Mérida swam the busy English Channel in 15 hours finishing at half past five in the morning.
“Nobody is disabled, I don’t like that word. We are normal people and at times, normal people do crazy things”
“I was swimming harder than ever for four hours and got nowhere: I thought my adventure was going to end there”
Last Tuesday at half past five in the morning, Marbella para-athlete Javier Mérida completed a 15-hour swim across the English channel, becoming the first disabled swimmer from Spain to accomplish the feat.
Mérida, whose leg was amputated six years ago, is now the fourteenth Spaniard to make the journey that normally covers the 32 kilometres from Dover, on England’s southern coast, to Calais in France. He hit difficulties however and sea currents took him off course, adding an extra 15 kilometres onto the already difficult route.
His attempt began at 2pm on Monday with the water’s temperature at 16 degrees centigrade. In compliance with the rules laid down by the Channel Swimming Association Mérida swam without a wet suit and was accompanied by a navigation boat that would only provide basic or vital assistance. Despite his disability, from the start the official observer was strict with the Marbella-born athlete, who lost his right leg from the knee downwards in 2007 from an accident. He had to start from dry land and drag himself into the water until he could swim.
Mérida completed the initial 1000 metres in a little over 14 minutes, with a speed of around 5 kilometres an hour. Every half an hour, his team including his wife Esther Jiménez and a doctor, Rosa Sánchez, would throw the swimmer a container of 40 centilitres of liquid to comply with official regulations. In the first four kilometres, the swimmer consumed a liquid solution that contained energising carbohydrates. For the rest of the route, was given warm broths and sweet and savoury solutions made by his doctor.
Mérida had completed 35 kilometres when the wind changed. “I swam for four hours but made no progress,” the swimmer confessed. After another three kilometres the boat’s crew decided to divert further down the coast to Wissant after realising that it would be impossible for Mérida to reach Calais battling against the strong currents.
The Marbella swimmer eventually completed the journey, again having to drag himself onto dry land. There he was congratulated by the observer, who confirmed his feat and said his official Channel Swimming certificate would be arriving soon. Mérida says his next challenge will be swimming Loch Ness in Scotland.