Posted on Monday 22nd July, 2019

Jen Thomasson – Living Life to the Fullest

“Masters Swimming has been the best thing I have ever done in my life; making friends with like-minded people, having lots of fun and laughter together, having new challenges, feeling fit, strong and healthy, and gaining the confidence that comes with achievement.” Jen Thomasson

Many of you will have seen Jen Thomasson swim at masters’ swim meets over the years, but now is our chance to find out a little more about this inspirational MSQ swimmer. Here, this quiet achiever tells us a little about how she became involved with swimming at the age of ten, and how that has led to a lifetime of loving the water. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Jen!

Starting out

My parents couldn’t swim and knew nothing about swimming, but an aunt (whose son, by the way, represented Australia at four successive Olympics in water polo) bribed me to swim across a pool (a distance of about 20m) when she saw I could get myself through the water in some sort of fashion, without ever having had a lesson, at about age 10 or 11. My parents then asked me if I would like to learn to swim, which I did. In my second season (no winter swimming in those days) of swimming, I was entered in the State Championships and started winning medals as a 13 year old.

At that stage I started training by myself with no coach, but with programmes given to me by a friend of my father who had managed Queensland and Australian teams and learnt a bit about how they trained. I only learned by luck how to breathe properly during the trials for the 1962 Commonwealth Games, when he suggested I try breathing every 3rd stroke for the final 100 of the 400 I.M. because my stroke was very rough. This made me blow out properly to last 3 strokes, and I took 7 seconds off my PB and made the team.  I then went on to win the bronze in these Games (actually then it was 440 yards I.M. – really showing my age).

Rediscovering swimming

I studied physiotherapy, worked, got married and had three children, and during these years played squash and golf. I got into swimming again rather than sit and wait while my children were swimming, and remembered how much I loved it. I discovered Masters Swimming when I was 44 and have been a member of Brisbane Southside Masters for the last 32 years.

Overcoming adversity

I have had very few setbacks in my swimming career, mainly tendinitis and inflamed bursa in my shoulders, but lots of physio and the ability to manage it now, has mostly overcome this. My biggest challenge was only 9 months ago when I broke the end of my collar bone, had it immobilised for 6 weeks, then no resistance exercise for another 6 weeks. That was a bit like learning to swim again, and I’d have to say was an interesting challenge.

Memorable moments

My most memorable moments in Masters Swimming were winning both the 400 and 800 freestyle, both in world record times, at the World Championships in Perth in 2008. My favourite events, as you can probably tell, are the distance freestyles, 400, 800 & 1500.


I love everything about swimming, the feeling of being in the water, working out how to be as efficient in the water as possible, pushing myself against the clock to improve my fitness, and feeling good for that fitness when I finish a session. The only thing I don’t like about swimming is getting out of bed in the dark on cold winter mornings, and even that is not about swimming because I still love it when I get there.

I train at Cotton Tree, Maroochydore, in the outdoor 50M pool in summer and indoor 25M pool in winter, 4 days a week, 3 1/2 kms per session. Then I go home, read a book for my recovery, and quite often fall asleep in my chair.

I don’t really need motivation because I really love training and enjoy challenging myself both in training and racing.

My inspiration is to keep fit, well, healthy and happy for the rest of my time on this planet, and preferably drop off the edge before I get “OLD”!!! 

Likes and dislikes

My favourite things would be swimming, playing tennis, reading and sleeping.

Likes would be eating out and eating sweet rubbish (can’t have any in the house because couldn’t resist eating it).

Dislikes would be cooking and cleaning.

“If it is to be, it’s up to me”

Upcoming events these days are those close to home, Noosa and Sunshine Coast at Kawana. My suggestion to everyone is to enjoy the fun of travelling with a group of friends to whatever meets you can while you are young enough to really enjoy it, because it’s not as much fun when you get older.

I have a husband, three lovely sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, three grandsons and one granddaughter. My philosophy on life is to live it to the fullest and treat every day as your last.

My favourite saying is: – “If it is to be it’s up to me”.

What I would say to someone thinking of joining Masters is: – It has been the best thing I have ever done in my life, making friends with like-minded people, having lots of fun and laughter together, having new challenges, feeling fit, strong and healthy, and gaining the confidence that comes with achievement.

Coach Jen

What Jen did not mention in her profile, was that she is also a wonderful swim coach. MSQ was contacted by swimmers who wished to add to the article by saying how much Jen inspired them by sharing her love of swimming so generously.

Jen coached at Brisbane Southside Masters for over ten years. She wrote different programs for every session, with each individual in mind, considering levels of fitness, preferred strokes, and goals being aimed for. She set programs that worked towards upcoming swim meets, whether it was local, national or international. She watched swimmers’ performances at these meets then worked on the things that needed to be improved. Jen also worked on technique, race pace and endurance, and was always encouraging and positive, which was a great confidence boost for all her swimmers.

Thank you Jen – from your past squad members.

Jen’s Commonwealth Games Medal 1962