Four amputations, 13 hours – one extraordinary swim

16 years after losing all his limbs, Philippe Croizon crosses Channel

Two years ago, Philippe Croizon could barely swim at all. Now the 42-year-old French quadruple amputee has become the first limbless person to swim the English Channel. "I did it. I'm so happy. I can't believe it. It's crazy," he said after swimming the 21 miles from Folkestone to the French coast.

Mr Croizon's legs and lower arms were amputated after he suffered a calamitous electric shock while removing a television aerial from a roof in 1994 when it hit a power line. As one of a series of challenges that he set himself to "prove that I am still alive", he learnt to swim using a snorkel and prosthetic legs with built-in flippers.

He had already made news in 2007 by parachuting from an aircraft. To complete his Channel swim, he overcame not just own his handicap and the treacherous Channel tides and currents but the last-minute withdrawal of his support boat. Another vessel finally agreed to accompany him on Saturday.

Mr Croizon had expected to spend up to 24 hours in the water. An "average" Channel swimmer takes around eight hours. After reaching a cruising speed of two miles an hour, and benefiting from favourable weather conditions, he completed the crossing in 13-and-a-half hours.

He was accompanied by three dolphins at one point. "We took that as a sign of good luck," said his father, Gérard Croizon, who was part of his support team.

The French Minister for the Family, Nadine Morano, paid tribute to Mr Croizon's "courage, tenacity and determination" yesterday. "By this act of heroism, Philippe Croizon has proved that nothing is impossible for mankind as long as we believe in ourselves."

He trained for his latest exploit by swimming 35 hours a week in a pool close to his home in Châtelleraut in central France. To test his endurance in sea water, he swam across the Loire estuary last month between the island of Noirmoutier and the small town of Pornic, near Saint Nazaire. He uses his prosthethic legs and flippers to propel himself and goes through the motions of the crawl with his remaining upper arms to balance himself.

"When I first met him in September 2008, he couldn't even do two lengths," said his coach, Valérie Carbonel. "He had no endurance; his prosthetics didn't propel him at all."

Mr Croizon modestly attributed his speedy Channel crossing to "a calm sea". "Every part of me is hurting but I never for a moment thought that I would not make it," he said.

Mr Croizon said earlier this month that he had been inspired to swim the Channel while in hospital after his accident. He saw a documentary on television about an Englishwoman who had swum the Channel earlier that year. "I watched that documentary and thought: 'Why not me?'

"Two solutions were offered to me [after the accident]: to die or decide to live," Mr Croizon said. "I chose to rebuild myself." This in turn gave him the title for the book he wrote about his life since the accident: J'ai décidé de vivre (I decide to live).

He said that he was once a "sofa sportsman" but had lost over one-and-a-half stone thanks to an intense fitness schedule of weight training, cardio exercise and swimming. "I am doing this above all for myself, but also to set an example. I want to show people who suffer that this is do-able, that you always have to fight."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea