the frigid waters of the Bering Strait, while dodging floating ice,
Philippe Croizon relied on his 18 months of training to keep himself
repeated in his head as the rough waters crashed around his shoulders
and face. Croizon had trained his mind to shift away from emotional
thoughts and to stick strictly to mechanics.
Croizon, who is a French athlete and quadruple amputee, recently completed
one of the most impressive accomplishments in water thanks to that
steely mind-set: he connected five continents with four swims. Croizon
partnered with able-bodied athlete Arnaud Chassery for their international
challenge, beginning back in May 2012 and completing the task in August.
The duo completed four swims in four months:
The first swim began in Oceania, concluded
The second swim began in Africa, concluded in Asia.
The third swim began in Africa, concluded in Europe.
The fourth & final swim spanned from America to Asia.
Croizon and Chassery swam nearly 53 total miles and spent 45 total
hours in the water. The first question that comes to mind regarding
Croizons accomplishment is: what was he thinking? I tried
to avoid thinking in general! said Croizon, who used prosthetic
flippers at the end of his legs. I completed sessions of Sophrologymental
and physical exercisesfor several months to learn to manage
emotion, particularly while swimming.
According to the International Sophrology Federation, Sophrology consists
of mental and physical exercises that lead to a healthy, relaxed body
and alert mind. Croizon said he used the exercises to ensure that
his emotions didnt overcome his body.
I listen to my body to see if everything is going well,
Croizon said. I think about my two boys and my partner in life,
Suzana. When I feel my emotions are taking over, I begin to count
my movements, One, two, three, four, then I look at the
boat and repeat, One, two, three, four.
Resorting back to the counting of movements kept Croizon calm and
focused on his task. And his task was a hefty one. Croizons
pathway to the water began March 5, 1994. His arms and legs were amputated
following an electrical accident, and he struggled facing such a new
life. During his recovery, Croizon watched a documentary about a woman
who swam the English Channel. Thats when Croizon decided he
could do that, too.
Croizon admits he was a couch potato prior to his accident,
mostly watching sports on TV rather than participating in them. But
the documentary changed him. Two and a half months after my
accident, I truly woke up and decided to live, Croizon said.
I did this for my two sons, who need a father to guide them
A few days after this realization, I was watching television
and saw a 17-year-old girl who had successfully completed her second
swim across the English Channel. At that moment, it was as if I had
forgotten that I had lost both my arms and legs, as I envisioned overcoming
everything. I said to myself, Why cant I do that one day?
without truly understanding what this statement and decision would
The first step to his new lease on life was more like a major jump.
Getting up and off the couch, my first big challenge was to
go skydiving. We jumped out of a plane at almost 16,000 feet,
Croizon said. A journalist asked me what my next challenge would
be, and without hesitation I replied, Crossing the English Channel.
Croizon began a rigorous training schedule of swimming five hours
a day in open waters with the French marine police, also known as
the Maritime Gendarmerie. Following two years of dedication, hard
work, and water trainingin addition to support from several
French political leadersthe 42-year-old Croizon crossed the
21-mile English Channel on Sept. 18, 2010, more than 16 years after
his accident. His time was slightly under 14 hours.
Shortly afterward, he decided to target his international challenge
of connecting five continents with four swims along with swimming
partner Chassery. The preparation, however, was far greater than anything
Croizon had ever endured.
Getting ready for this challenge required [a] strong will and
commitment, Croizon explained. I swam between three and
five hours per day, and followed that with an hour of strength training.
Arnaud Chassery and I trained in Brittany (France) in the fall and
spring to experience conditions similar to the ones we would encounter
in our four swims: cold water, with strong currents. We also went
to Toulon (France) to meet with divers from the French Navy and learn
from their experience in very cold water. Finally, we worked with
doctors to mimic the physical effects that we would be up against.
And, we went to a lake in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via (France), which is
at an altitude of 6,500 feet, to load our red blood cells. Basically,
it was 18 months of very intensive training.
In April 2012, Croizon announced the international challenge. A month
later, he and Chassery completed their first 12-mile swim from Australia
to Asia. In June, the duo finished the second leg of the feat, swimming
12 miles across the Red Sea. In July, they swam nine miles across
the Strait of Gibraltar. Poor weather delayed the final piece of the
puzzle by four days, but Croizon and Chassery completed their challenge
on Aug. 17th when they swam across the Bering Straits 39-degree
Croizon credits his wife, Suzana, for her support, and said he never
considered stopping the challenge. His motivation was far greater
than swimming the open waters. I want to demonstrate that a
disability is not the end of oneself and that a person who has a handicap
can accept this and be happy, Croizon said. People with
disabilities participate in sports because they enjoy it, not because
they are seeking recognition. They are doing their best to be part
of our community and society. Achieving your personal best is usually
the goal for any athlete, able-bodied or otherwise.
Chassery concurred. Everyone has to surpass themselves in their
own way, with their own means, he added. You need to know
how to listen to your heart; the energy that resides there is common
to all humans.
While Croizon is reaping many of the benefits and collecting recognition
for the international challenge, he is quick to mention his swimming
partner Chassery. In fact, Croizon said, the fact that the duo completed
the task together epitomizes Croizons message to the world.
While symbolically linking five continents, Arnaud Chassery
and I put forth the universal messages of courage, equal opportunity,
and international peace and solidarity, Croizon said. If
two people, one with a disability and the other able-bodied, are capable
of bridging five continents, we are not that different, are we?
by Josh Pate
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from the Kurt
Howland His Lost Girl Fantasy
China Art Exchange and Mao Yu-yan
Sessions The 38-Year-Old Virgin
Kurt Yaeger Son of Anarchy
Croizon Quadruple Amputee Swims Four Straits
in the Kurt Yaeger Issue; Ashley Fiolek Off Season, But Still
Racing Around; Geri Jewell Lets Vote for Each Other;
Humor A Day in a Life; Philippe Croizon Quadruple Amputee
Swims Four Straits; Paul Pelland 2 MS, Eat My Dust!; Rick Howland
His Lost Girl Fantasy; Solo-Dx Silence Never Sounded
So Good; The Sessions The 38-Year-Old Virgin; Kurt Yaeger
Son of Anarchy; China Press Art of the Exchange;
Chinese Lessions Shes 86, Teaching From the Heart; DRLC
Enforcing the ADAs; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and