I could talk for hours about the benefits of learning to swim or swimmers whose careers I admire, but this week I want to share the stories of some of Turtle Pack’s swimming heroes.
The list is by no means exhaustive, so I’ve been sure to include links so you can read more about each person.
Turtle Pack Swimming Hero No.1 – Eric Moussambani
If ever there was someone that proved that it pays not to give up in the pool, it’s Eric Moussambani! Eric, representing Equatorial Guinea at the 2000 Summer Olympics, made headlines around the world for his performance in a 100 Metres Freestyle heat.
After qualifying for the Olympics via a wildcard draw – despite never having seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and only taking up swimming 8 months before the Games – Eric won the hearts of millions.
After the other swimmers in his heat were disqualified, he just had to finish to be assured of victory. That came 1 minute and 52 seconds later – a full minute longer than the fastest swimmers. Though he was too slow to qualify for the semi-finals, his dogged determination personified the true spirit of the Olympic Games. And like a certain ski jumper and bobsleigh team before him, Erik showed the world that it really is the taking part that counts.
Turtle Pack Swimming Hero No.2 – Nancy Edberg
Though it seems almost comical now, historically learning to swim was considered something that only men should do. Nancy Edberg, who was born in Sweden in 1832, changed all that.
Having been taught to swim by her father during her childhood, Nancy got a job as a swimming teacher at the first women-only bath house in Sweden. From 1853 onwards, Nancy taught women to swim in Stockholm and was even given permission to open her own bath house and swim school by King Oscar 1 of Sweden in 1856.
As with my own experiences with Turtle Pack, meeting royalty proved to be hugely supportive and the Queen of Sweden and her daughter Princess Louise (who would later become Queen of Denmark) became swimming students. This soon changed historical views and made swimming hugely fashionable for women. In time, Great Britain’s Queen Alexandra and Russia’s Empress Maria Feodorovna would also take lessons from Nancy; furthering the acceptance of female swimming across Europe and potentially saving countless lives as women learned a vital life skill.
Turtle Pack Swimming Hero No.3 – Tom Gregory
Tom Gregory’s name might not be familiar to you, but his achievement will definitely impress! At the age of just 11 (and 330 days for all you fact fans out there), Tom swam the 32 miles from Cap Gris Nez in France to Dover.
Having trained for months prior – including swimming a length and half of Lake Windemere – Tom’s parents and swimming club helped him prepare. Wearing his swimming cap, goggles and covered in grease, Tom swam in the dark for just under 12 hours – doing what most people twice his age could only imagine doing.
In November 2000, the Channel Swimming Association banned under-16s from attempting crossings, meaning that Tom’s record will never be broken!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first batch of Turtle Pack Swimming Heroes! I’m sure I’ll have plenty more heroes to add to lists like this in future. I’d also love to hear who your heroes are too!
Michael Harkins is an award-winning swimming instructor with over 10 years of experience teaching children and adults across Scotland. He is the founder of Turtle Pack, the author of The Adventures of Tiki the Turtle book series for pre-school children and runs the Turtle Pack Swim Academy – West Lothian.