Reflection of an epic swim in Samoa

By Todd Pritchard ,

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ACCOMPLISHED: Todd Pritchard at the Medal ceremony at Salelologa wharf after the big swim.

ACCOMPLISHED: Todd Pritchard at the Medal ceremony at Salelologa wharf after the big swim.

Three weeks ago, I was sitting in the Airport Lodge in Samoa watching a movie on my Laptop “On a Clear Day” (inspirational viewing from the swim Captain) about a dude who after being laid off from his job and took up swimming again and was inspired to attempt to swim the English Channel. 

This was on the eve of my own attempt to swim the Apolima Strait in Samoa. To cut a long story short I managed to swim from Upolu to Savaii 22.3km in 8 hours and 23 min, which I think is pretty cool! To look from one Island to the other it’s a long way, when you go on the car ferry and it takes nearly 2 hours, it’s still a long way. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is passionate about Open water swimming and wants a new challenge!

Like the guy in the movie it was one of those things when I got the idea in my head I couldn’t shake it and deep down I just knew I was going to do it....

On the 21st of Sept 2015 I went under the knife and had surgery on my leg, crutches non weight-bearing for 6 weeks. 2 weeks later I’m back in the Glen Innis Pool, GI Tri Squad... disability on land, but swimming near full strength before anything else. 5th Nov and race 1 at Kohimarama, hobbled to the start and up the beach to finish 2 km in 30m27s. Not so shabby, one of my better times, so thing s may seem to be obstacles but if you really want to do something they are challenges that can often be overcome.

Thanks to Seti Afoa for creating this opportunity for us and for following through to make it as safe as possible. You worked so tirelessly to make this event a reality. To all those people who supported me in doing this, you can’t just pay your entry fee and rock up and do this sort of thing on your own. Rosie Sharman, keen as, my swim Captain, total belief from the start and on the day relating info/coverage to social media and personal messages of encouragement back to me. Awesome!!! Daryl Baker my Kayaker, patiently steering me towards my goal, you were amazing, putting up with my leftward tendencies.

Mike Cochrane for the amazing technology that captured peoples’ attention all over the world and brought the swim to life back home. 

The swimmer gets the recognition, the organisers and support crew make it possible. It’s a team effort and a joint achievement. Thank you all so much.

I am in awe of the other swimmers Bronwen Burmester, Sinclair, Phillip and Abby Armstrong and their support teams. Also the two Samoa relay teams featuring the legendary Mailata the local who in 1988 upstaged an international field to finish the crossing. I had to pinch myself being part of this group! Along with Kim Taunga (Team Samoa), all of you were such great company before and after the swim, united with the common focus of the huge task then celebrations at hand.  

To notch up that achievement on the eve of my 50th was especially sweet. I would like to acknowledge Adam Walker and his awesome swim camp I went on in late January. The timing was perfect and the swimming technique that is both efficient and easy on the body was a huge source of confidence for me as well as understanding the mental side of swimming a long distance swim. Also the training principles imparted were fantastic. 

The welcome dinner held on the 5th of April we had Moss Burmester, swimming Commonwealth Games Champion and Record Holder, and Olympic finalist give an inspired talk about preparation for a major sporting event, life challenge.

He talked about breaking it down and giving attention to individual processes. In so doing nervous energy and reactive actions (unhelpful) are replaced by practice processes and excitement (good energy) which leads to confidence and optimal performance. The results are.an natural by product. This really helped us in our last minutes preparations.

When you embark on a major challenge like swimming 22.3 km is that you have to overcome all sorts of things/fear e.g. swimming on your own in the early around the lake, or on the waterfront in the dark. 

Also the amount of training meant you get fit. I have done personal best times in 200m, 400m, 1000m and 10km, and the most pullups PBs too. One spinoff is also that your perspectives change and you grow too.

I hope you are inspired to take on a major challenge like I did. This Upolu to Savaii option is fantastic. It is beautiful and warm and very well run. The honour bestowed on us swimmers with Medals, Necklaces, Citizenship of Savaii were amazing touches.

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