Absolutely Painful Open Water Swims Of The 21st Century

Absolutely Painful Open Water Swims Of The 21st Century

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions are made from something they have from deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

The history of extaordinariky difficult open water swims in the 20th century are legendary and fill the annals with exploits from swimmers like Des Renford and Kevin Murphy who battled each other in Loch Ness until they both found themselves in the hospital together. Real-life stories like Ted Erikson who was pulled from the Pacific Ocean during his second attempt to swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge. His wife was informed of his death, but he not only came back to life but also he came back later to make a successful crossing in 1967.

The drive of open water swimmers is clearly reinforced by a deeply-embedded will and physical skills. Their strength comes from within but even the world’s most fit and hardened open water swimmers demonstrate the considerable and unique risks in swimming in the world’s oceans.

Rendy Lynn Opdycke (USA) in a rowing basin at the 2005 FINA World Championships in Montreal, Karley Stutzel (Canada) [shown above] in a rowing basin at the 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim Qualification Race in Beijing, Kate Brookes-Peterson (Australia) in the sea at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, Antje Mahn (Germany) in a protected ed sea venue at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, and Natalia Charlos at the 2014 European Championships 10 km race are among the elite athletes who have had to be rescued and subsequently hospitalized due to a variety of conditions and situations in open water competitions.

But the following ten incidents were off the charts in terms of pain, discomfort and inherent risk.

Ten Incredibly Painful Open Water Swims of the early 21st Century:

1. Chloë McCardel of Australia was repeatedly stung by jellyfish during her 124.4 km (77.3 miles) swim from Eleuthera Island in Nassau, Bahamas in 41 hours 21 minutes in 2014. As a result, she was hospitalized for 6 days for venom shock.

2. Kimberly Chambers of New Zealand was repeatedly stung by Lion’s Mane jellyfish during her North Channel crossing from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 13 hours 6 minutes in 2014. As a result, she ended up with pulmonary edema and was hospitalized.

3. Anne Marie Ward of Ireland was repeatedly stung by hundreds of Lion’s Mane jellyfish with 20-30 tentacles during her third North Channel attempt in 2010.

4. Diana Nyad of the USA was stung by box jellyfish during her third attempt to cross the Florida Straits from Cuba to Florida in 2011.

5. Adam Walker of Great Britain was repeatedly stung by Portuguese man o war off the coast of Oahu during his 17 hour 2 minute crossing of the Molokai Channel crossing of 2012.

6. Michael Spalding of the USA got a chunk of muscle torn from his calf by a cookiecutter shark during a crossing attempt of the 30-mile Alenuihaha Channel from the Big Island of Hawaii to Maui 4.5 hours and 11 miles into his swim in 2009.

7. Charlotte Brynn of New Zealand was slammed by a shark that left an embedded tooth in her torso during a Catalina Channel crossing attempt in 2013. She was later pulled from the channel with hypothermia.

8. Micha Burden-Shaw of the USA suffered broken ribs from the kick of a competitor in a professional marathon swim in Brazil in 2008.

9. Trent Grimsey of Australia [shown above] and his fellow competitors during the 2011 FINA World Championships 25 km race in Shanghai, China where the water above 31°C led to nearly half of the field of professional marathon swimmers being pulled out or retiring due to hyperthermia.

10. Penny Palfrey of Australia [shown on left] during her first and second attempts at crossing the 72-mile Kaieiewaho Channel from Oahu to Kauai when she was hit by box jellyfish at sunset in 2011.

Note: this list does not include ice swims or swims near the North or South Poles.

Photo shows Karley Stutzel of Canada being rushed to the hospital after the Olympic 10K Marathon qualification swim in Beijing in June 2008.

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