Otto Thaning
Otto Thaning after his swim across the Channel

Congratulations to South African heart surgeon Otto Thaning for not only just swimming across the English Channel BUT – at the age of 73 – becoming the oldest person to ever complete the 34-kilometre stretch (which, with currents, usually comes closer to a 40-km swim).

Otto Thaning
Proudly South African Otto Thaning finished the crossing at night. Source: FB/LewisPugh

As fellow epic swimmer and friend Lewis Pugh said yesterday on Facebook “some folk have dozens of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.”

Otto has long been an inspiration for Lewis. Together they were the first to swim across Lake Malawi.

Otto, whose last few kilometres last night were spent swimming in the dark to reach the French coastline, told reporters that his mission was “to promote the idea that people over the age of 70 can do things like this if they look after themselves and work hard.”

This was not the South African’s first Channel crossing. Otto, who trained under SA’s legendary Dr Christiaan Barnard, first crossed the Channel back in 1994.

Otto Thaning
Otto Thaning on the English coast before embarking on his record-breaking swim across the English Channel. Source: FB/LewisPugh

As he learnt then, the cold temperature is the main challenge because “the biggest problem is to maintain one’s core temperature”. Fortunately yesterday’s average was 18 degrees Celsius which is “reasonably warm for the channel”.

The previous record for being the oldest swimmer to cross the channel was held by a 70-year-old Australian who made that record only a month ago.

Otto Thaning training. Source: FB/Otto Thaning

Lewis Pugh, who himself achieved a remarkable feat last month swimming the #7Seas, said that what enabled Otto Thaning to swim the Channel at 73 was a number of factors, “but his consistency was key. For +25 years he’s swum 3 km three or four times every week.”

Otto Thaning with SA Open Water swimmer Roger Finch
Otto Thaning seen here with fellow SA Open Water swimmer Roger Finch. Source: fb/OttoThaning

Time to start swimming for the rest of us! Congratulations Otto Thaning!