TAMPA, Fla., April 15. WHAT a feel-good tale. Really, it doesn’t get much better. In a story written by Dave Scheiber earlier this week, the St. Petersburg Times told the journey of Jason Pipoly, who became the first paraplegic to swim across the English Channel when he accomplished the feat in 2002.
Adding flair to Pipoly’s story is the fact that he failed to complete the 21-mile swim as an 11-year-old, although the effort landed him a 1982 appearance on the Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson. During his original attempt, Pipoly had to abandon the swim four miles from the finish.
As Pipoly moved into adulthood, he took on new challenges, including rock climbing and skiing, and the thought of attempting a second attack on the English Channel was not in the cards. Then, Pipoly was forced to deal with a life-altering event. During a 1998 car accident, Pipoly was paralyzed from the chest down.
After rehabilitation and adjusting to a new way of life, Pipoly saw a videotape of his Carson appearance and was reminded of a promise to himself. During the taping, Pipoly declared that, one day, he would complete the English Channel swim, something his father (Carl) had done.
Originally sparking the idea of swimming the Channel in 1999, Pipoly embraced a rigorous training schedule to prepare himself for the daunting task. Finally, in 2002, Pipoly was ready for the attempt. Using a pull buoy for leg support, Pipoly defied the pain and covered the swim in 13 hours, 48 minutes, becoming the second paraplegic to succeed in the swim. Australian John Maclean was the first in 1998.
In an attempt to further provide inspiration to paraplegics, Pipoly crossed the Catalina Channel in 2003, covering the 21-mile swim from Los Angeles Harbor to Catalina Island. The first paraplegic swimmer to cross that Channel, Pipoly actually tried to make it a round-trip swim of 42 miles, but was forced out of the water after a little more than 24 hours.
Always in search of a new challenge, Pipoly will continue his distance swimming and inspiring ways this weekend when he competes in the 24-hour Tampa Bay Marathon Swim.
To read the original story from the St. Petersburg Times, visit http://www.sptimes.com/2005/04/13/Sports/Making_waves.shtml.