At age 73, Fernie resident Johnna Abdou has now competed in Mexico’s Matanchen Bay 3K swimming race for five years. Since Johnna Abdou first tried the race, she and her daughter Angie Abdou, a coach with Elk Valley Dolphins, dreamed of having three generations swim in the event together.
This year that dream came true. The three generations of Fernie swimmers joined over six hundred athletes in the open water ocean swim.
The event has three options: 1K, 3K, or 6K (with both professional and open categories). Angie Abdou’s daughter Katie Hafke, a swimmer with Elk Valley Dolphins, aged out of the event’s 1K option by turning 13 the day before the race. That meant that both granddaughter and grandmother swam the ocean 3K.
Katie Hafke was the youngest girl to complete the distance and Johnna Abdou was the oldest.
Johnna Abdou was one of only two women over seventy to finish the race in the allotted one-hour-and-forty-five minutes. She earned herself a silver in the age group, sneaking in at 1:44 while many other swimmers were still out in the ocean. Johnna Abdou has won a trophy each of the five years she competed. “I like the challenge,” says Abdou. “Everyone keeps asking if it’s my last year, but maybe I’ll be the ninety-year-old lady still doing the race.”
Johnna Abdou says the bonus of being the oldest athlete is that organizers bring her a chair and find her a spot in the shade when the race is over. “I keep doing this race mostly to prove to myself that I can,” says Abdou.
Katie Hafke finished the 3K in 1:03, placing sixth in her age group. She was only two minutes away from a podium finish, despite being the youngest. She looked utterly exhausted at the finish line, but once she had some food and a rest, she asked: “Can we do that again next year?”
Angie Abdou did the 6K option in 1:38 and placed third overall in the women open category. “I was surprised how close my time was to the medals in the professional category,” Abdou says. “I wasn’t able to train as much as I would’ve liked because of coaching. Maybe next year I’ll train more and try for some prize money!”
All three swimmers enjoyed everything about the event. “It was cool how many people were there, the big buses full of swim teams from around Mexico,” says Hafke. “And the place was really pretty.”
“All of us doing it together meant a lot to me,” says Angie Abdou. “I’m so proud of my mom and my daughter. A 3K ocean swim is not easy for a thirteen-year-old, or a seventy-three-year-old! I’ll remember the day forever.”
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