WSU alumnus George Brunstad on Sunday became the oldest person to swim the English Channel between Britain and France. He is the son of former WSU employee Art Brunstad and also happens to be the uncle of film star Matt Damon.

Brunstad, 70 years and 4 days old, completed the 21-mile swim in 15 hours and 59 minutes. He originally hoped to make the swim on his 70th birthday, last Wednesday, but poor weather delayed the effort until the weekend.

“The weather was good and the sea calm. Everything went well,” said Michael Oram, who skippered the boat which followed the swimmer for the crossing.

“When I arrived I just said ‘Praise the Lord,’ stood on the beach and raised my arms in a V sign,” Brunstad said. 

In completing the swim, Brunstad, a retired pilot from Connecticut, raised $11,000 a charity benefitting orphaned children in Haiti. (See )

Thinking of the children kept him going, he said.

“I was going to do this,” Brunstad said while drying off. “Too many people were depending on me. Too many people were praying for me.”

Another man also tried to break the record Saturday. Joe Van Horn, 68, a retired dentist from Canton, Ohio, had to stop swimming 8.5 miles into his effort because of leg cramps, said Andy King, captain of Van Horn’s escort boat.

Brunstad credited good weather and manageable currents. To keep warm, he coated himself with a combination of lanolin and petroleum jelly.

“My muscles are feeling fine right now, but I’ll let you know tomorrow,” he said.

Brunstad is a world-class distance swimmer who has won more than 45 long-distance national championships, four world long distance open-water championships and has been a Long Distance All- American every year since 1992.

He swims for the Connecticut Masters Swim Club and teaches swimming at the YMCA in Wilton, Conn., where his students call him “Grandpa George.”

The current age record is held by Bertram Clifford Batts of Australia who was 67 years, 241 days old when he swam the 21-mile Channel in 1987.

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