Getrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, died on Sunday Nov 30, 2003. Her record was set on Aug 6, 1926. She crossed the Channel from France to England and her time was 14 hours 39 minutes. It was reported that she was greeted with wild and spontaneous celebration upon her return to the United States.
Her successful crossing is one of the early successful swims officially ratified by the Channel Swimming Association (CSA). According to CSA's web site, it is the governing body of Channel swimming.
Its official record book "has list and detailed all properly authenticated swim attempts since 1875 to the present day". Since 1927, CSA has been organising and regulating swims to cross the English Channel. Only successful cross channel swims are "faithfully recorded".
On August 4, 2003, our own English Channel conqueror Abdul Malik Mydin, according to a local daily, completed a cross channel swim in 17 hours 42 minutes. His return to the country was also met with a rousing welcome. The then prime minister and some of his cabinet colleagues were there to greet him at the KL International Airport.
However, you will probably not find his swim recorded in CSA’s official record book. It seems his swim was not observed by CSA. Instead, Abdul Malik Mydin's swim was observed and regulated by the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF). CSA and CSPF have no official link.
It is not clear when CSPF was formed as it was not mentioned on its website. However, it appears to be a relatively recent set up. The key people behind CSPF are Alison Streeter, who has completed 39 successful cross channel swims and Michael Oram, former secretary of CSA.
According to CSA, any cross channel swim outside its observation has very little credibility. Yet, someone has spent a lot of money to finance Abdul Malik Mydin’s attempt. He has in turn invested a lot of energy and time. Then there are the ministers and supporters who so enthusiastically greet him on his triumphant return. They might feel a bit let down because what they have celebrated may not be the real thing.
What if a Singaporean successfully swims the Channel next month or next year, and his/her swim was observed and regulated by CSA? Who would be the first person from South East Asia to successfully swim the English Channel?
It might be instructive for us to know that on Aug 26, 2003, Xie Yanhong, a paraplegic from Dalian, China, succeeded in crossing the English Channel in 16 hours 44 minutes. Xie is also the first disabled man and the second Chinese to swim across the English Channel. DalianNews.com mentioned that Xie has won honour and glory for his motherland and his hometown. However, there was no report of any wild celebration or firework greeting on his return to China.
The mayor of Dalian helped him raised US$25,000 needed for the swim. Xie's swim was regulated and observed by CSA. As such, his swim was recorded in CSA's official record book. Well you just got to hand to the Chinese: they get best value for their money.
The above article appeared in Malaysiakini of Dec 11th, 2003
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"