By Craig Lord
LONDON, January 4. BRITISH Olympic swimmers will be among a group of 70 who on Thursday next week will attempt to cover 100,000 meters in 17 hours to raise money for the Asian tsunami relief fund.
Olympians James Gibson, Melanie Marshall, Lisa Chapman, Ros Brett, Sarah Price, Karen Lee and Paralympian Jane Stidever will be among 70 swimmers from Loughborough University aiming to swim 100km between 5am and 10pm on January 13 at their campus pool.
To achieve their target, the average pace must be around 60 seconds per 100 meters. The swimmers have appealed to anyone wishing to help them achieve their £10,000 target should they live up to their promise of covering the 100km.
The challenge has been devised by Loughborough coach Ben Titley after discussions he had with one of his swimmers – World Champion James Gibson – following news of the catastrophic events.
"I received a text message from James telling me the death toll stood at 140,000 and that millions more have been tragically effected. The magnitude of the disaster as well as the amount of help needed is hard to comprehend," said Titley.
"The swimmers were very receptive to the idea when I put it to them and all are up for the challenge.
"It will take a big effort from them and a great deal of support from the public too but these don't compare to the challenges faced by the millions of people still coming to terms with the devastation caused when the tsunami struck."
Gibson's own reaction to the disaster was compounded by the fact that a paradise island he visited just weeks before has been totally devastated by the events of 26th December.
"I've followed the aftermath of the earthquake very closely and what really brought it home to me was the fact just weeks before I was on holiday in Thailand on a small island called Koh Phi Phi. The events of 26th December have since obliterated the island – there is nothing left.
"The accommodation I stayed in was right on the beach and I wouldn't be here today if it had happened just eight weeks earlier. It really makes you think," said Gibson.
"The island was paradise but much more important than that were the people – they were simply fantastic. Those who survived have been left with nothing along with millions of others affected by the disaster," he continued.
"The target set for ourselves is 100km in a day. We're going to be limited time-wise so we are going to have to swim every 100m in a sub-60second time if we are to achieve our aims.
"It's going to take a massive effort but with the knowledge that what we're doing will really go to help stricken victims, thanks to the support of the public, I'm confident we can manage the feat."
The "Swim for the Tsunami" will take place on Thursday 13th January at the Loughborough University pool.
People wishing to contribute to the appeal can send cheques made payable to Loughborough University, c/o Swim for the Tsunami", EIS Swimming Pool, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, England, UK.