Incredible human beings

By Seti Afoa 10 April 2016, 12:00AM

Phillip Ryan of Auckland wins Upolu to Savai’i Swim, doing it in five hours and three minutes.  Abby Armstrong claims women’s title.

I am in awe of these people. Three women and two men.  I am inspired by them. Their drive to get to the finish on Savai’i was incredible. The race from Mulifanua to Salelologa, took everything out of them. 

Except for their will to finish.

The toughest race ever to be held here by far. To swim solo across Apolima Strait, is indeed not for the faint hearted. 

The fabulous five solo swimmers, Phillip Ryan, Abby Armstrong, Bronwen Burmester, Kate Sinclair and Todd Pritchard, deserve the accolades of all the people of Samoa.

If you have a hat, throw it high in the air for them. They are pioneers of the modern era. They pushed beyond their own limits. There were none.  Their will is beyond the ordinary. 

The conquest is theirs. The spoils, lay at their feet.                

It was not an easy swim. It was hard. The straight line of maps and course directions went out the window. 

The wicked Zena that blew and blew over Fiji the day before, aided the Apolima current to sweep the course left to right. Add the king tide of the full moon, it all meant the odds of reaching Salelologa via the straightest point was an impossible task.

It was. No matter how hard I tried to herd swimmers and crews to the right, the current was impossible to override.

We were carried by the will of the water westward away from the wharf at Salelologa. It was all safe. There was the alternative plan, to finish anywhere along the coast.

In the end, the village of Salelavalu played host to the inaugural finish of the Upolu to Savaii Swim. The longest to be held here, has a record holder, Phillip Ryan of Auckland swam it in five hours and three minutes. 

That was not a bad effort, considering the swimmers spent a big part of 30 percent of their race to try and reach Salelologa.

Abby Armstrong came in 90 minutes later to win the women’s race. 

She was spent. Her will to survive and reach the finish was tested to the max. Kudos to the support crew, mainly her kayaker and training partner Pat Gallagher, he would not let her quit on him.

Bronwen, at sixty years old, is the toast of the swim. At just over eight hours for the swim, hers was an amazing achievement.

Then there is Kate, our only Aussie in the mix, she did me proud. She did herself proud and she did her mother Katrina very proud. Katrina was the Swim captain.

These are the women I am proud of. I am in awe of their efforts. 

They are super human in my estimation. I am a fan of women in Sport.  They inspire me.

Then the guys, two men. Todd is turning fifty years old today. He is celebrating at the Sheraton with his friends. His is a tired smile. 

A victorious tired smile.

Then Phillip, who started last at 10am. He was four hours behind the field in starting. But he made it up in a hurry, blitzing the field and creating the inaugural course record at just over five hours.

To these people, three incredible women and two fearless men, etch their names in your memory. Shout them a beer should you come across them, they are worthy of our accolades.

By Seti Afoa 10 April 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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