Neville "China" Johnson shows the style that won him three medals during the World Masters Games in Sydney. Valerie Horton

'China' masters the world

NEVILLE “China” Johnson is making up for lost time.

For 80 years Johnson reckons he won nothing sporting - that's all changed now.

He now has a gold medal proving he's the best swimmer in the world in his age group to go with the Australian and Queensland ones he already has in his collection.

Not a bad effort when you consider the 81-year-old only took up competitive swimming 12 months ago.

Johnson won his world title after winning the 200m backstroke in his 80-84 year age group during the World Masters Games in Sydney.

He held off the challenge from 29 swimmers from throughout the world including the USA, Canada, Italy, Egypt and Australia to earn the right to get that gold medal put over his shoulders.

But the gold wasn't the only medal Johnson, who won all five events he contested in the annual Maryborough Masters Games just a week before he headed to Sydney, arrived home with - there were also two silver medals.

Johnson, who moved to Maryborough from New South Wales in 1970, finished second in both 50 and 100m backstroke finals.

Johnson said winning the medals capped off what had been a magnificent week.

“I must say that it was the greatest sporting event that I have taken part in - it was fantastic just to be a part of it and it's something that I'll never forget,” the grandfather of six, whose favourite event is the 100m backstroke, said.

“While it was great to win the medals, it was the chance to take part in an event like that, that is more important than the winning.

“The Games were so friendly and that's what it's all about regardless if you come first or last.

“I still cannot believe that I'm a world champion though - I've got the medals engraved so they won't take them back,” he laughed.

The next World Masters Games are in Rome in four years time and Johnson is aiming to be there to defend his crown.

“I loved the Games and God willing, I will be there for sure as long as I'm still alive and I've got no intention of going yet.”

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