A man who completed the swim across the English Channel became the first person who is Deaf to accomplish the feat.
Andrew Rees completed the 21-mile swim from England to France to raise $6,000 via crowdfunding on Just Giving for Great Britain’s UK Deaf Sport’s travel to the next Deaflympics, which will be held in Samsun, Turkey on July 18, 2017.
Rees represented Great Britain and won gold and bronze medals at swimming and water polo in the 1985 and 1989 Deaflympics.
According to his Just Giving page, “The English Channel is the Everest of swimming; in fact more people have successfully climbed Everest than swim the channel.”
While Rees has met his goal to support the swim team, the campaign is still accepting donations here.
According to the Channel Swimming Association, Rees, who is profoundly Deaf, swam against a strong tide and completed the swim in 15 hours and 14 minutes.
Of the 11 boats accompanying swimmers attempting to cross the channel that day, only two swimmers completed the swim, according to Rees’ Facebook page.
According to strict standards for swimming the channel, Rees couldn’t wear a wet suit to protect him from cold waters, and he was stung by a jellyfish. The water was rough, causing him to swim three more hours than he expected. When he completed the swim, he could barely walk, according to a Brighton & Hove News article.
“For the last eight hours it was mad. There was a 23-knot wind. I was bobbing up and down. It took me a long time to get there,” Rees said, according to the article.
Rees is one of many great swimmers who are Deaf, including Galveston, Texas’ swimmer and Guinness World Record holder Leroy Columbo (December 23, 1905—July 12, 1974), who swam 15 miles in the Gulf of Mexico in 11 hours, and saved more than 907 lives as a life guard, according to this blog.
Unfortunately, Galveston was unable to raise funds for Columbo to compete in the Olympics, though Columbo beat Olympic medalist Johnny Weissmuller in a 10-mile swim race down the Mississippi River—though Columbo had a dislocated shoulder and finished the last two miles of the race one handed, according to articles in this blog
and in the East Texas Historical Journal.
Rees is giving his teammates the Olympic opportunity swimmers who were Deaf had little hope of receiving in generations past.
“The money he has raised will help our Deaflympic swimmers immensely, and his swim will also serve as an inspiration to them all,” said Great Britain’s Deaf Swimming’s chair, Brian Baxter, according to a a BBC Sport article.