(Bering Strait) -- A French swimmer who lacks legs and arms has successfully swum the frigid waters separating Alaska and Russia with the aid of paddle-like prosthetics, expedition representatives said on Saturday (August 18).
Philippe Croizon, whose limbs were amputated after a 1994 electrical accident at age 26, completed his swim late Friday (August 17) from Alaska's Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island. Croizon's website said the expected direct distance of the swim was to be about 2.5 miles (4 km).
Croizon had intended to swim all the way to the shoreline of Big Diomede, but regional Russian authorities denied him permission to enter the territory, expedition representatives said.
His swim to Russian waters took about an hour and 15 minutes and he was accompanied by his friend, Arnaud Chassery.
"I wanted to say that we both linked the five continents despite one country's objection. Despite the objection, we managed to join America and Asia. Arnaud (Chassery) told me he was proud of what he has done with me and I am proud of what I have done with him," an exhausted-looking Croizon said before going back on board after the swim.
Croizon uses paddle-like prosthetics to swim, and has completed crossings of the English Channel, the Red Sea and other major waterways. His Bering Strait swim was the last in a series of expeditions across waterways that separate continents, according to Handicap International, the nonprofit organization that helped organize Croizon's Alaska undertaking.
Even though the swim was shorter than originally intended, it turned out to be extremely challenging.
The water was very cold, about 4 degrees Celsius, or 39 degrees Fahrenheit and the choppy swells going up to 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4 m). The heavy fog made navigation difficult for Croizon, his swimming partner and the four vessels escorting them.
"Just to say that nothing is impossible. We can all succeed in life despite of what happens to us. There is no difference. We are all equal," Croizon said.
Expedition members used GPS technology to determine when they had reached the maritime border between Alaska and Russia, Gaviard said. After that, Croizon boarded one of the vessels and rode back to Little Diomede.
The expedition members remained on the rocky Alaska island on Saturday but planned to fly to Anchorage when weather allowed, organisers said.
After that, Croizon plans to travel to London to work as a radio and television commentator during the Paralympics, he said.
Croizon, who was seeking to raise awareness of the abilities of handicapped people, is the second person to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russian territory. In 1987, American long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox accomplished that feat for the first time.