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Andy Akinwolere completes epic open water challenge

17 June 2011

Blue Peter presenter and Big Splasher Andy Akinwolere has conquered his fear of open water and set a new world record in the process.

Just a few months ago, Andy could hardly swim the length of a swimming pool but after being put through his paces by coach Dave Hobbs, he has become the first person to swim across the Palau Trench, one of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean.

I could not swim a length before this and now I have swam over one of the deepest parts of the world.

The swimming challenge took him three hours and 30 minutes to swim the five miles (eight km) across the Palau Trench which is more than 8,000 metres deep. The record, verified by the World Open Water Swimming Association, was a huge physical and mental challenge for the TV presenter who until recently was terrified of open water calling it his ‘final fear’.

He said: “It’s an absolute triumph to have completed this swim.

"After having had just over 10 weeks of swimming training I still cannot believe how far I’ve come. I could not swim a length before this and now I have swam over one of the deepest parts of the world.

"All the hours of gruelling training will be worth it if my challenge inspires more children from ethnic minorities to learn to swim.”

Weeks of preparation were needed for Andy's mammoth feat.  He faced daily swims to improve his stamina and technique and ended up carrying his trunks with him at all times, so he could take full advantage of any pools he came across.

With mental as well as physical hurdles to overcome Akinwolere also spent time with a psychologist to explore his acute fears.

Bernie Dietzig, a performance scientist with British Swimming, worked with Andy at the British Gas ITC in Swansea.

He said: “ We filmed Andy swimming a few lengths of the pool to look at his stroke and how efficient he was at moving through the water. At the end of the session, he was swimming much flatter and had already made huge improvements."

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