Conquering the channel

For Srinath from Chennai, the dream of conquering the sea began four months back.
Conquering the channel

In a bid to exhibit extraordinary dedication and teamwork, a group of four swimmers undertook a mammoth task and dove into the icy-cold English Channel. The relay team, Dreams to Live-Better Together — Tanvi Viplav Deore and Srinath Kattungal Mukundan from India, Yana Lohvinenko of Ukraine, and Boris Najafov from Azerbaijan — brought their stroke of 44 km to an impressive finish recently at 5.54 pm. They started this journey of perseverance from Southern England to Northern France, marking a total time of 10 hours and 58 minutes.

For Srinath from Chennai, the dream of conquering the sea began four months back. “I tried my luck at Goa Swimathon where I happened to meet our coach, Srikaanth Vishwanathan, offering this incredible opportunity to me,” he says.

Hailing from a sporting family and growing up watching his father KK Mukundan, a national-level swimming coach, Srinath had an inclination towards the game since when he was two. “It was around four years back that I got introduced to open water swimming by my brother in Chennai. I branched out into water polo, represented Tamil Nadu as the captain for both the South Zone and the nationals, and also started taking classes for school students and adults,” he says.

For the swim, they had to deal with cold temperatures, numb fingers, cramped legs, gusty winds, strong currentsm ,and tired muscles. It was also a test of mental endurance. Habituated to warm waters, the biggest challenge for Srinath was acclimatising to the frigidity which fell to 13-14 degrees Celsius.

“As it was a relay, you have to swim for one hour and then have a three-hour break, come out of the water, warm up and again push your body,” he says. However, with Srikaanth Vishwanathan’s guidance, the team ensured to display their best kicks and strokes, with Srinath covering 13.5 km.

The swimmers went through rigorous training of long-distance swims, stamina building, and getting settled into cold temperatures. “Every swimmer had to do a two-hour qualifying swim before the actual relay swim in under 15 degrees Celsius. I practised at the Nainital Lake, which is around 10-11 degrees Celsius. Cutting off all distractions helped boost my confidence.”

Under the strict guidelines of the Channel Swimming Association, swimmers must limit themselves to a single cap and a costume above the knees. Srinath wore earplugs to prevent cold water from entering his ears and applied Vaseline all over for an extra layer.

More than just a personal triumph, this journey has become an inspiration to many young swimmers.

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The New Indian Express