Following her success in Beijing, Olympic Bronze Medallist Cassie Patten is facing a new challenge. Patten is going to attempt one of the world’s toughest endurance feats; swimming the English Channel. It’s a challenge that has appealed to many adventurous swimmers over the years despite the fact swimming the Channel is recognised as one of the hardest swims in the world to complete.
At its narrowest point the Channel is 20.3 miles wide. In reality swimmers have to contend with tidal currents which makes the actual distance swum closer to 25 miles. It sounds like a tough challenge for anyone to undertake but it is one which 10km Olympic Open Water Bronze medallist is actually relishing.
But what is it that inspires an Olympic medallist take on such a monumental challenge?
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl,” says Patten. “There have always been two things that I have wanted to achieve – one is running a marathon and the other is swimming The Channel. Now seemed like the right time to give the Channel a go.”
Patten’s coach, Sean Kelly, agrees and feels that then event will give her a welcome change after her success in Beijing.
“After the Olympics I think Cassie needed a new challenge and it’s nice for her to have a new target and set some different goals. This is a completely different mental and physical challenge to anything she has ever done before but I think that’s a good thing for her.”
With a proven track record, Patten is among the best Open Water swimmers in the world leading to inevitable talk of a world record attempt.
“A world record would be amazing, I am aware that it is a very big challenge but I always believe anything is possible. It is a long time between now and next summer and a lot can happen so I am not going to make any predications at this stage” said Patten.
While Patten is playing down the chances of a World Record, Kelly admits that it could be a realistic prospect: “A World Record is definitely a possibility, she has the talent to achieve it. However, in swimming The Channel the conditions on the day will play a massive part. There is only so much she can do; she will be in hands of the weather and the tides.”
Swimming the Channel provides a very different challenge to anything Patten has done before. While she is used to Open Water swimming, the Channel provides a number of different challenges which she is relishing.
“The biggest challenge is the distance,” says Patten. “Swimming 25 miles is a really long way. The longest I’ve ever swum before is 10km so this is obviously a very different challenge. I’ve never even swum that far in training so it will be completely different.
“The biggest difficulty I think I will have is swimming completely on my own. In Open Water races there are normally a lot of people around me and if the whole field swims slowly, in a tactical race, then I can still win.
“With The Channel it is just going to be me, on my own, against the clock. While there will be a support crew with me there will be very little interaction, so will be on my own for seven or eight hours which I will find mentally quite tough. It will just be a race against myself.”
Patten has planned her Channel swim for August or September 2009 and still plans to compete at the World Championships in July. She still views this as a priority, but is aware her training may need to be altered to succeed in this new challenge.
“I am a distance swimmer anyway so I tend to swim quite big distances in training anyway but I will need to increase the amount of distance work I do. I will also need to complete a six-hour straight swim, which everyone has to do before they allow you to attempt a Channel swim, so I will have to do that at some point. I may also do a 25km swim at some point before it in preparation.”
Coach Kelly agrees: “The Channel swim will be after the World Championships next year so it will not affect her racing. I won’t make any changes to her training before that, but after the event we are likely to include a lot more distance work.”
Patten is also welcoming advice from others who have completed this feat previously and has one person in mind who she would especially like to speak to.
“I would love to speak to David Walliams about his experience of swimming The Channel. I thought his performance was just breath-taking and a real inspiration for me.”
Patten’s Channel swim will be a charity event to raise money for a number of causes which are important to her. She plans to raise money for three charities, Children in Need, Mind and Right To Play. Children in Need aims to positively change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in the UK, supported by the BBC the annual television event has successfully raised millions of pounds.
Mind, which Patten is the patron of, is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales, working to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
Right To Play is an athlete-driven international humanitarian organisation that uses sport and play as a tool for development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.
It has been suggested that Patten’s venture may raise in excess of £1 million: “There has been a lot of talk of a million pounds and that would be amazing. I don’t really know what to expect I just need to get as many people as possible behind it and get the word out about what I am trying to do.”