Cape surgeon swims to stardom

Cape surgeon swims to stardom

Cape Town – A Cape Town heart surgeon is “riding a crest of happiness” after becoming the oldest person to swim across the English Channel.

Dr Otto Thaning, 73, is a cardiac surgeon at both Vincent Pallotti and Chris Barnard Memorial hospitals in Cape Town, and is the father of Cape Town actor Karl Thaning, who represented South Africa at the 2004 Olympics in swimming and water polo.

The English Channel route is 34km straight across but currents mean it is rare for a swimmer to cover it in less than 40km, the BBC reported. Dr Thaning had wrested the title from Australian Cyril Baldock, who only last month swam the channel three months shy of his 71st birthday.

This morning, from his hotel room in Dover, the doctor told the Cape Argus: “I’m riding a crest of happiness at the moment, it’s been a phenomenal experience!”

He was taken out of Dover in a small boat on Saturday morning, swam into Shakespeare Beach, a short distance south, and then swam across to France in 12 hours 53 minutes.

“The swim itself was tough, but the preparation took years. I came over last year with a hope to swim, but the weather was not suitable,” he explained. “You ideally want a neap tide, when it’s at its lowest, so (you) don’t have this tremendous tidal swing.

“The water temperature helped, though – 17ºC at Dover, warming to 18ºC in the middle of the channel, and all the way to France. I had trouble getting a Shengen visa, though. When I applied they asked what flight or vessel I’d be arriving on. I said I’d be swimming – it was very funny explaining to them!”

It was the surgeon’s second solo channel crossing – his first, almost exactly 20 years ago, in August 1994, was when he was 53.

He told the BBC: “”My wish was basically to promote the idea that people over the age of 70 can do things like this if they look after themselves and work hard.”

By – Cape Argus