English Channel defeats one-armed Frenchman

Plucky attempt, mon brave

A one-armed Frenchman came tantalisingly close to swimming the English Channel on Monday, but was defeated when strong currents "dragged him off his planned route" within sight of the French coast, Reuters reports.

Retired carpenter Olivier Desmet, 56, lost his left forearm in a motorbike accident back in 1976. He said he'd dreamt for years of becoming the first partially-armless man to make the 35km (22 mile) crossing. He'd spent eight months training in a local pond in his home village of Wargnies le Grand in northwest France and bulked up by 10kg (22 lbs) on a "rigorous" diet of chips and beer to provide insulating blubber against the cold.

Sadly, it was not to be. Desmet said: "I was in tears when the captain of the boat with me made me come aboard, because I still had plenty of energy left even though I'd spent 14 1/2 hours in the water." The holder of 13 triathlon gold medals in the handisport world championships did, though, conclude: "For me it's a great success and not a failure."

Desmet told Reuters he was not thinking of making another attempt on La Manche. ®

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