Woman first to swim Channel four times non-stop


Sarah ThomasImage copyright
Jon Washer

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Sarah Thomas said dealing with the salt water for two days was the hardest part

An American woman has become the first person to swim the English Channel four times non-stop.

Sarah Thomas, 37, began the epic challenge in the early hours of Sunday and finished after more than 54 hours.

The open water ultra marathon swimmer – who completed treatment for breast cancer a year ago – dedicated her swim to “all the survivors out there”.

Ms Thomas was pushed back by strong tides on the final leg but finished on Tuesday at about 06:30 BST.

Speaking to the BBC after she came ashore, Ms Thomas said: “I just can’t believe we did it.”

She said she planned to sleep for the day, adding: “I’m pretty tired right now”.

Swimmer Lewis Pugh said in a tweet: Just when we think we’ve reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records.”

The hardest part was dealing with the salt water which left her throat and mouth sore, she revealed.

But she added: “My crew was really great about helping me out and keeping me strong.”

“Every length had something that was really hard about it. Coming back from France the last time was definitely hard. It took forever and the current pushed me all over.

I got stung in the face by a jellyfish and it wasn’t as cold as I thought it might be but it was still chilly.”

Only four swimmers had previously crossed the Channel three times without stopping. Before Ms Thomas no-one had ever completed a fourth leg.

Image copyright
Jon Washer

Image caption

Sarah Thomas dedicated her swim to “all the cancer survivors out there”

Last year she had treatment for breast cancer and her support team said she “used the swimming as her means of coping with the treatment”.

‘Absolutely inspirational’

The swim was due to be about 80 miles but because of the tides Ms Thomas ended up swimming closer to 130 miles.

Official observer Kevin Murphy said: “It is a triumph, she has tested the limits of endurance.

“It is amazing, absolutely inspirational. At the end we were very emotional.”

Ms Thomas celebrated entering the record books, and making dry land at Dover, with champagne and chocolates.

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Ms Thomas was swimming non-stop for 54 hours and 10 minutes

She completed her first open-water event in 2007 and first swam across the Channel in 2012 and then again in 2016.

Sarah Thomas said it was worth the physical exertion: “I almost didn’t go back when I got back to England. I thought I should just finish and quit, but my team said, ‘Guess what? You can do better. You can keep going’.”

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