French man without arms or legs finishes landmark swim

A French quadruple amputee has swum between islands in the icy Bering Strait to cross from the US to Asia in the final part of a quest to link all continents.

Philippe Croizon (44) braved strong currents and near-freezing temperatures on Friday to swim the four kilometres from the US island of Little Diomede to the Russian island of Big Diomede.

Crossing continents: Philippe Croizon (foreground) poses with his friend Arnaud Chassery after they braved strong currents to swim the freezing waters separating Alaska and Russia. Pic/AFP

He said it took him about one hour and 20 minutes. “This was the hardest swim of my life, with a water temperature of four degree Celsius and strong currents,” the deeply moved Croizon said after reaching the Russian island.¬†“We made it,” he added. Croizon was accompanied by long-distance swimmer Arnaud Chassery.

Since May the pair have swum across three other straits separating the continents. They plunged through the ocean up to the limit of the territorial waters separating Russia and the United States, and then continued a few hundred metres into Russian waters to enter Asia.

The men arrived on Alaska’s Little Diomede island in a fishing boat last Sunday but their swim was held up for four days because of a powerful storm with winds of up to 140km/h.
Over the past three months, they have swum from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia (crossing from Oceania to Asia); across the Red Sea from Egypt to Jordan (between Africa and Asia); and from Spain to Morocco (between Europe and Africa).

Croizon had all four limbs amputated in 1994 after being struck by an electric shock of more than 20,000 volts as he tried to remove a TV antenna from a roof. He uses flippers attached to prosthetic limbs to swim.

Croizon said he hoped to be an encouragement to other disabled people. “I tell them: ‘Everything is possible, everything can be done when you have the will to go beyond yourself’. We’re all equal, disabled and non-disabled people on all continents,” he said¬†

Did you know?
Croizon is 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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