Slove­nian Fin­ishes 3,272-Mile Record Swim Down Ama­zon

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports -

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 7 — Af­ter 3,272 miles of ex­haus­tion, sun­burn, delir­ium and pi­ra­nhas, a 52-year-old Slove­nian suc­cess­fully com­pleted a swim down the Ama­zon river Satur­day that could set a new world record for dis­tance — one he’s bro­ken three times al­ready.

Af­ter nine weeks, Martin Strel ar­rived near the city of Belem, the cap­i­tal of the jun­gle state of Para, end­ing a swim al­most as long as the drive from Mi­ami to Seat­tle. Strel av­er­aged about 50 miles a day since be­gin­ning his odyssey at the source of the world’s sec­ond-long­est river in Peru on Feb. 1.

By Thurs­day evening, he was strug­gling with dizzi­ness, ver­tigo, high blood pres­sure, di­ar­rhea, nausea and delir­ium, his Web site said. But de­spite hav­ing dif­fi­culty stand­ing and be­ing or­dered by the doc­tor not to swim, Strel was ob­sessed with fin­ish­ing the course and in­sisted on night swim­ming.

“He’s hit point zero,” Borut Strel, Martin’s son and the project co­or­di­na­tor, said by tele- phone from the Ama­zon. “There will be a cer­e­mony Sun­day in Belem, but he fin­ished to­day.”

Speak­ing by satel­lite phone dur­ing a break aboard his sup­port ves­sel, the elder Strel said that the go­ing got tougher the closer he got to Belem.

“The fin­ish has been the tough­est mo­ment so far,” he said Thurs­day. “I’ve been swim­ming fewer kilo­me­ters as I get closer to the end.”

He said he was lucky to have es­caped en­coun­ters with pi­ra­nhas, the dreaded tooth­pick fish, which swims into body ori­fices to suck blood, and even bull sharks that swim in shal­low wa­ters.

“I think the an­i­mals have just ac­cepted me,” he said.

If con­firmed by Guin­ness World Records, the Ama­zon swim will be the fourth time Strel has bro­ken the world record for long-dis­tance swim­ming.

In 2000, he com­pleted an 1,866-mile swim along the Danube in Europe. He broke that record two years later af­ter swim­ming 2,360 miles down the Mis­sis­sippi. In 2004 he broke it again by swim­ming 2,487 miles along the Yangtze River in China.

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