Derek Eaton with his coach Janis Crampton at an ocean swim event in Wellington. Derek was named Masters Sportsperson of the Year at the Nelson Sports Awards on Friday night. Photo Supplied/Peter Gibbs.

Bishop’s swimming renaissance

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2006

Sea swimmer Bishop Derek Eaton is proof a long hiatus is no barrier for making an impact in your chosen sport late in life.

The 75-year-old won the Masters Sportsperson of the Year category at the Nelson Sports Awards at Annesbrook Church on Friday night, thanks to his efforts in the water which now have him ranked in the top five in the world for his age.

Derek was the Bishop of Nelson for 16 years and only got back into swimming in 2009 after being posted to Egypt.

“I thought I had to do something to stay fit and you can’t really run around Cairo without drawing attention to yourself.”

Derek held several age-group pool records as a teenager but left swimming in the 1960s.

“It’s never too late to start and I want to accept this award on behalf of all older sports people.

“My inspiration comes from the weekly Port Nelson sea swims which can gather almost 200 people on a Thursday night.

“Ocean swimming is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and I never thought I would reach the heights that I have.”

Derek thanked his wife and those in the swimming and triathlon community for their support.

“My wife helps me train, and being able to swim stops me getting fat and keeps me off the streets.

He also joked about his relationship with God.

“A lot of people think that I am helped in the water by some divine intervention but I am here to tell you that help is available to everyone.

“I’ve been accused of, when the other competitors aren’t looking, running on water, but I can assure you I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.”

Stoke paralympic sprinter Liam Malone won Nelson Sports Person of the Year.

The hot favourite for the award earned the title after capturing global attention with his two gold medals and a silver medal at the Rio Paralympics.

The 22-year-old was in attendance to accept the award.