Gerald Kirkham competes in 60th Port Pirie Open Water Swim

SWIMMING: Gerald Kirkham is the first swimmer to compete in 60 Port Pirie Open Water Swims.

SWIMMING: Gerald Kirkham is the first swimmer to compete in 60 Port Pirie Open Water Swims.

PORT Augusta swimming legend Gerald Kirkham has proven age is just a number, competing in his 60th Port Pirie Open Water Swim on Sunday March 19.

Kirkham, who turns 85 in June, is the first swimmer to achieve this milestone, competing in his first swim in 1949.

He is closing in on the same milestone in the Port Augusta and Whyalla Open Water Swims, participating in 58 and 59 events in the respective cities.

Kirkham has previously won the two-kilometre Port Pirie race on two occasions, as well as a first-place finish in Whyalla, second in the Henley to Grange swim and third in the five-kilometre Delfin Island race.

He won the Whyalla swim in quite remarkable fashion, finishing first on the back of no sleep, following a double shift at the Northern Power Station from 4pm until 7am the next morning.

Still registering strong swimming scores, Kirkham was grateful for the warm reception he received after completing his 60th race.

“I’ve always really liked the Pirie swim. They gave me a cake and beautiful dressing gown,” he said.

“I only dropped off two minutes from last year. I did it in 46 minutes, last year I did 44, but the tide has a lot to do with it as well.”

Kirkham began training for the event in September 2016 with the Port Augusta Swimming Club and Masters Swimming Australia.

He has gained a swimming partner in the last five years after Richard Footner joined the club, with both men motivating each other to give their best performances.

“He came to the swimming club and couldn’t swim a lap, but after a few weeks we had him doing 40,” Kirkham said.

“He’s 35 years younger than me, but he’s good company and we watch each other all the way.”

Kirkham, who worked at the power station for nearly 40 years, received an award from Masters Swimming Australia in 2014 after qualifying into the Three Million Metre Club.

With five million metres within reach, Kirkham has not made any decisions on his future in swimming.

“I’m not sure. When I did my 50th swim I said that would be my last one, but I got convinced to go another 10 and we were laughing about it on Sunday,” he said.

“But I don’t know. It all depends on how they treat me, but they’ll probably talk me into it again next year.”