Maryborough has two of the very best masters

Neville "China" Johnson and Lisa Bell show their 27 medals following the Australian and Queensland titles.
Neville "China" Johnson and Lisa Bell show their 27 medals following the Australian and Queensland titles. Ian Wilson and Steve Nguyen - Sw

CHAMPIONS in every sense of the word are Lisa Bell and Neville "China" Johnson.

The two masters' swimmers came waltzing home from recent national and state championships with that many medals it's a wonder Gina Rinehart wasn't offering to buy them out.

Between the pair they carried 27 medals: 16 gold, five silver and six bronze. And while they didn't clock record times in Rockhampton, such a haul by two must surely be a record of sorts.

Maryborough Masters Swimmers president Doug Walker said the club was lucky to have Bell, 44, and China, 85, at its disposal.

"They both did very well,'' he said. "Lisa does very well for her age group, which is extremely competitive; China's age group is lower in numbers, but if there's four or five, he generally comes out on top…

"It's probably a bit unusual (for one club to have two swimmers that do so well at these events) when you compare it with Hervey Bay and some of those types of clubs. But, in saying that, they get their good swimmers from time to time, too."

Lisa's story is one of childhood competitor who gave the game away due to injury when she was 16. Chance led her back to the pool when she was in her late-30s, before destiny and talent forced her to continue.

"Because of the Maryborough games I started back up, and one year they had to cancel the masters,'' Bell recalled this week. "They cancelled the masters and I said I'd nominate, and got back in the pool to train and it was hard work so I kind of gave up.

"And the next year I said, 'I'm going to get into it', and the times that I did surprised me, and that's what encouraged me and made me think, 'I've still got it'."

Got it? Bell's "got it" in spades.

She lives at Childers and didn't train much leading up to the combined national and state event. Imagine how she'd have gone if she had trained properly. 

China, for his part, just seems to be getting better and better with age. He's had that many sports stories written about him in recent years he's beginning to seem more celebrity than George Clooney.

And, indeed, he admits even he thinks he's still improving.

"I'm getting better, yeah, I'm getting better," he told the Chronicle when asked. "There's so much technique in swimming now. Before, you'd just jump in and go like buggery and hope you'd win. But now it's all style and turns.''

When asked how well he'll be going when he masters the craft, China laughed. Then said: "I might one day … no, I'll keep going, and hopefully I'll get there."

Topics:  swimming

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