Thu, May 26, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Limbless swimmer sets new challenge

AFP, PARIS

Swimmer Philippe Croizon poses with a French flag on Sept. 20 in Wissant, northern France, after he succeeded on Sept. 18 in his attempt to swim the English Channel.

Photo: AFP

A Frenchman who gained fame for swimming the English Channel with no arms or legs has set himself a new challenge: to cross five continents in waters marked by sharks, poisonous jellyfish, icy currents and cargo ships.

Philippe Croizon, 43, who lost both his arms and legs in an electrical accident 17 years ago, has begun preparing one year ahead to swim hundreds of kilometers in waters connecting five continents from May to August.

“My crossing of the Channel was a message of hope and of life to all my fellow companions in misfortune,” said Croizon, who will be accompanied by long-distance swimming champion Arnaud Chassery, 34.

Doctors were forced to amputate his limbs after he was hit by a 20,000 volt charge in 1994 as he tried to dismantle a television antenna from a house roof.

As he recovered in hospital he saw a television documentary about a Channel swimmer and an ambition was born. He used special prostheses with flippers to make the crossing.

In the first round the pair will swim about 20km in the Pacific Ocean from a fishing outpost in Papua New Guinea to another coastal village in Indonesia. The swimmers will face strong currents and an area known as a habitat for sharks and the poisonous jellyfish.

If all goes as planned, the two men will then swim 25km in June in the Gulf of Aqaba from Jordan to the Egyptian coast. The following month they will swim from Africa to Europe via the Strait of Gibraltar, and in August they will cross the Bering Strait separating Russia with the Asian continent — a round-trip of a dozen kilometers in waters close to 0°C.

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