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2016 WOWSA Man of the Year – Nejib Belhedi
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Friday, February 17, 2012
Cook Down, Molokai And Tsugaru Up Next
"This [Oceans Seven] is something that is driving me," said the famed Irish marathon swimmer who has already completed the English Channel (2009), the North Channel (2010), the Strait of Gibraltar (2011), the Catalina Channel (2011) and the Cook Strait (2012).
After his Cook Strait success yesterday, he is preparing for a second assault on the Molokai Channel this month and, if things go well in Hawaii, the final challenge in Japan's Tsugaru Channel in June.
The rock of a man is a humble champion with marathon swimming community rooting for him vicariously through his Spot tracker and Internet reports.
English Channel legend Philip Rush who organized Stephen's swim said, "He did a fantastic job with his Cook Strait conquest. It was a very gusty swim with 3 - 4 hrs under calm conditions and the rest of the day was absolutely rubbish. Stephen is a great guy; we worked well together and got the result."
Stephen was a bit more colorful in his description and perception of his swim. "...it was the hardest, most brutal widow maker I have ever swam. Wellington is such a great city, infectious positivity. The Irish community down here, with Irish from all over Ireland, have been incredible. We had an attempt on Valentines Day which Philip Rush did not allow go ahead. Once again, I have come around the world and met such wonderful people who will be etched into my memory.
Philip decided that Friday looked like the only possible chance. Friday dawned and we felt like I was swimming in Ireland with such support. It was a beautiful day while we steamed over to South Island to swim back. Every detail of the swim is taken care of, even down to properly greasing and sun-blocking. You sense is truly personal to [Philip] to get me across.
The swim started really well [but] I was surprised how cold the water was. My stroke rate stayed at 54 all day and dipped at the end. We screamed across the first four hours. Then once again, the sea gods decided to test me and the whole team.
We were in a storm. Philip admitted that he had never had someone over in such rough seas. We're battered. We did not seem to make much headway. I could have complained, but what was no point? I had come around the world to compete this. This was my only chance. [The storm continued] through the afternoon.
We come to far too fail. With darkness falling, chaos is getting covered by waves. The crew [in the rib] are soaking wet. Philip tells me, 'We have to get over the wind and tide to try and get into shore.' I really want to stop [but] Philip puts that idea out of my head, telling me I will complete the swim because he will not let me into the boat. Too close now [although] it had taken over an hour to swim 400 hundred meters.
After what seems like ages, I mashed into a rock to touch. [There was] no joy, just disbelief and utterly exhausted shoulders gone and in ribbons. I clambered on to rib, not pretty. I laid face down on the ground, dry retching with a body broken. The Cook Strait had as good as killed me. The steam home took hours due to the bad weather. I was left to warm up, but it was too rough so everyone just held on.
This swim was not mine but everyone who have been involved from home to my family, wife and kids. We have achieved it and would like to thank you all for keeping me afloat and being with me through out the swim."
While the Cook Strait severely challenged him with the cold, waves and tidal flows, his next channel between Molokai and Oahu will be another battle for the Irish record holder. Swimming at a steady pace with a steel-trap mind, Stephen is ideally suited to marathon swimming. But the turgid, fast-moving waters of the deep Pacific between Molokai and Tsugaru require an element of speed that presents another challenge for Stephen.
But when Stephen first started on his path towards the Oceans Seven, he was reminded by the omnipresent words of Captain Matthew Webb that "Nothing great is easy." And the Molokai and Tsugaru Channel will not be easy. But what he has the opportunity to achieve will be, truly, great.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
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