Founder, The Center for Hope in Hinche, Haiti
Former U.S. Air Force pilot and American Airline Pilot
World Masters Swimming Champion; Holds 100 national championship medals in U.S. Masters swimming
"Oldest ever" to swim the English Channel
B.S. & M.S., Washington State University, Washington
At the age of 70, George Brunstad, World Masters Swimming Champion, successfully swam the English Channel. He set a record as the oldest person to ever complete the swim. His purpose for doing so was threefold: first to honor and glorify God in the process, secondly to help build The Center of Hope (an orphanage, school, medical clinic and mission in the central highlands of Haiti) and last of all to achieve a worthy personal goal.
George served in the U.S. Air Force from 1957 to 1964. During his tour of duty he flew B-52 bombers. On the day of his discharge, he began a 30-year career as a commercial pilot with American Airlines. After retiring at the mandatory age of 60, Brunstad purchased a Chinese-built, Russian-designed MiG-17. He flew the aircraft in several air shows. He sold the MiG in 2000, but hasn't slowed down since. Today he teaches swimming lessons to children 4 to 12 years of age at the Wilton YMCA in New England, Connecticut. His students call him "Grandpa George".
A BIRTHDAY WISH
It was on his 69th birthday he was asked the question "What would you like to do that would be significant for your 70th birthday?" He blurted out "swim the English Channel." His family supported his idea, but it was his wife who encouraged him to use the swim as a tool to accomplish something more. It was decided that the Channel swim would not only be a personal accomplishment for George, but also an opportunity to help raise money and awareness for a project at their church. The church was currently in the process of raising money to build an orphanage, medical clinic, and school in the Haitian village of Hinche, which the couple visited with a church group.
TRAINING FOR THE CHANNEL
Brunstad was no stranger to swimming. He had been swimming competitively in Masters programs for 31 years. He is a World Masters Open Water Swimming Champion and has won more than 100 national championship medals in U.S. Masters Swimming. Nevertheless, swimming the channel is the prime challenge and standard by which a true distance swimmer is measured.
Up for the challenge, Brunstad cut his swimming back from five to three days a week. He swam Monday, Wednesday and Friday. His longest swim was on Friday when he started at 4 miles and worked into 14 miles. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he did cross training in the fitness center. He took 20-minute cold showers all winter and swam in waters that were 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
GEORGE GOES THE DISTANCE
He had prepared himself physically for the challenge. Now he had to prepare himself spiritually as well. Prior to going to England, George and his wife called The 700 Club and asked for prayer about his upcoming challenge. The counselor prayed with them and asked God to remove any obstacles that might interfere with completion of the swim or the charitable project.
On August 28, 2004, three days after his 70th birthday, George began the 25-mile swim. He entered the English Channel waters at 9:13 a.m. from Abbott's Cliff south of Dover, England and completed the swim at 2:12 a.m. at Sangatte, France swimming a total of 32 miles. He called The 700 Club after the successful completion of his swim and spoke to the same counselor. He relayed how all that had been prayed for prior to the swim had indeed been given to him including calm seas and warmer than normal ocean temperatures. "For 15 hours and 59 minutes, I never suffered a single pain in my joints or muscles, and I never ran out of energy," said Brunstad. His record beat the record for the oldest swimmer, set by Clifford Batt of Australia at age 67 in 1987
A MAN OF FAITH
George and wife Judy have a combined total of five adult children and 10 grandchildren. They both claim to be children of God by grace through Jesus Christ. Each of them serves in their church, the Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut. George is the Vice-Chairman of Deacons and they both sing in the choir.
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