One species, not evolved for swimming

Kevin Murphy, Trent Grimsey, Philipe Croizon, Jackie Cobell, Roger Allsop, Owen O’Keefe

Kevin, Trent, Philipe, Jackie, Roger, Owen

In order from left:

  • Kevin Murphy, The King of the Channel, with 34 Solo crossings and a multitude of swims elsewhere around the world, he also has swum longer than anyone else who has ever lived
  • Trent Grimsey, 2012 FINA World number one open water swimmer and the fastest English Channel Soloist, (who has just retired from Professional swimming)
  • Philipe Croizon, the first limbless person to Solo the English Channel
  • Jackie Cobell, the slowest English Channel Soloist, Bering Strait Relay
  • Roger Allsop, the oldest English Channel Soloist
  • Owen O’Keefe, Ireland’s youngest ever Channel Soloist, Round Jersey Male Record Holder and more

There are a few things that strike me about them.

First is that what unites them is greater than what separates them. Each of them is a Soloist. Each of them has aspired to be a Soloist. Each has felt the pain of the Channel and overcome it. Each is a member of the same small group. If you are a member of a group to achieve something which has only a twelve hundred members or so worldwide, then you can be the slowest, fastest, first or most often, prettiest, or even average and still belong.

Anyone can aspire to belong to the same group. All that differentiates these people from others in that area is desire. How much desire do you think it took Philipe or Jackie? How much for Kevin to keep going back when once is enough for most people? What about Roger attempting something people less than half his age have failed to do? Desire to succeed is what unites them.

Second is another facet of the differences, the range. If all these people exemplify some ideal of Channel swimming, not only do you NOT have an option to say: it’s ok for them, I couldn’t do it, but even better, you’ll likely fall into the very very broad middle ground. You’ll may be over 10 ten hours but under 20 hours. You may get completely average (for the Channel) weather conditions. Or you may not. You may have Force Six winds or be the fastest swimmer of your generation. There is a wide range which can accommodate you, and still, at the end, you will belong to the same species. A species that isn’t evolved for swimming, that instead used disruptive motions to progress through water, and as a consequence derives meaning from pursuing that which we weren’t evolved to tackle.

Lastly, taken as a whole, the group almost defines the limits of swimming possibility or maybe even that the limits haven’t yet been reached. They have all done something no-that by definition no-one else has. They set markers to which many more can aspire and by edging closer out onto the edge of human capability, they illuminate the way for the rest of us.



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