March 7, 2013
When Philippe Croizon broke his first world record by swimming across all four intercontinental channels in August 2012 he declared “I’ve got no big challenges in the near future but “never say never””. Here we are, only a few months later with yet another great achievement…
And what an achievement! As a big sports fan I have been trying to follow exemplary sportsmen, especially those whose lives have intersected with medical technology.
In 2010 I had the joy to go backpacking in a little piece of paradise called Australia. During my stay in Cairns – Queensland – I experienced one of the great wonders of the world: the Great Barrier Reef; and when I was asked if I wanted to go scuba diving I could not have been happier. But what a surprise to find out that scuba diving is not as easy as it seems, they even made us sign a medical form. Regardless of that, it was probably one of the highlights of my trip, so when I first discovered a couple of months ago that Croizon is an amazing swimmer but also a big fan of scuba diving; I had to find out more about him.
Philippe Croizon was only 26 years when he endured a severe electric shock that changed his life. He was married, had a son aged 7 and was expecting his second baby. He and his wife had been planning to move to a bigger house, but when Croizon attempted to uninstall their television antenna on the roof, he was struck by a 20,000 volt charge for more than 20 minutes.
After spending more than two months in a coma, Croizon woke up to discover he had lost all four limbs due to very severe burns. “I hit rock bottom after the accident so I wanted to set myself a big challenge and I decided I should hope for the impossible”. Not long after the accident, while recuperating in hospital he found his inspiration in an English female channel swimmer he saw on television. Although Croizon had never been a big swimmer this new challenge gave him hope for a future. Thanks to personalised prosthetics specifically designed for swimming, a strong will and motivation to keep going forward, Croizon was able to make his new dream come true; and on 18 September 2010, after two years training for 36 hours (!) per week, he was able to swim across the English Channel on his own in less than 14 hours.
After he crossed the channel, he announced that he wanted to undertake a new challenge which he named “Swimming Beyond Borders”. Using specially adapted artificial limbs where fins were attached to the remaining parts of his legs, Croizon intended to swim through the four straits separating the five continents accompanied by his friend and long-distance swimmer Arnaud Chassery. It took him 19.35 hours, 54.2 km and an excellent pair of tailor-made prosthetic flippers…but he did it, and on 18 August 2012, Philippe Croizon was the first quadruple amputee to ever accomplish such a feat.
For those of us who might have thought that this was the last we would hear about Mr. Croizon: don’t be so sure. The now famous swimmer recently set a new record: becoming the first limbless person to dive 33 meters deep in the deepest pool of the world (located here in my home base of Brussels). Back in 2012 Philippe Croizon told Agence France Presse that “Everything is possible, everything can be done when you have the will to go beyond yourself. We’re all equal, disabled and non-disabled people on all continents”. Who knows what medtech might help him achieve next?