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Distance Swimming

Lord Byron popularised long distance swimming in the 19th century, with a series of distance swims in the Mediterranean Sea. In long distance swimming, good technique must be maintained for many hours, over many miles, and in the face of awesome levels of pain and exhaustion.

The English Channel was and is the goal of many distance swimmers. Fewer than 7% of the swimmers who try to swim, complete the English Channel trip testifies the difficulty of the task. While the distance is only 32 kms [20 miles], currents, tides, drift, and weather conditions can add several kms to the actual distance swum.
Captain Matthew Webb achieved the first authenticated swimming of the English Channel on 24-25 August 1875. Webb covered the distance in a 21 hour, 45 mins swim. As free style was not yet invented, Webb used alternating cycles of breaststroke and side-stroke.

Two-way English Channel swims originated in 1961, when an Argentinian, Abertondo, swam the channel in both directions in a combined time of 43 hours, 5 mins. In such swims a 5-minute intermission is allowed at the change-over point.

Today, the crossing of the Cook Strait from the South Island to the North Island of New Zealand is considered a more severe challenge than the English Channel.

Long distance swimming is now recognised by the American Athletic Union and a 1-hour swim championship measures how far one can travel in 1 hour.

The golden era of long-distance swimming as a major spectator sport was relatively short, but as Judith Jenkins George, has observed: 'thousands of spectators were drawn to the oceans, lakes and pools to observe the swimming marathons of the 1920's and 1930's. The fad of endurance swimming lasted less than a decade, yet during this time, it captivated the public's interest and the athletes imagination as a test of courage and stamina.

* All the material is from 'Encyclopedia of World Sport' edited by David Levinson and Karen Christensen

Performance of Indian swimmers in ...
International Open water swimming

English Channel

Straits of Gibraltar

International Sri Chinmoy Marathon