Source: Agencies | 2012-8-20 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
French swimmer Philippe Croizon, four-member amputee (foreground), poses with his friend, Arnaud Chassery, on Saturday on a beach in Wales, Alaska. Croizon has completed his swim across the Bering Strait.
A FRENCH swimmer who lacks legs and arms has successfully swum the frigid waters separating Alaska and Russia with the aid of paddle-like prosthetics, expedition representatives said on Saturday.
Philippe Croizon, whose limbs were amputated after a 1994 electrical accident at age 26, completed his swim late Friday from Alaska's Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island. Croizon's website said the expected direct distance of the swim was about 4 kilometers.
Croizon had intended to swim all the way to the shoreline of Big Diomede, but regional Russian authorities denied him permission to enter the territory, the representatives said.
His swim to Russian waters took about an hour and 15 minutes, Marc Gaviard, coordinator for the expedition, said in a telephone interview from Little Diomede.
Croizon uses paddle-like prosthetics to swim, and has completed crossings of the English Channel, the Red Sea and other major waterways. His Bering Strait swim was the last in a series of expeditions across waterways that separate continents, according to Handicap International, the nonprofit organization that helped organize Croizon's Alaska undertaking.
Extremely challenging swim
Even though the swim was shorter than originally intended, it turned out to be extremely challenging, Gaviard said.
"Philippe said it was the hardest thing he ever did, even harder than crossing the English Channel," Gaviard said. "He was totally out of energy."
The water was very cold, about 4 degrees Celsius, he said. "He basically put on a couple of wetsuits instead of just one."
The water was very choppy, with swells of 1.8 to 2.4 meters, Gaviard said, and heavy fog made navigation hard for Croizon, his swimming partner and the four vessels escorting them.
"You could see that we were going in a zigzag," Gaviard said.
Expedition members used GPS technology to determine when they had reached the maritime border between Alaska and Russia, Gaviard said. After that, Croizon boarded one of the vessels and rode back to Little Diomede, he said.
The expedition members remained on the rocky Alaska island on Saturday but planned to fly to Anchorage when weather allowed, Gaviard said.
Croizon is the second person to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russian territory.