1970s Commonwealth swimming star saves teenager from drowning
A GRANDMOTHER who swam for Scotland in the 1970 Commonwealth Games has told how she saved a teenager’s life after he got into trouble in the ocean in Puerto Rico.
Jean Pendrich, 60, swam 400 metres through huge waves to rescue American teenager Derek Becker, 13.
The mother-of-three was on holiday with her son Jonathan, his wife Lindsay, and granddaughter Isabella, two, who all live in Dallas, Texas.
They had booked into the Marriott, in San Juan, on 16 November last year.
Derek had been swimming in the Atlantic, but became pinned against rocks. His father had been unable to help him.
The grandmother-of-four said: “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I didn’t think about it – I knew I would have to go into the sea. It’s the first time I’ve saved someone’s life.
“The lifeguards were hesitating but I’m an incredibly strong swimmer.
“I started swimming internationally when I was 12 and have been an instructor most of my life, so if I wasn’t going to help him, who was?”
As Jean Ross, she was national swim star of the year in 1966 and was selected to swim for Great Britain in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
However, she gave up swimming to marry her husband Stuart, now 65, who is pastor at the Days Lane Baptist Church, in Bexley, south-east London.
They now live in nearby Sidcup and she is an instructor at daughter Angela’s swimming school, also in Bexley.
Mrs Pendrich added: “The conditions were worse than anything I’ve ever swam in.
“The waves were between four and five feet high and you had to fight through them rather than over them because they were so fierce.”
The American youngster was so stunned by the water that Mrs Pendrich faced a struggle getting him back to shore, she said.
“I reassured him everything would be all right and we would get out of this, but I was feeling exhausted myself.
“I was swallowing lots of water and he was in such shock he couldn’t even kick with his legs.
“Thankfully, I summoned up enough strength to pull him through the water and get back to shore.”
Mrs Pendrich’s husband Stuart said he was scared but not surprised when his wife charged towards the water.
“I’m very proud of her,” he said.
“Everything happened so quickly, but I was worried she would get into trouble when I realised how bad the conditions were.
“But I know she’s a really strong swimmer and would do anything to help anyone.
“Things could have turned out very different, but thankfully it was a happy ending.”
Derek’s mother, Kimberly, who was hysterical from concern for her son, said she had been overwhelmed by Mrs Pendrich’s efforts.
After Mr and Mrs Pendrich returned from holiday, Kimberly e-mailed them to say thank you.
“I will never forget Jean and the brave, heroic feat she performed that day,” she wrote.
“She saved my family from tragedy.”