Simon Turnbull: There's a Patten here. Open-water swimming is the 'new marathon'

Olympics Diary: We get to swim in some grotty water. Hyde Park is relatively clean and it's idyllic down there

Unlike Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel unaided, Petar Stoychev has no plans to tackle the Whirlpool Rapids beneath Niagra Falls. Captain Webb lost his life trying to get the better of the treacherous waters there in 1883 – eight years after he gained worldwide renown for his historic feat of reaching dry land at Calais 21 hours and 45 minutes after setting off from Dover.

"I have no goals to do something like that," Stoychev said. "For me, swimming the English Channel is the most prestigious thing in open-water swimming, with all the history. It is the toughest. People compare it with climbing Everest. That was my goal. I wanted to be the first to do it in under seven hours."

The Bulgarian succeeded on 25 August, 2007. On the 132nd anniversary of Webb's maiden voyage, Stoychev swam the Channel in 6 hours 57 minutes – some 14 hours and 48 minutes quicker than the Shropshire sea captain who featured on the cover of Bryant and May matchboxes until recent years. It remains the only sub-seven-hour swim from Dover to Calais.

Stoychev will be back in British water tomorrow, riding the wave of mass-participation open-water swimming that has taken hold here since the introduction of the 10km marathon swim event at the 2008 Olympics. Stoychev finished sixth in Beijing and will not be the only Olympian among the 2,000-plus entrants for the British Gas Great East Swim at the Alton Water reservoir near Ipswich.

The event is the second in a series of five "Great Swims" organised by Nova International, the enterprising Newcastle-based sports events company headed by Brendan Foster, the 1976 Olympic 10,000m track bronze medallist, that stages the Great North Run, the world's biggest half-marathon, and the Great City Games Manchester street races that have featured Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. The Great North Swim, which takes place at Windermere next week, from Friday 17 June to Sunday 19 June, has attracted more than 10,000 entrants.

Cassie Patten, the Cornishwoman who won Olympic bronze in the 10km swim in Beijing, is on the list for the elite mile races at Alton Water and Windermere. "I think the fact that open-water swimming has become an Olympic event has given it a credibility it didn't have before," she said. "I think Beijing and the success of myself and Kerri-Anne Payne and David Davies [both silver medal winners] has brought it more to the forefront in Britain and people are realising how much fun open water can be.

"I think it's just grabbed people's imagination – like marathon running did 30 years ago, and triathlon. It's something that's really challenging, that you have to train for. You can't just go in and do it."

For Patten, and for Stoychev, the one mile "sprint" at Alton Water tomorrow is a sharpener ahead of the main event of the year, the 6.2 mile marathon of the 10km at the World Championships in Shanghai in August. For the 24-year-old Briton and the 35-year-old Bulgarian, though, the second Olympic open water swimming competition is looming on the horizon. It takes place on the Serpentine in Hyde Park on Friday 10 August next year.

"I've been to Hyde Park a couple of times," Patten said. "It's going to be an amazing setting." The Serpentine Lake was created in 1730 when Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, ordered the damning of the River Westbourne. It achieved notoriety in 1816 when Harriet Westbrook, pregnant wife of Percy Shelley, drowned herself there.

"Thanks for that," Patten said. "I didn't know that. The thing with open-water swimming is there's always going to be history there, people who've been there first, and we get to swim in some grotty water. Hyde Park is relatively clean and it's such an idyllic area down there."

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015