and again I finished fifth in the national final only to be disqualified for doing a 'fly kick', which was outlawed then but is now perfectly legal.

“My club in Denmark, Holstebro, became one of the best in the country. We had Flemming Poulsen as our club coach and he went on to look after the national team.

“Then I came over to England to study and qualify as an osteopath, start a business and have a family – and my competitive career was put on hold for the best part of 35 years.”

Marianne started swimming again when her kids were having lessons just for half an hour a week for some fitness and exercise.

Then last year she discovered open water swimming at the Bowmoor Lake and tried her first aquathlons and triathlons.

“I just love open water swimming,” she said. “Just to be outside in all seasons is wonderful and I try to do it about once a month.

“It has really brought on my freestyle and then Tracey Sharland, who works as a neuro physiotherapist at our practice, encouraged me to start swimming again with her club Swindon ASC, which is the oldest club in Swindon.

“Tracey is a coach, too, and she won four titles at the Wiltshire Masters, mainly in the 25-29 category."

As well as smashing the 100m fly record for her age group, Marianne came within one hundredth of a second of collecting the 100m freestyle best time too, something she hopes to address when she competes in the other two Wiltshire Masters galas which take place at Trowbridge in June and Salisbury in October.

“Then if I get enough points I can perhaps think about the inter-counties championships,” she said.

“I’d also like to do a couple more aquathlons and triathlons over the summer, schedule allowing.

“I’ve lost a stone and a half since I got back into swimming and I just feel so much more energetic now.”