City girl aims to swim English Channel, Strait of Gibraltar

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Mumbai, Jun 3 (UNI) City lass Aakanksha Mishra (16), is all set to tread international waters when she does the ''double'' by swimming the English Channel (UK-France) followed by The Strait of Gibraltar (two-way, Spain-Africa-Spain) - within a week - in August this year.

The English Channel and The Strait of Gibraltar are two of the Seven Seas that every long distance swimmer aspires to swim.

Soon after she completed the season's first ''double'' in 2007, when she swam the 70km stretch from Gateway of India to Dharamtar, Alibaug and back on January 3-4 last year, Aakanksha continued her rigorous training regime in her quest to conquer the English Channel and The Strait of Gibraltar.

As part of her training, Aakanksha had to put on weight, since while swimming in the Channel waters a swimmer loses weight and the right balance is necessary to be maintained.

In addition, Aakanksha capitalised on the recent temperature of 9 degrees, which was the lowest experienced in Mumbai's history this winter. Taking advantage of the golden opportunity, she plunged into the waters at Soham Gardens in Powai for a gruelling test and trained from 2200 hrs to 0100 hrs in biting cold, almost the same conditions that she will experience in the Channel and Gibraltar.

Aakanksha is being coached by Arti Pradhan, who was the youngest swimmer to swim the English Channel in 1987-88 and was the first woman to swim across The Strait of Gibraltar in 1988.

The contractual agreement for Aakanksha's English Channel swim has already been signed and she has been allocated between August 8 and 15, 2008.

She will also be the first swimmer of the season to swim the Channel in 2008. In case she happens to undertake the swim on August 15, India's Independence Day, it will enhance the flavour of the occasion and bring glory to the nation. Her English Channel swim will be followed by the two-way Strait of Gibraltar swim.

In case of a successful swim of the Channel, she is likely to be the youngest swimmer in the world in 2008 to swim the Channel and thus win the prestigious Gramme Thompson Trophy awarded by the Channel Swimming Association. Also, no swimmer from Asia has swum the two-way across The Strait of Gibraltar so far. Aakanksha will be the first Asian and hence attempt to create a new record.

Aakanksha is scheduled to depart from Mumbai mid-June and reach Dover, United Kingdom.

Speaking to mediapersons here she said, ''Long distance sea swimming is a test of one's courage, stamina and determination. It is about throwing a challenge to nature and emerging with a smile.

My effort involved hours of rigorous training, strict discipline and routine.'' ''Academics is equally important and I have to maintain a balance with sport. I have to devote equal time to studies to maintain a top rank (2nd) in school along with swimming has been very difficult but rewarding at the same time,'' she said.

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