After 3,272 miles of exhaustion, sunburn, delirium and piranhas, a 52-year-old Slovenian successfully completed a swim down the Amazon river Saturday that could set a new world record for distance -- one he's broken three times already.
After nine weeks, Martin Strel arrived near the city of Belem, the capital of the jungle state of Para, ending a swim almost as long as the drive from Miami to Seattle. Strel averaged about 50 miles a day since beginning his odyssey at the source of the world's second-longest river in Peru on Feb. 1.
By Thursday evening, he was struggling with dizziness, vertigo, high blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea and delirium, his Web site said. But despite having difficulty standing and being ordered by the doctor not to swim, Strel was obsessed with finishing the course and insisted on night swimming.
"He's hit point zero," Borut Strel, Martin's son and the project coordinator, said by telephone from the Amazon. "There will be a ceremony Sunday in Belem, but he finished today."
Speaking by satellite phone during a break aboard his support vessel, the elder Strel said that the going got tougher the closer he got to Belem.
"The finish has been the toughest moment so far," he said Thursday. "I've been swimming fewer kilometers as I get closer to the end."
He said he was lucky to have escaped encounters with piranhas, the dreaded toothpick fish, which swims into body orifices to suck blood, and even bull sharks that swim in shallow waters.
"I think the animals have just accepted me," he said.
If confirmed by Guinness World Records, the Amazon swim will be the fourth time Strel has broken the world record for long-distance swimming.
In 2000, he completed an 1,866-mile swim along the Danube in Europe. He broke that record two years later after swimming 2,360 miles down the Mississippi. In 2004 he broke it again by swimming 2,487 miles along the Yangtze River in China, the AP reports.
The sunburns became so severe while he was swimming in Peru that he considered stopping. But he said, "People from all over the world sent us some creams that helped solve the problem and we improved the mask."
According to Strel's Web site, he broke his 2004 record on March 17 at the town of Urucurituba, chinapost.com reports.
"It was awesome," he said in English. "We celebrated a bit on the boat. But not too much, because I knew I still had a long way to go until the end."
Asked about new adventures, Strel said: "I am not going to do the Nile. It's long but not challenging enough, it is just a small creek. The Amazon is much more mighty.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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