Blue Peter presenter and Big Splasher, Andy Akinwolere, has conquered his fear of open water and set a new world record in the process.
Just a few short months ago, Akinwolere could hardly swim a length of a swimming pool but after being put through his paces by coach Dave Hobbs, he has just become the first person to swim across the Palau Trench, one of the deepest parts of the pacific ocean.
He did the swim as part of the BBC’s Big Splash initiative – a UK wide campaign that aims to get the nation swimming (www.bbc.co.uk/bigsplash). It took him 3 hours and 30 minutes to swim the 5 miles (8km) across the Palau trench which is over 8,000 metres deep. The records, verified by the World Open Water Swimming Association, were a huge physical and mental challenge for Akinwolere who until recently was terrified of open water calling it his ‘final fear’.
Weeks of preparation were needed for this mammoth feat. Akinwolere faced daily swims to improve his stamina and technique and ended up carrying his trunks with him at all times, so he could take full advantage of any pools he came across. With mental as well as physical hurdles to overcome Akinwolere also spent time with a psychologist to explore his acute fears.
He said: “It’s an absolute triumph to have completed this swim, after having had just over 10 weeks of swimming training I still cannot believe how far I’ve come. I could not swim a length before this and now I have swam over one of the deepest parts of the world. All the hours of gruelling training will be worth it if my challenge inspires more children from ethnic minorities to learn to swim.”
Bernie Dietzig, a performance scientist with British Swimming, worked with Akinwolere at the British Gas ITC in Swansea.
He said: “ We filmed Andy swimming a few lengths of the pool to look at his stroke and how efficient he was at moving through the water. At the end of the session, he was swimming much flatter and had already made huge improvements.
Viewers will be able to follow ‘Andy’s Big Splash’ story in a Blue Peter special on Monday 20 June 2011 on BBC 1.
And if you ever wonder what sort of creatures swim in deep oceans, take a look at a short compilation from the BBC Planet Earth / Blue Planet – Deep ocean creatures series (flashplayer required)
Music is Dark Angel by Katie Jane Garside