Limbless man swims Bering Straits

YERETH ROSEN
Last updated 09:31 20/08/2012

French quadruple amputee becomes the second person to swim the Bering Strait in hopes of raising awareness for handicapped people. Jessica Gray reports.

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A French swimmer with no arms and legs has successfully swum the frigid waters separating Alaska and Russia.

Philippe Croizon, whose limbs were amputated after a 1994 electrical accident at age 26, completed his swim with the aid of paddle-like prosthetics.

The swim was from Alaska's Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island.

Croizon's website said the expected direct distance of the swim was to be about 4km.

Croizon had intended to swim all the way to the shoreline of Big Diomede, but regional Russian authorities denied him permission to enter the territory, expedition representatives said.

His swim to Russian waters took about an hour and 15 minutes, Marc Gaviard, coordinator for the expedition, said in a telephone interview from Little Diomede.

Croizon has completed crossings of the English Channel, the Red Sea and other major waterways.

His Bering Strait swim was the last in a series of expeditions across waterways that separate continents, according to Handicap International, the nonprofit organisation that helped organise Croizon's Alaska undertaking.

Even though the swim was shorter than originally intended, it turned out to be extremely challenging, Gaviard said.

"Philippe said it was the hardest thing he ever did, even harder than crossing the English Channel," Gaviard said.

When he had finished, "He was totally out of energy," Gaviard said.

The water was very cold, about four degrees Celsius.

"He basically put on a couple of wetsuits instead of just one," Gaviard said.

The water was very choppy, with swells of 1.8-2.4m, Gaviard said, and heavy fog made navigation difficult for Croizon, his swimming partner and the four vessels escorting them.

"You could see that we were going in a zigzag," Gaviard said.

Expedition members used GPS technology to determine when they had reached the maritime border between Alaska and Russia, Gaviard said. After that, Croizon boarded one of the vessels and rode back to Little Diomede, he said.

Croizon next plans to travel to London to work as a radio and television commentator during the Paralympics.

Croizon, who was seeking to raise awareness of the abilities of handicapped people, was the second person to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russian territory.

In 1987, American long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox accomplished that feat for the first time.

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- Reuters

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